Have You Played… Quake IV?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

This is one of those HYPs where it’s very much a question rather than a recommendation. Have you played it? Particularly, have you played it recently? It felt like such a disappointment at the time, but that was a time when we craved a ‘proper’ id game (even though id weren’t making it) and the first new singleplayer Quake in almost a decade. To be given something so damned ordinary was crushing, especially so hot on the heels of the dispiriting Doom 3.

I couldn’t bring myself to play it again now. I tried, I downloaded it ready, but this voice at the back of my head yelled “no, it’s not worth it, life is too short, there is no need to redeem this game.” So I stick with my 2005 opinion: a serviceable but plodding shooter which somehow made its big twist – you get transformed into a super-powered Strogg part way through the game – boring. BioShock would use this same concept so much more effectively just a few years later, because it focused on the sacrifice rather than the power of the transformation.

Yet I do remain oddly fond of Quake IV. In my last years of working for a magazine, a collective of old Quake III fans go together to play Q4 multiplayer every lunchtime, simply because it had maps we loved and we liked to see them wearing fancier skin. We knew it wasn’t as good, that it didn’t have that rollerskating-through-hell fluidity of Q3, but it felt like an excuse to go back without actually going backwards. Quake IV is so deeply, crushingly, ordinary, but through an accident of timing it was, for me, community. I can’t hate it, even if it deserves it.

72 Comments

  1. Barberetti says:

    Ah, Quake II 2.

    • epeternally says:

      Quake II was actually a fun game though, if a touch on the bland side. Quake IV was tedious. I wonder if any mods have been done to fix up the gameplay, though much like with Doom 3 I imagine there’s only so much that could possibly saved because of conceptual design flaws.

      • Samwise Gamgee says:

        I seem the be the only person in the world that loved Doom 3. Doom 2 is my joint favourite game of all time (along with Ultima 7) so its not as though I am not comparing the two. It didn’t have the same frantic action and I did miss fighting tens of enemies at once but I thought it was superb in its own way, and it scared the crap out of me which helped.

        • GallonOfAlan says:

          No, I loved Doom 3. It might have relied a bit too much on jump scares but that aside it was super atmospheric and evil. Most of the butthurt seemed to boild down to ‘wah wah too dark wah wah torch gun’ … well, play it in a darkened room like you’re supposed to, and look up ‘poetic licence’ in the dictionary.

          It’s no Brutal Doom V20, mind …

          • Razumen says:

            D3’s biggest weakness was that it didn’t crank up the action enough at the end (hardware limitations at the time), but otherwise it was an overall great game.

  2. Sepulchrave76 says:

    I pinched it from a “warez” site (remember them? Ahhh, bad times, bad times) and played it for about 3 hours before getting rid. I remember being really bored by it and thinking how incredible it was that it was even worse than Doom 3.

    • Zankman says:

      Implying that either are bad.

      • d3vilsadvocate says:

        I liked Q4, even played it through twice I think.

        But that Stroggification Process in the game is one of my personal grossest scenes in gaming ever.

        • SomeDuder says:

          I thought it rather brilliant! I’m sure there are other games that horribly maim the player character, but at the time, I didn’t know about them (still don’t, but maybe it’s just not my fetish).

          Especially the part when you finally come across a mirror (which they deliciously stretched out) – you KNOW you got your legs chopped off and other stuff done to you, but you don’t find out the extent of the damage till you come across that stupid mirror.

          As for the game itself, it had its moments:

          – The aformentioned “assimilation” by the Strogg
          – The early final boss encounter, which I found quite a surprise
          – Vehicle combat

          But like Enemy territory: Quake wars, it was released at the wrong time…

      • geisler says:

        Depending on your tastes both are indeed very bad, and actually part of what arena FPS lovers saw as the start of the decline in FPS shooter games. Please play Q3 for about 5 minutes on a map with some bots, and after do the same with Q4, you might understand why people that adore mechanics of the first, hate the latter.

    • Grey_Ghost says:

      I played both games to completion, and yet I honestly remember nothing about Doom 3 besides it’s slightly odd feeling graphics. Quake IV has surprisingly left a much more detailed and generally good impression on me after all this time.

  3. jezcentral says:

    I tried playing this on a X300-GPU-powered laptop. I must have had around 5 FPS. Ouch. Still, I have played worse games.

    Also, you get “killed” during gameplay. Unless you are making a point, like in Spec Ops, there’s no excuse for this. If you are putting a player in a situation where they have no control, put it in a cut-scene. I kept reloading, trying not to die. That is a game design 101 error.

  4. killingbutterflies says:

    How does the guy on the left blow his nose?

  5. Kempston Wiggler says:

    To be given something so damned ordinary was crushing, especially so hot on the heels of the dispiriting Doom 3

    Yep. Both games were to gamers like both barrels of a shotgun being emptied into our skulls one after the other….

    …on the other hand we were used to average dev teams getting their hands on id stuff thanks to Raven hanging around making weird, not-quite-as-good games like Hexen and Heretic so Quake IV wasn’t all that bad, really. Although I do now struggle to remember a blessed thing about it apart from the amusing “cut”-scene they implemented mid-game-ish wherein you became a Strogg and learned to love WD40.

    • Razumen says:

      Hexen and Heretic were great games that improved upon the original engines and gameplay. Quake 4, while not bad, didn’t do enough to capture the spirit of the original Q2 of being a lone space marine stuck behind enemy lines-there was too much scripted scenes, too much linearity, and too many small corridors limiting the amount of enemies you’d face off against at one time.

      • malkav11 says:

        Yeah, Heretic and Hexen were amazing. I can’t really say I’ve been as impressed by Raven in the years since.

  6. Kefren says:

    I was disappointed. Quake 1 was something I deeply loved and replayed many times. Quake 2 I played and enjoyed, but not as much as Quake 1. I skipped Quake 3 (no interest in multiplayer arena shooters). Had hoped Quake 4 would satisfy, but I remember very little of it. I struggled to get to the ending (which I can’t remember at all). I remember thinking “Why are the bodies disappearing? It’s 2005, with advanced technology, I want to wade through piles of bodies like in Doom 1 and 2, not see them dissolve away like a cheap special effect.” I’d thought the same thing with Doom 3. Game engines advance in some ways, then seem to take steps backwards in others.

    • zxcasdqwecat says:

      @kefren post of the month imho

    • Vandelay says:

      I haven’t played Quake 4 (every 6 months or so I have an urge to play, only to be confused as to why I don’t already own it as part of the Quake bundle I got off Steam a few years ago,) but I never will understand why they decided to create a sequel to the fun but bland Quake 2 when Quake is clearly the best single player game in the series. I too love that game and it still holds up today. Quake 2 not so much.

      • Distec says:

        I love me some generic military sci-fi, but the first Quake is definitely has the more interesting setting between the two. Granted, it was a rough patchwork of dark fantasy/Cthulhu type shit that they just carried over from when the game was supposed to be much larger in scope. Product of its limitations and all that. But nothing else since has comfortably fit into that weird little slot.

        I really wish it would be revisited, but I don’t know if it’s possible to do successfully.

        • Razumen says:

          Quake was a hodgepodge of ideas and designs that came together to make a fun, visually interesting, but ultimately incoherent whole. Quake 2 was much more cohesive and and as a result it was much more compelling to play all the way through. It had a sense of purpose that Quake lacked.

  7. Cryio says:

    I tried playing Quake 4 back in 2008 or so. Man. I though Doom 3 was eh. I loved Quake 2 on the PS2 and I had fun with Q3 on PC. But Q4? It was one of the most boring, generic FPSs I’ve ever played.

  8. Grey_Ghost says:

    Recently, no. I quite enjoyed it back in the day for it’s single player story. I remember how intense the whole Strogg-ification scene felt to experience. I even looked forward to a direct sequel that never came.

    Honestly… I’ve never understood just what people wanted from the ‘id’ game worlds in general. Would they have remained successful if they had just made online only games with no story an without any sort of context to their level design at all? I can’t really think of any game in the past decade like that which held my attention for very long.

  9. Kefren says:

    [Bioshock Spoiler]
    As to the sacrifice in Bioshock – that was pretty weak, I thought, when you realise that you become a Big Daddy just to get through a door. Surely if I’d looked around enough I’d find a Red Keycard? And the only bit of the transformation that might have been permanent could have been the implausible voice-box alteration, but I couldn’t take the machinery that did it seriously. I’m sure open-throat surgery with no painkillers would be more gruesome and traumatic than “Whirr, whirr, goal achieved, time to move on.”

  10. TomxJ says:

    It put you in the roll of the patient from surgeon simulator at one point. For that, I love this game.

    That moment was only topped by the opening scene of Fallout 3.

  11. piedpiper says:

    It was flat and boring. Like all the Raven’s games after 2000. I didn’t hate it – it was just uninspiring and plastic.

  12. Rao Dao Zao says:

    I went through a phase of replaying it every couple of years in synch with Mick Hucknall/Simply Red having a new song out. Then Simply Red had a new song out recently and I didn’t, so the cycle is broken and I am free.

    It’s not a bad game at all, though. I’d say it feels a bit turgid until you get Stroggified and then your movement speed goes closer to normal, so it perks up after that. Some of the mad architecture and set-pieces are quite cool, I guess.

    To be honest, I got a GOTYE of it and I probably spent way longer playing Quake II and its mission packs, which came on the bonus disc.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Qazinsky says:

    I honestly didn’t even know Quake 4 existed until I just read this post! It seems like a too high profile name to miss, did I sleep through a year or something?

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Myself as well.
      How did I not know there was a Quake 4?
      Oh, it was released in October 2005, just after I’d moved to Bristol and was smoking All The Weed. Yep, that might explain it.

  14. RuySan says:

    Even I, someone that really liked Doom 3, found this to be boring and ordinary.

  15. innokenti says:

    I actually really really rather enjoyed it. It had interesting enemies, levels, the story wasn’t actually atrocious, and the Stroggification was done really quite well.

    Nothing super-remarkable, but having replayed it maybe 3 or so years ago, I still found it quite enjoyable to whizz through.

    Unfairly maligned here I feel…

    • Chaz says:

      Yeah, I rather enjoyed it too. Also thought some of the levels looked amazing. I quite enjoyed the tanky mech bits too.

      Never really understood all the negativity over it as it was a really good solid shooter. I think a lot of folks just jumped on the hate bandwagon, as they do.

  16. The_invalid says:

    Okay, I’m going to come right out and say it – I really enjoyed Quake 4. Sure, it wasn’t some genre-defining masterpiece, but it was a really solid, polished bit of fps with some really satisfying weapons, exhilarating boss fights and really fun set-pieces. Id 4’s unified real-time lighting/shading model made the game world feel convincingly physical, and for the sake of comparison to Bioshock as was made earlier, I vastly prefer Q4’s ‘shoot all teh mans’ plotline to Bioshock’s tryhard pseudo-intellectual twaddle.

    Sure, it might not be up to the standard of classic Id, but Raven have always understood how to nail the fundamentals, and I personally think they do so wonderfully here.

    • jikavak says:

      I really liked Q4 too. I loved the smoggification and getting to and killing the final boss felt great to eme

  17. DizzyCriminal says:

    Quake 4 is a good game. It has varied challenging enemies, 0-9 arsenal of weapons, some enjoyable boss fights, the very gruesome and memorable strogification scene. The level design and enemy placement (i.e. not teleporting in) made it a more Doom 3 than Doom 3 was.
    I say play it if you haven’t already and want a good traditional but modern shooter experience. The only thing that comes close recently in the genre of “Modern Old school FPS” is Wolfenstein TNO.

  18. Stense says:

    I re-played Quake IV within the last year sometime, so it’s still somewhat fresh in my mind. I always enjoyed it, and I enjoyed it again that last time. It really isn’t anything special, but there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with it. It’s a perfectly serviceable but ultimately forgettable shooter. I remember standing in the games shop weighing up whether to get Quake IV or the also just released FEAR. I went with the former, enjoyed it. Got FEAR later but it didn’t do much for me. So that’s my abiding memory of Quake IV, forever talked of in comparison to another game, never able to stand in conversation on its own but never wholly damned for it.

  19. TheBigBookOfTerror says:

    Peter Stormare being my grumpy best friend as we kill aliens together? Best game ever until Saints Row 4 let me kill aliens with Rowdy Roddy Piper of course.

  20. Razumen says:

    Quake 4 was a decent game, but I felt like it didn’t do the series enough justice. Quake 2 felt special because you were a lone marine behind enemy lines with only your PDA to guide you, so it was essentially you vs the entire Strogg army. Q4 lost this focus by putting you at the front of the army, having squadmates you needed to worry about, having too many scripted scenes and linear setpieces.

    That and, mirroring the stupidity of the Terminator Genisys trailers, they completely spoiled the twist that you get turned into a Strogg before the game was even released.

  21. Turkey says:

    I never really enjoyed Raven games that much. They always felt like a second rate Monolith to me. Their games were always fine shooters, but they never stood out to me.

    I guess Jedi Outcast was the closest thing to a Raven thing that I loved, but even that had some terrible level design.

  22. anduin1 says:

    It was alright, very forgettable. It was a time where people still though iD would crank out great games but they were average at best compared to the marketplace at that time. If anything it teaches us that resting on your name alone is not enough.

    • anduin1 says:

      went back and installed and played for a few hours, man the textures look like crap. But the gameplay still holds up, decent corridor shooter

  23. Frye2k11 says:

    Ahh the Ozzie Osbourne effect : create a masterpiece once and people will hate you if you fail to follow up on it. Usually commercial reasons, sometimes not giving a damn (laziness perhaps).

    I suffer from it myself with respect to dark souls (and Chris Martin kinda :S). Am in two minds whether it is fair or not but I think I am in the ‘noblesse oblige’ camp.

  24. buzzmong says:

    I thought Quake 4 made a better Doom game than Doom3 to be honest. It was passable, it’s been a few years now and I can’t recall anything massively wrong with it, but I can’t remember much else of it, which is quite telling.

  25. DeepFried says:

    Have I played Quake 4? no because ikt doesn’t bloody run properly on my machine.

  26. unit 3000-21 says:

    As many have written before me it was a good game but nothing special. The thing I remember most fondly was the feeling of being a part of a larger space marines operation. You weren’t a lone gun against the whole planet just an important piece of the war machine. The vanishing bodies were a real shame though.

  27. PoulWrist says:

    I remember being rather happy about there being a follow-up to Quake 2’s storyline, which I found amusing.

    The gameplay was sort of cramped, but it was actiony as far as I recall and there was a bit of this and a bit of that going on. Not the worst game ever, not the best, just one out of a thousand shooters that were enjoyable for a time and then you moved on. It came out after the world had started running in overdrive and 50 million new games come out every year and their price ends up at 5$ after 6 months and we all buy 20 and never get around to playing 19 of them before we buy another 20 while only 20% through that one we actually got round to playing…

    I have so many games now that I only seem to be playing old ones and a few F2P ones, the notion of starting up all these 60+ hour campaign RPGs and skillbased shooters I have lying around is just too daunting.

  28. Distec says:

    All this time since and I still don’t get the sour attitude over Doom 3. Get over it already! :)

    Really, I do understand the gripes. It wasn’t the Doom of old, the graphics were nice but plasticy, and the flashlight sucked. Also didn’t help that it was from the same era that brought us Half-Life 2, which invites less favorable comparisons. But I definitely had fun with it. The gunplay felt good, I got spooked by some jump scares, mission accomplished. It wasn’t an amazing experience, but even I didn’t have expectations of such, and I was a dipshit teen at the time. Years later I bought the BFG edition and played through that again!

    Can’t comment on Quake 4, though.

    • Razumen says:

      The thing is, Doom 3 WAS pretty much Doom, at least the earlier levels in the campaign. It did a great job of retelling the story of doom and recreating the first early levels where you didn’t know what to expect, when the game actually was kind of scary. Where Doom 3 could have done better was to give us more enemies and bigger areas to fight them in the second half of the game, but I guess the technology was just too demanding at the time for most machines to handle that & the dynamic lighting at the same time. That and id’s engines have always been notoriously bad at wide open areas ever since Quake1.

      • Geebs says:

        Doom3’s shotgun-as-melée-weapon thing actually made it one of the more exciting FPS that I’ve played. iD real nailed the shooting in both D3 and Rage, even if the other stuff wasn’t amazing.

        Quake 4, on the other hand, was pretty shit, although I will concede that if it had Quake 2’s awesome White Zombie-meets-Pantera soundtrack I would probably have loved it unconditionally.

  29. dethtoll says:

    lol @ all the butthurt nerds whining about how Quake 4 (and Doom 3) banged their mums while pouring sugar in their gas tank.

    Quake 4 was pretty sweet. It was basically the best parts of Doom 3 and pre-MW Call of Duty jammed together.

  30. Premium User Badge

    cultiv8ed says:

    I did play and finish Quake 4, but it was pretty forgettable tbh. Better examples of doom 3 engine games are Riddick and Prey IMO

    • The_invalid says:

      Riddick wasn’t a Doom 3 engine game. Starbreeze used their own in-house renderer whose name eludes me. Prey was excellent though.

      • Premium User Badge

        cultiv8ed says:

        Wow ur right. It looked so much like a doom 3 engine game I was convinced it was!

  31. gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

    There are a few levels in Q4 I still really like and remember as being some of my favorites in that decade of games. Well, maybe two levels.

    But overall it was a disappointment. Not so much because it was kind of dull, but because it was supposed to be a followup to Q2 and didn’t even look like the same Stroggs. Like, what, these are the Imperial Stroggs with forehead ridges as opposed to the green-skinned swarthy Stross they don’t like to talk about? It was jarring.

    They could have done so much by taking the old enemy designs and making them look so much cooler in a new engine, but instead they went a completely different way and it felt like a different war, a different alien race, etc. It was underwhelming as a sequel.

  32. malkav11 says:

    I played a little bit of Q4 and have always meant to get back to it but never have. It wasn’t especially compelling, but it didn’t seem bad, either. And I certainly liked it better than the first three Quakes, none of which I have any time for at all.

  33. davemaster says:

    I enjoyed it.

  34. Titler says:

    I played Quake 4 before Doom 3, and managed to finish the former, but couldn’t and still haven’t brought myself to finish Doom 3, let alone its expansion. In many ways Quake 4 is the worse game visually; however it’s the one note game-play that cripples both, it’s just so dreary and boring in the way combat works that, after pushing myself to the end of Q4 I just didn’t have the patience to keep on grinding through Doom, and the games together managed to kill my enthusiasm for First Person Shooters for years. The Stroggification, and standing on a walkway before the final boss are all I can remember about the entire experience; I was going to say the drop pod landing, but that was Q2 wasn’t it? Was there one in Q4? I honestly can’t recall, the game just passed me by in a sort of detached dullness.

    Even the worst Serious Sam games still have something of the adrenaline that made the original games special. I’m not even sure how Q4 and D3 managed to lose it, although it’s more obvious with D3 due to the tiny corridors everywhere that just choke the atmosphere instead of making the player choke with fear. Q4 was… green, lots of green? Help me out here.

  35. gnalvl says:

    To this day, there is no singleplayer campaign that actually does justice to the multiplayer movement/shooting style of the Quake series. None of the enemies in Q1, Q2, or Q4 are fast nor require you to use circle jumping/strafe jumping/bunnying, double jumping, sliding or any such manuevers to win, nor any fast weapon switching.

    Despite our fond memories, they are all essentially just survival horror action shooters. You were not intended to do anything in Q1 or Q2 that isn’t in Q4…even the series’ signature movement was essentially a glitch. The only people who really use Quake movement in Quake campaigns are speed runners making up their own self-imposed rules.

    So then is Q4 really so much worse than Q2 and Q1?

    Yes, I would have preffered some more open areas in the vein of Q2 to many of Quake 4’s claustrophobic Doom 3-ish interior designs. Yes, it would have been preferable to see a new Lovecraft-inspired inter-dimensional campaign to more of the same tired WWII/space marine cliches we see in every other game…

    …but, the enemies in Q4 are actually considerably faster and more aggressive and harder to hit than enemies in Q1 and Q2. The enemy count, environment sizes, and general pace was a step up from Doom 3. While Q4 had fewer multiplayer maps than Q3, it was generally a more solid set with fewer duds than the many vanilla Q3 maps that no one actually played outside of its dodgy “campaign”.

    Really the idea of a great Quake campaign is something that only exists in our heads, which could be really great if executed correctly, but which no one has actually executed yet.

  36. Mr_Blastman says:

    I liked Quake 4, damnit.

  37. Reece82 says:

    I bought it when it came out and loved it.
    I can see why FPS “purists” might dislike it though. I loved the predecessors too…
    Quake 1 DM, Quake 2 and mods like action quake, endless hours of Quake 3 arena…

    I’ll never understand the gaming snobs.