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Platform: PC, Xbox 360

Genre: Shooter

Publisher: Activision

Developer: Raven Software

ETA: Q4 2005

 

Related Articles:

Review: Quake III Team Arena (PC)

Review: Doom 3 (PC)

Review: Unreal Tournament 2 (PC)

 

 

 

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Quake IV

 

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Quake IV is on its way for the PC and Xbox 360, and judging by the gorgeous preview footage, it will feature gameplay more hair-raising than the recent Sony boardroom meeting about its scheduled pre-Christmas launch date.

 

OK, I made that part up, but it's tough right now to estimate the impact that this game could have—both to sales of the Xbox 360 and subscriptions to Xbox Live—if it succeeds at being a launch title. id Software's stable of first person shooters may never win any awards for subtlety, but they never disappoint in terms of action, and they've consistently pushed the envelope in terms of what is graphically possible on latest-generation PC hardware. With long-time collaborator Raven Software at the helm of this project, early screenshots indicate that they're now bringing that brand of technical artistry to the next generation console market as well.

 

Here, the Strogg—a race of cybernetic alien warriors brought to nightmarishly beautiful life in 1997's Quake II—are back, but fortunately for Earth, this time we've successfully landed more than one marine on their home planet in our efforts to stop their attempts at interstellar conquest. They've achieved the destruction of several worlds in the past by conscripting hostages into their ranks by gruesomely "enhancing" their bodies and minds.

 

As Matthew Kane, a space marine whose über-badass reputation precedes him across the galaxy, players will still spend most of their time blasting baddies from behind the barrels of various weapons. But unlike Quake II, where your nameless character fought an entire alien planet by himself, ultimately killing the Strogg's leader, players in Quake IV will be assisted in many areas by members of an elite commando unit called Rhino Squad.

 

The addition of NPCs has allowed the team at Raven to be more flexible with both plot development and gameplay style. 

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Rather than being a level by level shoot-em-up, the game will feature both solo and group missions, and characters will at several points have access to military vehicles such as a hover-tank and a giant mech "walker." In addition (again judging from the trailer footage), it appears that Kane is at some point cybernetically enhanced as well, becoming part Strogg himself.

 

The original Quake not only represented a huge leap forward for true 3D gaming, it also vastly expanded the possibilities for multi-player gaming over networks and the Internet, and helped vault software modding to its current heights of popularity. Executives at Raven and id have been relatively quiet about Quake IV's multi-player options. In various interviews they have said simply that a separate team of programmers are working on the multi-player aspects of the game, and that they've drawn on Quake III: Arena for inspiration. Regardless, players can certainly expect the regular roster death matches, king of the hill fights and capture the flag battles this time around as well.

 

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Similarly, very little, if anything, has been said about whether Microsoft would allow the future possibility of uploading and downloading mods for the title via subscriptions to Xbox Live. The franchise's intimate history with the modding community, though, coupled with Microsoft's aggressive efforts to expand the online service's reach beyond its current 2 million subscribers, makes it seem like a tantalizing possibility.

 

Of course, the game's core PC gamer audience will have little to worry about in either regard. But with the hardware on the next generation of consoles currently meeting or beating top of the line PC's right now, it's going to be exciting to see how the market reacts to having an online-ready Quake experience taken into the living room.

 

-M. Enis

(June 1, 2005)