capsule review

Quake 4

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The Mac conversion of Quake 4 has been a long time coming; if you’re a first-person shooter fan, it’s been well worth the wait. The game has the highest production value of any first-person shooter I’ve seen since Doom 3 (   ) and terrific single-player gameplay. Unfortunately, as I noted in my first look at Quake 4, multiplayer modes left me wanting more.

The first three installments of the Quake franchise had very little in common with each other. The first was a techno-gothic monster shooter; the second was a straight-up sci-fi action game; and the third was an arena-based multiplayer game. Quake 4 actually picks up the story of Quake 2—you return as a human space Marine assaulting the homeworld of the Strogg—these nasty cybernetic aliens look like Star Trek’s Borg on growth hormones.

While a technically impressive game, Doom 3’s level design and overall gameplay style left a lot of first-person shooter enthusiasts wanting. That game was prone to way too many dark rooms and spots where you’d get ambushed by monsters—that’s great for a haunted house attraction at Halloween, but it doesn’t exactly make for compelling gameplay. Quake 4 doesn’t fall into that trap—most spots are well lit enough to see. And when they aren’t, your weapons often have flashlights so you can see what you’re doing in the dark.

Quake’s artificial intelligence seems a bit lacking—pathfinding for non-player characters and bad guys alike often leaves them standing in dead ends or taking longer than they should to get to where they’re going. All too often, the Strogg just lay out in the open like statues waiting for you to mow them down.

Multiplayer in Quake 4 is okay, but not great. There’s a relative paucity of maps, and, with a few exceptions, the ones that are there aren’t particularly imaginative or well-designed. It’s probably the game’s weakest overall element. That’s not a big deal for me—I don’t spend a lot of time playing against others online—but it does hurt the game’s overall replay value. The flat multiplayer presentation is particularly surprising from a franchise that’s so well-known for its outstanding multiplayer gaming up until now.

As I mentioned, production quality is excellent. Quake 4’s graphics and sound are both absolutely top-notch, with pro voice acting and lots of interstitial sequences to break up the action and keep you involved in the story.

The game performs well—provided you have a Mac that can run it effectively. A Power Mac G4/1.67MHz or faster is mandatory, although Aspyr would rather see you run this game on a G5 or Intel-based Mac (excluding the Intel-based Mac mini, whose graphics aren’t up to snuff). And yes, Quake 4 ships as a Universal Binary.

As I write this, Aspyr is working on a patch that will provide symmetrical multiprocessing support, which promises faster performance for many multiprocessor systems. Aspyr tells me that the performance benefit for MacBook Pro systems isn’t liable to amount to much because of other limitations related to that system’s graphics processor; however, Dual Core and multiprocessor Power Mac G5s and Core Duo iMacs are likely to see some significant improvements.

The bottom line

Ultimately, Quake 4 stands out from the crowd partly because of its own great execution and partly because it’s been built on the shoulders of giants. Regardless, if you’re a first-person shooter enthusiast, this game should be on your must buy list.

Assimilate This : No, it’s not the Borg, but rather nasty cybernetic aliens The Strogg that you battle in Quake 4.
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