I can’t think of another PC videogame franchise where the various titles are as unrelated as those in the Quake series:
The original Quake was mostly a technology demo. It was the impetus of online deathmatch, and it was a showcase for a new kind of graphics engine. The story was thin even by 1996 standards, and there were no characters at all. There was just the nameless player and miles of disjoined scenery. Some levels were arcane runic castles, some were military techno bases, and others were just rock tunnels. The game had no unifying theme or look. The story was a dead end.
Quake 2 was a bit deeper. They tossed out the “plot” of Quake and made something totally different. It was the story of the invasion of an alien homeworld. It seems the Strogg invaded Earth, ravaged it, and our only hope was to push them back and then cripple their capacity to make war on us. The player is part of the initial invasion force, but a mishap causes him to be seperated from the other soldiers and land some distance from the target. This is good, since an unknown anti-air defense sysem wipes out just about everyone else. The unexpected landing trajectory lets the player survive. He must then march through military bases, waste dumps, processing stations, and just about any other type of industrial setting you can imagine. At the end, he fights their leader and kills him. Game over. Not exactly Shakespeare, but it was a nice improvement over Quake.
Quake 3 was a multiplayer deathmatch and had nothing to do with either of the previous two games. So now we’re onto the third game in this franchise, and yet none of them are really sequals.
Quake 4 is a direct sequal to Quake 2. This is an interesting challenge. It’s been about nine years since the previous game, and the “lone soldier fights through the enemy robots and defeats the big boss” is now the plot of Gamecube titles for kids. Adult gamers expect something more now.
This is tough. They must make a sequal to the previous game, even though the plot – which worked well enough in 1997 – is now so stale and cliché that it would be viewed as a comedy if used today. So, instead of re-hashing the previous game they used it as a starting point. They mention that a lone marine assasinated the enemy leader without getting into too much detail. You do not play that lone marine. Instead you are (more reasonably) part of a large invasion force engaged in a straight-out ground war on the Strogg homeworld. This time around, there are lots of things going on and lots of characters to meet. As I mentioned before, the NPCs are now smart enough that they don’t ruin the game when they fight alongside you.
What I find odd is that he does many voices in both games, but doesn’t play any major characters. As the English voice of Spike Spiegel, you’d think they would hand him some real characters to play instead of a long list of unrelated lines for a dozen minor characters.
The rest of the voices in the game – including the extras – are also well cast and well performed. I think the days of programmers and level designers adopting preposterous accents and doing their own voice work are behind us at last.
With all of these posts about Quake 4 I suppose it must sound like I’m really into the game, which isn’t the case. The game is fun and diverting, and shows a lot of polish, but I’ve probably spent as much time writing about it as I have playing it. I picked it up for $19.95, and so I’m happy with what the game has to offer. If I’d paid full price I would probably have expected more and wound up disappointed.
I enjoy writing about these “hardcore” first-person shooter games a lot more than I enjoy playing them. My own passion lies elsewhere, but they are a good indicatior of where technology is headed and a nice peek at the latest graphics engines.
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