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Quake Arena Arcade

Score: 78%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: id Software
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 1 - 16 (Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

No matter how much multiplayer shooters evolve, Quake III will always hold a special place in the cockles of my heart. Maybe even the metacockles.

Flash back ten years or so. I'm still in college and my roommate and I discover the wonders of having an apartment with a T1 line in it. Before we've even unpacked the kitchen, the computers are networked and Quake III matches are in full swing. I rarely talk to my old roommate anymore, but still count those early FPS fights as a good gaming memory. Quake Arena Arcade is a game for players, like me, with these same memories. When it wasn't about Perks or Prestige, but how quick to the draw you were with a mouse.

The old Quake engine hasn't aged too well, but offers a nice look at what passed for "Amazing Graphics" a decade ago. Quake Arena Arcade offers everything in its original form (so no new player models), only at a much higher resolution. It won't wow the younger set, but I loved it just for the nostalgia. Corridors splattered with dark reds, blues and browns; maps that aren't really anything at all... all are a significant part of my gaming history. It would be like looking at an old print of King Kong and saying the gorilla looks fake.

The same goes for audio. You get the booming announcer's voice and that weird synth/industrial techno music filling in the gaps between rocket bursts and other battle sounds. It doesn't impress by today's standards, but I'm cool with that.


Gameplay:

Probably more than any other game, Quake Arena Arcade lives and dies by it's community. True, of all the game's available with multiplayer, only a handful have anything resembling a player base - but at least most of those titles have a single-player component as a fallback. Quake Arena Arcade doesn't have this luxury.

Although there's a single-player area, it's nothing anyone will get excited over. Rather than pushing players through some sort of narrative, they're instead herded through a series of matches against other "personalities." The only element holding the matches together is the line connecting one window to the other in the menu and matches are generally dull. Quake is a game best played with multiple competitors, not the one-on-one matches found throughout the single-player game.

That's where community comes into play. Multiplayer is the sole reason anyone will want to play Quake Arena Arcade, and for players who remember the early days of the FPS, it's a nostalgia trip and a half. Considering the how far the FPS has come since Quake III's 1999 release, I was surprised at how much fun I had with the game. It's a testament to great game design and I think a lot of players - even those weened on Call of Duty -- would appreciate what Quake Arena Arcade has to offer. But that's the problem.

As of this writing, Quake Arena Arcade has a small, yet dedicated community. But, like I said earlier, Quake is built for 16-player matches, not the 4 - 8 player firefights I usually encountered. However, this may just be a case of perception. For parts of the 360's multiplayer community, Quake III is outright prehistoric.

To its credit, Quake Arena Arcade does nearly everything it can to entice players to jump into it's DeLorean. A Quick Match is available and, in all truth, will likely be your main portal into games. You can search out other game types, such as Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, though there's a chance you'll spend more time waiting for a match than playing one. On the plus side, the current community likes to flip through matches a lot.


Difficulty:

Considering the game's small community, expect incredibly stiff competition. The lack of mouse/ keyboard support is keeping a bulk of the hardcore PC base out of the mix, but of the hundred or so players online at any one time, expect to face the best of the best. There are a lot of really good players roaming matches -- so be ready.

A.I.-controlled bots can be dropped in before matches to fill out any missing roster spots. Generally, the A.I. is pretty good though it just isn't the same. All you're really doing is adding a few more bodies into the mix, not upping the competition. Upping the bot difficulty helps, though again, it's just more things to shooting at you.

You can also set the A.I. difficulty in single-player Campaign matches. As in multiplayer matches, the A.I. puts on a good show but is prone to odd behavior and silly mistakes. Even on lower difficulties, the one-on-one matches are a bit tedious. On larger maps, it's not uncommon to spend half and hour (or more) trying to get to ten kills.


Game Mechanics:

Compared to modern shooters, Quake Arena Arcade is a fast-paced shooter where skill reigns supreme. It's not about the "perks" you've equipped or how quickly you can call in helicopter support. Instead, it's about reading player intent and predicting their next move. It's an art that's sort of lost in current shooters and helps give Quake Arena Arcade that fun edge of nostalgic fun.

Although I love the sense of speed - and I can't believe I'm getting ready to type this - it is somewhat diminished by a lack of a mouse and keyboard. Console shooters have come a long way in the last few years, offering a few behind-the-scenes augmentations to help players cope with dual-stick inaccuracies. Quake Arena Arcade doesn't feature these sort of "fixes," leading to aiming issues. With bigger weapons, like rockets, you can blast away and be assured you'll hit something. The issues are noticeable when using finesse weapons, like the machine gun. You may still hit something, but not enough to do enough damage.

When it gets right down to it, Quake Arena Arcade is a game for nostalgic players who might find modern shooters intimidating. However, the game holds up incredibly well and could still offer something for "newer" players. Quake Arena Arcade does its very best to encourage players to jump right into games, though only after you've purchased it.

The truth of the matter is, Quake Arena Arcade is only as enjoyable as its community and the 1200 MSP price is a major entry barrier for such a niche title. Yes, Quake Arena Arcade offers a lot of content, but its still not enough to justify the price when you need other players for it to mean anything.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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