Review: Quake III Arena

Right on the heels of my Unreal Tournament review, comes my thoughts on it’s competitor Quake III arena. Both of these titles are similar in terms of gameplay and they were released only days apart. So how does Quake hold up? Let’s see.

First, let’s talk about what Quake III is not. It is not a direct sequel to either or the previous games in the series. Nor is it packed with loads of single player content. Quake III, much like Unreal Tournament, was designed to be a multiplayer/arena style game. It does feature a brief single-player scenario to help new players get familiar with things, but this can easily be played through in a matter of hours. The single player campaign features a very loose story regarding a race of aliens that pluck contestants from various points of space and time and force them to fight in gladiator style areas for their own amusement. Once you’ve got your feet wet against the computer, you’ll be ready for the true focus of the game, which is pure multiplayer action.

As far as the game goes, it is very well done. The arenas are plentiful and fairly diverse. The level design certainly has that “Quake” feel to it. But I found the arenas to be rather small and somewhat overly symmetrical. I found some of the best maps to actually be community created content.The weapons are diverse and will be familiar to anyone who has played the previous entry’s in the series. One big gripe I have with the game though has to be the character models. They seem to be well done overall, but the models don’t really feel like they belong. Some of them are cartoonish, while others are photo-realistic (featuring the faces of the developers). I couldn’t really find one that really suited me.

The gameplay itself feels a bit looser than UT, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The slicker playcontrol in this title gives the illusion of faster-paced combat. But If you’re used to the feel of UT, there’s a small period of adjustment that will take some getting used to.

Overall, as a combat arena themed game goes, Quake III is a classic and ranks right up with the best of them. However, there’s quite a bit of content missing from the original release. Aside from Deathmatch, there are not other modes of gameplay available unless you purchase the “Team Arena” addon.

Quake III Team Arena is a separate product that adds new gameplay modes like Capture the Flag, Overload, and Harvester. These styles of play are mostly team-focused but feature some alternate gameplay modes that multiplayer gamers have come to expect. The odd thing is that they are not available free of charge (as they always have been). In its day, these features seemed to cost quite a bit and many players initially overlooked the expansion. These days, the two games are often bundled together for one low price.

Difficulty: Variable–  Needless to say, all bets are off when playing against other people. The difficulty in multiplayer mode is directly related to the skill of your opponents. In the single player campaign, you can choose between several skill options. The AI is pretty good, but it does feel to be a bit more automated than UT.

Story: The background story in QIII is pretty weak, but do we really need much of one?

Originality: Many people wanted to point fingers at either Quake or Unreal back when these games came out. The debate over who ripped who off were endless. Despite both being arena-deathmatch focused games, each title feels pretty unique. Quake III certainly manages to keep the “techno-gothic” feel the series is known for.

Soundtrack: The background music very appropriate and well done. The sound effects are familiar and somewhat recycled from other games in the series.

Fun: Despite its age, Quake III is still fun today. It’s still fairly easy to find active players on the net, although many of them have moved to “Quake Live” (a free and mode modern version of Quake III arena). The BEST way to enjoy Quake III today might be with a group of friends. But make no mistake, there’s lots of fun to be had.

Graphics: Quake III has a very unique graphical style. If put head to head against UT, I feel that QIII comes in second place. Although, I have to admit, many of the arenas have some very well rendered visuals. Despite this, the overall graphical tone of the game seems just a sub par.

Playcontrol: The default controls are pretty much perfect. The modern standard of WSAD is included out of the box and is implemented flawlessly. The mouselook seems to be a bit looser than previous games in the series. This can be adjusted, but even in its default state doesn’t take much getting used to.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Quake III is an excellent multiplayer game. In fact, it was pretty much the standard for several years. I recommend it to almost anyone with an interest in these types of games. However, when compared directly with Unreal Tournament, I have to say I feel it falls a little short. Don’t let that put you off though. Quake III is definitely worth your time.

Currently available on: Steam

Other Reviews In This Series:

QuakeQuake IIQuake III Arena – Quake 4 – Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

 

Review: Quake II

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Next up in the Oldschool File is another FPS classic: Quake II. After Quake took the Internet by storm, id Software was quick to develop a proper sequel. Quake II takes most of what was popular about Quake and pops it up a notch.

One of most hailed aspects of the game is its multiplayer. I’ll touch on that in a minute, but first let’s take a look at the single player scenario. This game is not really a direct sequel to the original Quake. Whereas the original game showcased a “space marine” fending off an invasion of inter-dimensional beings, Quake II features a different scenario. In this game, you play as a member of an Earth-based invasion force.  The game opens with a cutscene showing the human forces preparing to invade and attack an alien world. The aliens are known as The Strogg and they have recently made an invasion attempt of their own on Earth. The plan is to bring the fight to the Strogg and launch an all-out counter-attack. During the descent to the alien world, our hero’s fighter is clipped causing him to fly off course and crash. Meanwhile, the Strogg launch a surprise defense, a super weapon called The Big Gun. Instantly, almost the entire fleet is wiped out in one fell swoop. Only our hero and a handful of other soldiers manage to survive the assault. This is where the game begins. Our hero attempts to infiltrate the alien stronghold, lone wolf style, to bring down the Big Gun so that more forces can be sent in. Of course, its never that simple…

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When it comes to story, Quake II certainly has a much better scenario than the original game. The game story is driven by an on-screen communication device that will flash new objectives from time to time. I really enjoyed this feature and I feel it helped to fill a gap in terms of storyline that many games from this era lacked.

The weapons and other items in the game also feel very improved. Everything from the detail of the models to the way the weapons function are a step above the original game. The enemy AI also seems to be much more intelligent. But one of the best things about Quake II when compared to the original game is the level design. The stages are very well done and engaging.

Aside from the main scenario, there are also two additional Mission Packs. These add-ons feature the sidestories of alternate soldiers and the part that they played in the Strogg invasion. If you find yourself to be a big fan of the main scenario, these may be of some interest as well. Like most id Mission Packs, there’s new enemies and weapons. The expansions are interesting but in my opinion, they were not nearly as good as the main game.

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As I mentioned earlier, probably the most popular part of Quake II is the online play. Even today, over 10 years later it is not at all difficult to find active multiplayer games going if you know where to look. The multiplayer features include the standard Deathmatch that one would expect, but also features co-op and Capture the Flag play – right out of the box. Out of the three, CTF is probably my favorite way to play Quake II online. Back in the day, I was even an active member of an online clan. I still know those CTF maps like the back of my hand.

All in all, Quake II marks an important milestone in the FPS genre. It’s another one of the those must-have titles for any serious online gamer.

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Difficulty: Variable–  As expected, there are several options for difficulty for the single player campaign. The difficulty options feel very appropriate. Of course, when you play online, the difficulty is strictly determined by the skill of the other players. And trust me when I say that there are some BRUTAL players out there…

Story: I was glad to see the creators spend a little time on a backstory for the game. The scenario is interesting. The opening cutscene is a classic and leads you right into the opening of the game. Not as engaging as many modern games, but Quake II was an important step in the right direction.

Originality: As far as originality goes, there’s really not much here. Everything here had been done in previous games. Of course Quake II demonstrates a natural evolution, but there’s nothing breakthrough brought to the table for the first time here.

Soundtrack: No more Trent Reznor, but Quake II offers a pretty good soundtrack. Most of the levels start off with some type of Metal riff, but they eventually succumb to silence. The music does a good job at getting your pumped early on, but it does become a bit repetitive later on.

Fun: If Quake II is anything, it is fun. The single player scenario is entertaining a time or two, but the real fun lies in the online play. The game comes with enough multiplayer maps to keep anyone busy for a while, but of course there’s countless maps out there on the net. You’re only limit is your attention span.

Graphics: The Quake II engine is certainly a step in the right direction. It shipped with a number of 3D acceleration options and even included a software renderer for older machines. Compared to today’s games, its certainly dated, but it actually holds up pretty well. Of course, at the time of release it was state of the art. As usual with games like these, there is an unofficial patch that supports modern resolutions and options.

Playcontrol: This game was released during a time when FPS controls were shifting from arrow-keys to the new WSAD default that we are familiar with today. The default controls are bit antiquated for an FPS title, but are easily customized.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Another classic from id Software and the one of the biggest online games ever. Quake II is not to be overlooked. It’s aged well and I consider it to still be relevant today. This game comes highly recommended.

Currently available on: SteamOther Reviews In This Series:

QuakeQuake IIQuake III Arena – Quake 4 – Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Review: Quake

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A review of Quake. Where does one even begin? Quake is such an iconic title, no review I could ever give will truly do it justice. So I’m going to focus mainly on my feelings for the game, and its overall legacy. The breakdown at the end serve as more of a tit-for-tat review.

Quake represents a real paradigm shift in the world of PC Gaming. No longer was PC Gaming only for nerds, this is the game that took it mainstream. Quake was developed by the same team that gave us Wolfenstein and Doom. This is immediately obvious if you’ve played any of these titles. Quake is very much the next step up in evolution from Doom. Most of the Doom basics are here, a variety of weapons, upgrades, futuristic space-action and strange occult elements. This time around though there’s a more intelligent enemy AI, the controls have native mouselook and jumping, and the environment is even more atmospheric.

In this game, you play as an unidentified human soldier who is forced to face a legion of extra-dimensional creatures. Apparently the only survivor of an onslaught by these strange monsters, you must make your way from your overrun military installation, deep into the bowls of hell from which they came. The ultimate goal, to find the source of the invasion and end it.

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When Quake was originally released, it was a software-rendered DOS title. However, it wasn’t long before the game received a port to Windows and was given full GL accelerated graphics. The upgraded version, GL Quake is the title that most players are familiar with. Over the years, the game has been ported to nearly every operating system and game console. However, it is the PC version that we will focus on here. These days, the game is best experienced using a frontend called “Darkplaces”. This enhancement allows Quake to run smooth on modern hardware and features a variety of upgrades without comprising the integrity of the original game. This is the mod that I personally recommend.

As I mentioned earlier, there are two ways to play Quake; single player and multiplayer. While the First-Person Shooter Genre had been around for a few years by this point, Quake is really the one title that brought multiplayer to the forefront. Until now, most FPS games were played via LAN or modem-to-modem connection. Quake is really one of the first games to take advantage of the rising popularity of the Internet. Multiplayer through TCP/IP is one of the shining points of this title. All over the net, Quake servers were popping up. There was even third party software released that allows players to locate and join existing Quake servers (Quakespy being one of the most popular). I spent many hours hunting my friends through various tunnels and arenas thanks to this title.

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Despite its popularity, like all things, the attention of most gamers shifted over time. While Quake still sees a surprising number of online players, it’s not a popular as it once was. For this reason, most of my playthrough this time around was based on the single player campaign and the two official expansion packs.

It had been many years since I played through the single-player mode of Quake. I half expected to have my fond memories ripped away from me as I realized how dated the game had become. But I was pleasantly surprised. The game was just as good as I remembered it. Quake still held the same mystique and atmosphere that enchanted me as a young man.  Everything from the level design to the soundtrack still felt new a fresh. I was shocked. I can only chalk this conclusion up to the fact that this was really a game that was done right the first time. It still holds up even more than 10 years later.

The single player scenario is not long. It can easily be completed in one evening if you’re a fairly decent player. But as I mentioned earlier, the game was also built with multiplayer in mind, so for many, the single player mode was nothing more than a training ground used to hone the skills that would later come to good use in an online Deathmatch.

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For those players who crave more, have no fear. There were two official expansions (or Mission Packs) released for Quake. These two add-ons together, add about thirty new levels total, a handful of new weapons and extend the story of the original game a bit (although not very effectively). As you might guess, they also included a number of multiplayer maps as well.

My frequent readers probably know that these reviews have so far served as my own personal trip down memory lane for the most part. This review is no exception. But regardless of my own nostalgia. Quake is one of those games that every PC Gamer should own and cherish. Regardless of what’s out there these days, Quake is classic.

Difficulty: Variable–  Quake features several options for difficulty for the single player campaign. There’s even a couple hidden options for those really sadistic players. The difficulty options feel very appropriate. Of course, when you play online, the difficulty is strictly determined by the skill of the other players.

Story: The story for the game is semi-weak and mainly only found in the paper manual. In typical ID Software fashion, there are few blurbs as you complete the various chapters throughout the game. But If you want to know the backstory (what little backstory there is) you’ll need to read outside of the game itself.

Originality: As I mentioned in the overview, FPS games were nothing new. Quake manages to be original with its refinement of the genre and its excellent presentation.

Soundtrack: Musicwise, the game soundtrack was crafted by none other than Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. The music is very alien and appropriate for the game. The Mission Packs also include new music tracks (not by Reznor, but are just as groovy and interesting). The environmental audio is also superb. Monster noises, weapon sounds everything is very well done.

Fun: Despite is age, Quake is still quite a bit of fun. I thoroughly enjoyed playing through both the main game and the mission packs. I was impressed both with how much I remembered about the game and how much I forgot. It was like rediscovering the company of a long, lost friend.

Graphics: For a game that started out as a software rendered title, the graphics actually manage to hold up well. The GL upgrade to the game really improved things. Today, with mods like Darkplaces, the game can run under modern resolutions and take advantage of some more modern enhancements that really help keep it look good.

Playcontrol: This game was released during a time when FPS controls were shifting from arrow-keys to the new WSAD default that we are familiar with today. The default controls are bit antiquated for an FPS title, but are easily customized.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – I hate sounding like a fanboy, but Quake is a classic and it still holds up to the test of time. This is the game that started the online FPS craze, but don’t let fool you, there’s still a lot of fun to be found in the good old single player scenario. This is a title that I recommend to anyone. It’s a must have.

Currently available on: SteamOther Reviews In This Series:

QuakeQuake IIQuake III Arena – Quake 4 – Enemy Territory: Quake Wars