A fun form of carnage

Anthony Caruana
30 July, 2012
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There are some days when running around and shooting aliens is the best cure for the temporary insanity of life. For those days, a good first-person shooter is a great way to immerse yourself in an alternate dimension and clear your mind.

Quake 4 is one such game. Having recently been re-released on the Mac App Store by Aspyr Media for $20.99, we were keen to see whether all those hours wasted in our youth had made the transition to near-middle-age.

Let’s get a few things off our chest. For some reason, the 2.7GB download took an eternity and the installation took quite some time. Also, when we first ran it the display went blank when we tried to play the game in full screen mode. Finally, on a couple of occasions, the game started without any sound – although quitting and restarting the game sorted that out.

The premise of the game is straightforward: You have to help other humans overcome a horde of mutants called the Strogg intent on wreaking havoc and conquering Earth. As marine Matthew Kane of Rhino Squad you travel to their home-world and take the battle to them. In other words, the story isn’t really important. It’s all about working your way through each maze-like level, killing bad guys and achieving various objectives.

One part of the gameplay we liked was that the other humans acted as allies. If you’re pinned down in a firefight, they also hunker down around you and join the fray. Medics top your health up as you go, although health packs – the old staple of shooting games – are still scattered around randomly, as are ammo and weapons. Other soldiers help out by repairing your body armour when it’s damaged.

You can interact with your comrades by clicking on them but  the conversation is limited. It’s worth noting that there is some swearing by the other soldiers. In some cases the language is quite strong with the odd F-bomb dropped.

The quality of the graphics is OK but dated. If you’re used to playing console games with near-cinematic video quality then Quake 4 is going to disappoint you.

The bad guys are your run-of-the- mill cannon fodder. They’re equipped with different firearms including guns, grenade launchers, machine guns, bladed weapons and a sort of Taser that electrifies the ground you’re standing on, thus stunning you so the bad guys can attack.

Finding our way around each of the levels was challenging. We have to admit that we are a little navigationally challenged and found that we were often accidentally back-tracking. However, our human companions helped out by pointing the way and setting up ambushes for the bad buys when we were going into an unknown area.

Our principal complaint is that the game isn’t very engaging. Sure, it’s always fun to decapitate an alien with a shotgun but we never really felt like we were in the game – even with a decent sound system and 27in screen. But, as diversions go, it did kill some time without taxing too many brain cells.

As well as single-player mode, there are various multiplayer options such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Tourney, Capture the Flag, Arena CTF and DeadZone. You can either play against others on your network or join online games. However, the single- player mode is designed as a main form of play. It’s not a cut-back or limited experience, although playing against other humans is always harder.

Quake 4 is a fun game although those looking for an intellectual challenge to go with the carnage might prefer other titles.

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