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: Unreal Tournament

 

Continuing my dig thru the archives brings me to the ever popular Unreal Tournament. This game is not a direct sequel to the original Unreal, instead it is designed solely around the concept of a multiplayer area. The nasty multiplayer code from the original game was fixed and enhanced with an in-game server browser allowing players to find live ongoing games at any time. This game also takes the beautiful graphics of the original Unreal and boosts them even further with the inclusion of optional high-definition textures and few tweaks here and there. I should note that the game pretty much focuses on violence and is pretty graphic and bloody. But, honestly, that is kinda what makes it so cool.

In UT there are a number of gameplay options. These include: Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Domination, and Assault. While the first two are pretty familiar to most, Domination and Assault may be a bit unfamiliar.

In Domination, players are divided into teams and must try to tag several “control points” on the map. Once these are tagged, that team will earn points as long as they maintain control over those areas. If the point is tagged by an opposing team, that team will earn the points instead. Whichever team earns a predetermined number of points will be declared the winner.

In Assault mode, players are again split into teams. An offensive team and a defensive team. In this mode, the goal is to invade the defending team’s base and complete a number of objectives in a pre-determined amount of time. If this is completed, the sides switch and the previously defending team now have to complete the same assault they previously defended against and they have to do it in whatever amount of time the previous group was able to achieve.

I found these modes of play to be unique and very original. I’m not sure there was anything like it at the time the game was released.

Aside from the built in modes of play, there are variety of mods and other community-created enhancements for the game available. During my recent playthrough, I encountered a number of custom maps, weapons, and even modifications that changed the basic physics of the game. When digging through the server list, you never know what you might encounter out there. It’s also important to note, that some of these mods are not always “safe for work”, as the “Hot Bang Porno Theater” level I found myself on will attest. These mods all download automatically when you join the server hosting them.

While the focus of the game is multiplayer, the game does include a single player scenario that consists of a simulated multiplayer experience. In single player mode, you compete with and against AI controlled bots. As you progress through the single player scenario, other modes of play are unlocked. Upon completing everything, you eventually get to challenge the reigning champion in a one-on-one deathmatch battle.

Yes, the single player mode does has some semblance of a story, which I guess actually carries over to multiplayer mode as well. In Unreal Tournament, you are a competitor in a series of high-tech gladiator style tournaments hosted by an extremely powerful corporation known as Liandri. The tournaments have become a shady, but legal method of sadistic entertainment. So there you have it.

Unreal Tournament, like many games of this type offer a number of interesting weapon options and various helpful items such as armor and in some cases, relics that boot your abilities temporarily.

There are four official add-on packs that add new player models, maps and other little goodies. Modern players will probably also want to seek out some of the unofficial patches that really help the game function on modern hardware. I found that a large number of active servers also support these unofficial patches as well.

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. I founds these to be very well done and accurate. The AI that the bots in the game display are really spot on.

Story: The background story is a nice addition to a game that is essentially an e-sport. While a little shallow, it does seem that the lore of the Unreal universe does tend to become clearer with each game in the series. At beginning of each match in the single player mode, you’re also given a little lore snippet of the area and the other contestants in the game. This is a nice touch.

Originality: Technically, Unreal Tournament was the first of the big name “arena” style deathmatch games. It was released a mere few days before the juggernaut Quake III Arena. In terms of design, both games are similar. But Unreal Tournament offers multiple modes of gameplay right out of the box. I’m not sure which of these two titles was actually announced first, but its safe to say that each game is different in its own way, and UT certainly offers a slew of unique features and gameplay elements.

Soundtrack: The background music very appropriate and well done. But overall doesn’t stand out in any particular way.

Fun: If you enjoy multiplayer FPS games, you can’t go wrong with UT. Even today, 15 years or so after its release there’s still an active community of players. With a variety of gameplay options to choose from, there’s a little something for everyone.

Graphics: Gorgeous. Even by today’s standards. For the best look this game has to offer, I recommend finding an updated openGL addon for the game, and installing the HD textures that are included on the second CD. If you purchased the game on Steam, these can also be found on the web with just a little sniffing around. The screenshots in this review should speak for themselves.

Playcontrol: The default controls are pretty much perfect. The modern standard of WSAD is included out of the box and is implemented flawlessly. Even the mouse-speed (which is customizable) seems to be exactly right.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – I love Unreal tournament. Until this playthrough/review it had been years since I touched it and I was surprised at how well it’s held up. My original intent was to simply play through the single player scenario and write my review, but I was have having so much fun that I spent another day just exploring various servers and checking out all of the random mods out there. This game is an excellent example of a multiplayer PC title.

Currently available on: SteamOther Reviews In This Series:
Unreal   Unreal Tournament   Unreal II   UT 2004  UT3