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Raven software was the ‘mini id’ of first-person shooters in the early 90s the to mid 2000s. To say that they made some pretty damn fine games is an understatement. It’s a shame that the studio known for creating classics such as Heretic, Hexen, Soldier of Fortune, Jedi Outcast, Jedi Academy and a lot more is reduced to a mere assisting role in the production of the Call of Duty games (Gee, thanks Activision, you no-good money kissers). Regardless, their legacy lives on.

Raven has a long & friendly history with id Software. Since both studios were located on the same street, you’d often see them collaborate on various games and gamey…stuff. Raven worked wonders with the sentient being John Carmack’s pathbreaking game engines and they even had John ‘I should be in a shampoo commercial’ Romero come over and help them out with Heretic. Raven’s catalogue is filled with such great games that people often forget that they also made a reboot of id’s seminal title Wolfenstein  and the 4th entry in id’s revolutionary Quake series.

Quake, id Software’s legendary title born from a troubled development cycle took 3D rendering technology and shooters to a whole new level. Not to mention its contributions to the advancement of eSports and competitive gaming. But by the mid-2000s, shooters were in the stage of redefining themselves. Fast-paced run ‘n gun formula with little emphasis on the story was becoming a thing of the past and was being replaced by cinematic experiences. DOOM 3 was a result of this shift in trend. Since id Software was busy making DOOM 3 and John Carmack was adamant on keeping his team small, the development of the next single-player title in the quake series was handed off to Raven Software, with a bit of help from id. Thus, Quake 4 was born.

Quake 4 and DOOM 3 have a lot in common. Both were released a year apart from each other. Both shared the same engine, same visual theme, same main theme composer and mostly the same design. Above all, both games are generally considered to be the black sheep of the franchise by veterans and neckbeards. Both DOOM 3 and Quake 4 were a departure from their respective series’ hallmark gameplay and opted for a more cinematic approach to storytelling.

Quake 4 had one big advantage over DOOM 3 in the sense that the Quake, as a series never had a consistent identity of its own. Before you yell “blasphemy!”, hear me out. The first Quake was basically DOOM in a fully 3D environment where techno-industrial themes had sex with gothic Lovecraftian architecture, a reminder of troubled development. Quake II is a full-on sci-fi reboot by chance, having no connection to its predecessor yet sharing the hallmark id movement and gunplay. Makes sense, since Quake 2 was not supposed to be a Quake game at all. Then came Quake III: Arena, a fast-paced arena FPS which was a strictly multiplayer game. Thus, what makes an actual Quake game remains debatable and Quake 4 was thrown into this mix. While Q4 was a direct sequel to Quake II, it also brought its own thing to the series gameplaywise. So by this logic, Quake 4 can be forgiven for not following in the footsteps of its predecessors than DOOM 3. Much like DOOM 3, Quake 4 is an enjoyable game and surpasses its big brother in a lot of aspects as well.

Quake 4 picks up shortly after the end of Quake II. After the death of the Makron, the leader of the invasive alien species known as the Strogg at the hands of Quake II’s hero, the marines assault aliens’ home planet Stroggos. You play as Corporal Matthew Kane, a member of the elite Rhino Squad. The game begins when the squad ship is shot down by the Strogg, forcing you to regroup with the Rhino Squad in assaulting key strategic points. Then it’s bang bang boom boom from there on out.

The initial 2 hours or so of Quake 4 are pretty boring. Your movement speed is very slow and you’re only armed with effective, but basic weapons such as a pistol, an assault rifle and a shotgun. But things pick up as soon as you get your hands on some of the sweet Strogg firepower. At a certain point in the game, you are captured by the Strogg and are half-turned into one, before being rescued by fellow marines. The part where the Strogg operate on you is probably the most iconic scene in the game. Reminds me a lot of a ‘certain scene’ in Dead Space 2. So after this point, you’re basically a Strogg based on pure physicality and retain their superhuman strength and agility, which basically means you get more HP and move faster.

From this point on, the story picks up the pace even more and you get your hands on more badass Strogg weapons such as the Lightning Gun and a frigging Dark Matter Gun, which is like the BFG of this game. It can create a black hole and suck in enemies, killing most of them in one shot or mortally wounding the big boys. The downside is that ammo is pretty scarce which works in the favour of the balancing. The biggest advantage of Quake 4 over DOOM 3 is the refined shooting and an arsenal which is actually ‘fun’ to use. There’s also a decent roster of enemies for you to experiment on and some of these boys can really take a few hits.

Another noteworthy aspect about Quake 4 is that you’re rarely alone in the campaign. You’ll have marines with you for a large portion of the game and this gives the game a Republic Commando vibe, minus the tactical actions. The marines aren’t slouches either.  Contrary to video game NPC tropes, they can stand their own and even take down a few Stroggs along the way. Not only that, but these marines can also refill your HP and armour along with providing several crucial weapon upgrades along the way, making the weapons more awesome than they already were.

The game is not without fault, however. There are a few sections in the game which drag on forever like the areas where you get to control vehicles. The vehicular controls are pretty awkward by today’s standards and these just go on forever. Then there’s the multiplayer. While I was unable to set up games, I’ve heard that it was pretty lacklustre compared to the adrenaline-pumping gameplay of Quake III. There’s also fewer enemies this time around, very similar to DOOM 3. I guess this is an id Tech 3 thing.

Like DOOM 3, Quake 4 holds up exceptionally well in the visuals department. You may need to tweak a few stuff manually to get it to work properly but it’s no hassle. Just follow this guide and you’re all set. So, next time Quake 4 is on sale, don’t think twice.

Like other games in Raven’s catalogue, Quake 4 is a shining example of their capability as a developer. Such a shame that we’ll probably never get another solo Raven game. Perks of selling your soul to the devil I guess.

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