Quake. Fleshed out. Up to date. Brutal.
To say that a new single-player Quake has been a long time coming is something of an understatement. It's been positively agonising, with nearly eight years skipping past since id's legendary Quake II took PC gaming to new heights.
In the intervening years we've had Arena, of course, but the focus there was very much keeping multiplayer gamers happy and showing off a brand new engine. In terms of keeping the lonesome players satisfied, there was unfinished business to attend to, and the completion of the Doom III engine allowed id, along with Raven, to fill that gaping void.
The results are thrilling. Predictably thrilling, but thrilling all the same. You probably already know what to expect by now, and Todd Hollenshead and Tim Willits' half-hour demonstration delivered a knockout punch to the senses. It's in no way even trying to be original. It's playing to the crowds, it has everything you could want from a gib-filled, all-action Quake game and brings it bang up to date - and frankly we're quite happy about that.
Slightly confusingly in number terms, IV picks up directly from where II ends, and the game wastes no time at all in getting straight into the action. This is no Doom III. There's no brooding tension. It immediately struck us as a brutal fusion of linear Call Of Duty wargame intensity set against the frenzied brown-tinged Quake backdrop that we all know and love.
You play as "one certified badass" Matthew Kane, and after a brief but beautiful intro sequence that depicts a sea of floating debris, body parts and detritus drifting through space, it cuts to an ongoing war with the Strogg on the planet's surface, with seemingly the whole base under heavy aerial attack, with huge, terrifying explosions going off everywhere. Missile launchers fight back desperately, but the onslaught of huge ships swooping overhead lends an oppressive sense of panic to get the hell to somewhere safer as soon as possible. Not that anything left standing won't be blown to smithereens soon anyway...
As you'd expect these days, the first thing to do is get some instructions from the nearest NPC you come across, in this case Sgt Morris. Unlike Doom III there's no messing about building up tension or anything; it's straight into the action, darting into the shattered remains of a dark, dingy, smouldering brown-hued metallic base and shooting any enemy resistance you come across. Which is to say a lot.
The familiar metallic sounds of the weapons takes you immediately back to the late 90s, and a wave of nostalgia crashes over you. Quake is back. Bring it on. But this time it's not just a one man army. Expect intelligent buddy AI finding appropriate cover points and carefully ducking in and out of the rusty industrial setting to pick off the advancing enemies. And what's this? A torch mounted on the end of your gun? Clearly someone out there listened to the barrage of complaints post-Doom III...
"If you haven't played Quake 2 it doesn't matter," Hollenshead insists. "Players unfamiliar will still be able to understand what's going on. It's the usual Earth struggles against the Strogg yadda. But if you have played the originals you'll recognise the tweaks. It's a totally separate story. Now you actually have a name - Matthew Kane. We wanted to give Kane an independent personality. All members of your squad have a personality as well," he adds. Quake. Fleshed out. Up to date. Brutal.