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Game Over Online ~ Quake 3 Arena

GameOver Game Reviews - Quake 3 Arena (c) Activision, Reviewed by - DToxR

Game & Publisher Quake 3 Arena (c) Activision
System Requirements Pentium 233, 64MB Ram, 3D Accelerator
Overall Rating 92%
Date Published Wednesday, December 15th, 1999 at 08:08 PM


Divider Left By: DToxR Divider Right

There are always extremely high expectations anytime ID Software releases a new game. But times have changed and publishers like Epic Games and Valve have shown that ID isn't the only one that can make a high quality shooter. It goes without saying though that the big holiday battle this year is between Epic's Unreal Tournament(UT) and ID's Quake 3 Arena(Q3A). So lets get straight to the point shall we?

Both Epic and ID wisely chose to spend the majority of their development time working on the multiplayer aspect of their products. It is no longer acceptable to slap on multiplayer features as an afterthought. Q3A does actually include a single player mode which just amounts to completing a series of multiplayer maps populated by increasingly difficult AI controlled opponents(aka bots). I would even go so far as to say they should have called this practice mode because that's pretty much what it's good for. Unfortunately Q3A is lacking in variety as far as types of multiplayer game modes go. While it does include the usual "capture the flag", "free for all", "team deathmatch", and "tournament" game modes, UT wins in this category with it's added (and extremely fun to play) "last man standing", "assault", and "domination" multiplayer options. As with Unreal, Q3A includes a basic server browser so you don't have to keep alt-tabbing to gamespy to check out different servers. My one complaint with the server browser is the lack of detailed information; there is no way of knowing which players are on any given server or what the exact ip of that server is without connecting. Why would I want to know that you ask? Well since I am using a cablemodem I am bound to get the fastest ping times (30-50ms) if I connect to servers on my local loop... by seeing a list of IPs I can pick and choose local games for top performance. UT wins out again here with very elaborate server descriptions so you know exactly what you are getting into. Having said that, launching a game is extremely easy in Q3A: merely select which server you want to use, and click on the "FIGHT" button and you're off!

You will feel right at home using the Q3A in-game controls. I really like the clean interface style ID chose to go with. Weapons are represented by simple one colour icons and when you pick up a new weapon you will briefly see a row of icons overlaying the game screen representing which weapons you currently hold - just in case you forgot. Ammo is scattered throughout the levels in small crates with the icon of the weapon they are intended to be used with on the side. As you would expect from a company like ID, the visuals are absolutely beautiful. If your machine has the horsepower, you can turn on 32-bit colour mode and prepare to be wow'd. For some reason (a political statement?) ID chose to go with OpenGL only and not Direct3D for Q3A. I have to wonder how this will affect the sales of the game as it leaves out the huge market segment of occasional gamers who don't have the latest $300 3D accelerator card. I was also happy to see that Q3A includes coloured lighting "in all the right places" rather than complete overuse a la UT. I can't stress how annoying it is in UT to be in the middle of a fire fight and be blinded by the sparkle guns and glitter bombs. Two thumbs up to ID for tasteful use of coloured lighting. Another fantastic addition was the small netgraph util which sits unobtrusively in the lower right corner of your screen. For those who are not familiar with the "netgraph" function from previous versions of quake, it's basically a tiny real-time graph that shows you the status of your network connection. If you are getting packet loss, it will show up on this minigraph. You used to be able to access it from the console only but I think it was a great idea to turn it on permanently.

A lot of people will complain that there is really nothing new in Q3A; that it's just another rehash of the same old FPS thing. One of the ways I think Quake 3 is revolutionary is the models. Big, small, sexy, ugly, scary, alien, undead... there's something here for everyone. Not only are they extremely well detailed, but the character animation is leaps and bounds ahead of anything else I've seen. Remember days gone by where your character would skate around the map - legs always moving forward at the same speed regardless of what direction you were moving? Well homey don't play dat now. Each character has its own individual set of animations. For example, when you jump with the grunt he does your basic looking hop, but try one of the other models and they pull off some sort of spin kick/jump or a spread eagled daffy move. There are unique animations for walking, running, and sidestepping. The movement itself is silky smooth and ultra realistic so if you join a game in spectator mode and follow someone around for a while, you will be amazed at how lifelike the character is. Compare this to UT where the models and animation are certainly not BAD but they are nothing we haven’t seen before.

Now on to the sticky subject of maps. I will say right off the bat that UT wins hands down as far as visual variety in maps goes. Q3A levels look very similar to each other and in fact similar to previous quake games. Don't get your panties in a knot though because I found the Q3A maps to be far better designed from a gameplay standpoint. So in other words, UT maps are PRETTY, but Q3A maps are a lot more FUNCTIONAL. I get lost on a regular basis in UT because the maps sprawl all over the place whereas in quake 3 the maps are tight and logically laid out with some rooms clearly engineered for spectacular gibfests. To add to the mayhem, there are now launchpads and teleporters which fire you up into the air so you can reach otherwise unattainable ledges. These things are a hell of a lot of fun, particularly in CTF mode where you will have people catapulting back and forth across the sky, trying to pick each other off in mid air. They also breath new life into the art of "fragging thy persuer" as you can bounce up on a launch pad, then spin around and greet your would-be assassin with a rocket between the teeth.

One of these days I'm going to get around to writing an email to ID to let them know about this little company called Creative Labs that makes sound cards. Seriously, c'mon guys, where's my EAX??? This had the single most disappointing aspect of Quake 3. I don't think it is unreasonable to expect support for the SBLive! from a top tier developer like ID. As with the decision to leave out Direct3D support, I have to ask WHY? Was the game rushed out for Christmas? Is this a political statement? Epic games didn't seem to have any trouble adding EAX support to UT. Bleh. Well I guess I will be resigned to playing with two of four speakers disabled. Speakers or no speakers, the in-game CD audio is pretty ambient stuff but does a good job of creating atmosphere while remaining unobtrusive. One great feature is when you hit an opponent, a soft beep sounds. In other words, you know exactly when you are dealing some damage. This is particularly helpful when you are unloading rockets at the feet of other players to do splash damage. The rest of the sounds are top notch whether it's the high pitched stutter of the plasma gun or the rain of death from the BFG. One thing is for sure - you will be thanking your lucky stars when you hear the rumble or a rocket whizzing by your head as it misses by millimeters.

Weapon balance has always been a bit of a sore spot for FPS games. Can you kill with every gun? Is there one gun that is clearly head and shoulders above the others? ID spent a lot of time play testing Q3A to ensure a fair fight with each and every one of the guns and I think for the most part they succeeded. Mind you there is nothing really new in your quake 3 arsenal, you've seen all of these guns before: shotgun, rocket launcher, plasma gun, and the lightning gun are just some of the toys you will have at your disposal. The BFG has undergone some changes and some would complain it is too powerful. I don't really see this as a problem though as BFG haters can just play on servers that don't have "BFG enabled" maps running. I really like how when you re-spawn or join a new game you start out with a small health bonus and the machine gun. Not only can you do some damage right off the bat with this gun, but the extra health helps avoid a lot of "re-spawn insta-gib" where some sod plants a rocket up your ass 0.5 seconds after you come back to life. One of the weapons I do have issue with is the grenade launcher. Maybe I'm just used to kingpin but this thing seems pretty damn weak. Small splash damage + a short range = 1 useless weapon. Also, where is my grappling hook in CTF play? Man do I ever miss this thing. UT has the "translocator" which is a lot of fun to use and I really wish ID had thrown in some similar "people moving" item or gun(and don't email me saying "There IS a teleporter in Q3!" cause that thing is just lame). The rocket launcher is very fast and delivers a fair punch. One word of warning though: once you've used the Q3A launcher you will never be happy with the "granny launcher" in UT. Snipers and campers will be happy to hear that the good ole railgun is back in all its glory - you can even choose the colour of your blast now. How novel it is to punch holes in some sucker with your "forest green" or "dusty rose" designer railgun... hoho!

OK, so enough about the features, how does it PLAY? In a word.... brilliantly. No other game even comes close to delivering such fast-paced nerve wracking action. The moment you start playing you can tell this game was made by the best in the business. Control is lightning quick and that is a good thing because things happen in a hurry in Q3A. At the beginning you may experience a bit of a frustrating learning curve as "r4iNm4N[IXA]" or some similar /<-r4d cLaN k1d whoops your ass 30 frags to 1 but stick with it - as you start to get a feel for the controls the game becomes more and more fun. The game certainly grew on me and I consider myself a hopeless addict now. Thanks a lot ID! =P

Highs: top notch models, animation is fantastic, super smooth high-speed gameplay
Lows: no EAX sound support, no D3D support, not enough multiplayer game modes

 

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Rating
92%
 

 

 
 

 

 

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