Picking up where Quake II left off - Quake III Arena didn't really have a story to follow on from - Quake IV wastes no time in throwing you to the Stroggs. Your dropship is hit during entry and crash-lands (again!) in the combat zone, placing you in the middle of Earth's secondary offensive against the Strogg forces - who are quickly regrouping after the loss of their leader in the previous game.
With no need for story building, Quake IV puts a gun in your hand, shouts some orders in your ear and shoves you straight towards the action, which is fast, noisy and frequently brutal. The Strogg are uglier, smarter and a lot more agile than before, with updates to familiar faces fighting alongside entirely new (and often alarmingly large) foes.
Speaking of new, it's the first Quake to have been developed by a company other than id Software, which took an executive producer role to make sure that Raven Software held their baby's head properly. Using the Doom 3 game engine means that the game looks great - and almost overwhelmingly grisly in places - and it offers a welcome mix of indoor and outdoor environments to play in.
Taking a leaf from Half-Life 2, Quake IV also has vehicle-based levels, and while there's some of the claustrophobic corridor combat of Doom 3, you're given a lot more room to move around in (not to mention a machine gun with a torch that doesn't run out of juice after 10 seconds).
As far as the single player aspect of the game is concerned, Quake IV doesn't disappoint. The enemy may lack the cohesive intelligence of FEAR's opponents, and the story arc isn't all that deep, but it's a well-paced experience with interesting cinematics and enough twists to keep you intrigued.
Admittedly, you can start feeling "herded" through doors that mysteriously unlock only when mission objectives are involved and you'll find your progress irritatingly blocked by your unit team-mates on more than one occasion, but it's solid first-person shooter fare that should give you around 15 hours of engrossing gameplay.
How you feel about the multi-player element depends on what you're expecting. If you're looking for new game modes, vehicles, sprawling maps and all-new environments, then Quake IV will be a disappointment. It brings a graphical facelift, updated physics and a new weapon set to the gameplay of Quake 3 Arena, but little else.
Personally, I found Quake IV to be blessed relief after the prolonged sessions of anxiety I got from playing FEAR. It's an absorbing single-player experience, and sometimes, that's all you're after.
Click here to view screenshot 1, and here to view screenshot 2.
Visuals: High-end environmental graphics thanks to the Doom 3 game engine.
Audio: Solid supporting music builds on the military theme; vocals are good, but can be repetitive after a while.
Gameplay: Excellent first-person fodder without being too demanding. Multiplayer may be a let-down.
Developer: Raven Software