Quake 4 Reader Review
I don't really dig single-player games. No matter how good the AI, it's just not like going toe to toe with other human beings. So, although I bought Quake 4, I did it with multiplayer in mind.
I'm no stranger to multiplayer first-person shooter (FPS) games, and I've been "on board" with the Quake series since the original qtest, way back when. I've sampled many variations on game types, and I think I've pretty much "seen it all" in terms of interesting gameplay (most of them from series other than Quake, it has to be said). So I don't expect much in the way of innovation, truth be told.
I do, however, expect things to stand still at the very, very least. Quake 4 multiplayer is so basic that it fails to manage even that.
She Cannae Take It, Cap'n
It's not even the crushing reality that my PC's too out of date to make much of a stab at playing online. No, I can accept that. It has ever been the case for me, starting with qtest, through Quake, Quake 2, Quake III Arena and last year's Doom 3. I expected to have to turn graphical bells and whistles down, or off. But even then things don't run smoothly due to what I put down to some poorly designed maps. Perhaps they were rushed out of the door. Try the CTF map "Relativity", for example. Standing in one of the bases, I probably get 40 frames per second. However, if I venture out into midfield, that plummets to 20, and heaven forfend there are actually other people on the server. A midfield firefight sees my frame rate drop to well into single figures. It's woeful.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
I have two words for you. Dumbed down. Quake 2, the game I played most 8 years ago, allowed players to drop ammunition and weapons. This was an important element of teamplay, particularly for Capture the Flag (CTF). In Quake 3 CTF variants, players could even drop armour. None of this is possible in Quake 4. Why not? Was it really too complex an idea? Too much of a barrier to new players? Do the developers of Quake 4's multiplayer really believe that removing elements that promote teamwork are beneficial to team-based games? It seems they do.
Gone, also, is the ability to create elegant aliases to bind to keys that we were able to do 8 years ago. Now this ability is restricted even futher than it was in Quake III Arena.
Feel the Love
Of course, games such as this generally have a willing community of mappers and programmers who are only too willing to spend their own time creating extra content for the game, thereby extending its appeal. In the days of Quake, Quake 2 and even Quake III Arena, one could join a server that had a map the player didn't have, without problem. Of course once that map came up in the rotation, the player would either be disconnected or be given the chance to download the map from the server. Technology that has existed for 8 or more years. Naturally, the same would be possible for a modern game.
HAHAH! Yes, I'm laughing at you. You and your naiveté.
Thirdparty support is horribly broken. To join a Q4 server you need to have exactly the same files (.pk4) as the server, whether they're being played or not. But that's OK, because the server admin can enable the server to offer direct downloads, right? HAHAH! Yep, you got it.
These are barriers to the game's uptake amongst online players, not to mention the fact that already, a few weeks after launch, there are competing "mods" designed to fix what are seen as basic flaws in the gameplay, such as being able to see which weapons are in one's arsenal, or enemy players that have distinct team colours. Again, this fragments the community and is a further barrier to the game's success.
Just look at the player stats for the game. As I write this, there are 50,000 people plating Counter-Strike (for Half-Life 2); there are 21,000 playing Battlefield 2; there are even 3,500 playing Quake 3: Arena, a game that's some 6 years old. And how many are playing Quake 4? I'll tell you. 637. Six hundred and thirty-seven.
In the End
For me, Q4 is a complete disappointment in terms of its multiplayer. I just hope that the release of the software development kit (SDK) will hasten thirdparty mods that offer things that Raven should have offered out of the box.
id dropped the multiplayer ball with Doom 3, and they nor Raven have picked it up again with Quake 4. Epic's Unreal Tournament 2007 is less than a year away, and I doubt they'll make the same mistakes.
5 / 10