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Quake 4 Hands-On - Single-player and Multiplayer

"There's a whole lot of shaking going on after we get our hands on both the PC and Xbox 360 versions of Quake 4."

Quake 4 is one of the big games going into this holiday season for a couple of reasons. Obviously, it's the latest chapter in the Quake franchise, the series that practically invented the 3D first-person shooter as we know it. Second, it most likely will be an Xbox 360 launch title, so it will help usher in the next generation of consoles. So when Activision offered us a chance to play both the single- and multiplayer modes of the PC version, as well as part of the Xbox 360's single-player game, we of course jumped at the opportunity.

Quake 4 will offer a comprehensive single-player game and highly competitive multiplayer for the PC and for the Xbox 360.

Quake 4 will offer a comprehensive single-player game and highly competitive multiplayer for the PC and for the Xbox 360.

We should first note that Quake 4 feels like two entirely different games. The single-player campaign represents a return to the story arc that was established in Quake II, while the multiplayer game builds off the fast-paced, twitch-based combat that was perfected in Quake III: Arena. However, we should also note that both versions of Quake 4 are going to be as similar to each other as possible, and the single-player game on both platforms will have all the same levels, monsters, and weapons.

As we've noted in our earlier previews, the single-player story in Quake 4 picks up immediately after Quake II. In Quake II, you played a nameless marine who battled his way to bring down the planetary defenses of Stroggos, the home planet of the Strogg, an alien race of cyborgs that is at war with humanity. In Quake 4, you switch to a new character, Matthew Kane, who is part of the marine invasion force that appears in orbit moments after the defenses come down. In the campaign's opening cinematic, you see Kane and his fellow Rhino Squad members board their transport and fly toward the planet, only to be shot down by an enemy missile, in true Starship Troopers fashion. You wake up in the wreckage of the crash with a battle raging around you. Armed only with a pistol, you must get up, rendezvous with the rest of your squad, and turn the tide of the war.

You quickly discover that the marine invasion is going badly, as squads were scattered and dispersed during the landing. Before too long, you'll quickly encounter marines from other squads, as well as your first Strogg opponents, who you must, naturally, put down with extreme prejudice. In classic Quake fashion, you can pick up weapons and ammo along the way, as well as armor shards and health kits to replenish your character's health. We got our hands on the pistol, which has unlimited ammo, as well the assault rifle, and we also saw the railgun in action. For those of you with bad memories of the way Doom 3 (id Software's last game) didn't let you equip a flashlight and a gun at the same time, the good news is that here the pistol and rifle come with built-in lights that don't seem to run out of battery power, so you can leave it on all the time and use it for cutting through the darkness of the levels. The interiors of the Strogg base have that metallic look and feel that resemble the rusted metal corridors of Quake II, but we also saw some spacious outdoor levels, as well. And, yes, there are still plenty of explosive red barrels that are strategically placed around the game, which are useful for blowing up large groups of enemies. Just be sure not to stand too close to those barrels yourself, especially during a firefight.

We got to play through the two opening levels of the game, most of which we had already seen in action at E3 earlier this year, though this was the first time we actually got a chance to play them. In addition, we also got to play two later levels, both of which featured drivable vehicles. One of these vehicles was the hovertank, which was armed with a main cannon and a machine gun, while the other was a mechlike walker--basically a two-legged tank packing a six-shot rocket launcher (the launcher slowly reloads after the sixth shot) as well as a machine gun.

Both the hovertank and the walker feature regenerating armor and shields. So, like in Halo, if you take damage to the shields and the armor, all you need to do is find a quiet spot and wait a few seconds until they slowly regenerate. Of these vehicles, the hovertank felt the most unique to a Quake game. Since the hovertank hovers above the ground and doesn't create any friction, driving it feels almost like you're controlling a bumper car. You can slide left and right, and glide backward and forward, ram Strogg infantry (and see them tumble away thanks to the physics engine), and pound a target from a distance with the cannon. The outdoor levels are fairly large, though open and plain, and the level we played was reminiscent of the canal level in Half-Life 2, only without the water. The toughest part of the entire level was coming upon some sort of Strogg boss who locked missiles onto the tank. Thankfully, a warning Klaxon lets you know when they've got a missile lock, so then you can target and shoot down the incoming warheads.

In the single-player game, you'll play as part of a squad of soldiers in a war against hostile aliens.

In the single-player game, you'll play as part of a squad of soldiers in a war against hostile aliens.

Quake 4 is being developed by Raven Software in cooperation with id Software. Raven is a studio that has made a slew of first-person shooters using id's technology, including the Star Trek: Elite Force games. In fact, thanks to its squad mechanic, Quake 4 feels very much like Elite Force, from the way that Strogg bodies dissolve in a Borg-like manner after a few seconds, to the fact that you also play as a protagonist who is part of a larger squad. And, like your Elite Force squadmates, each of your fellow Rhino marines has a name and a personality; they're not just random, faceless cannon fodder (though there are plenty of those in the game, as well). For example, there's Corporal Cortez, the squad sharpshooter; Lieutenant Voss, the scarred squad leader; and Master Sergeant Bidwell, the grizzled veteran. In typical first-person shooter fashion, you'll meet up with these characters throughout the opening level, and they'll explain to you that there was a squad betting pool going on as to when you would bite the big one. They'll also give you orders or commands that will send you off on missions. Some may even accompany you, though there aren't any complicated squad commands. To keep things simple, allies follow you and provide support fire. They're smart enough to find cover and fire from a distance, and they generally won't get in your way.

Posted on Sep 16, 2005



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