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  Quake III: Arena - Review


"The Pinnacle of Frag-Fests"

After the metamorphosis of the Trinity project and the blockbuster PCGamer introduction to Quake III, every member of the gaming media was sure of only one thing: Quake III: Arena (Q3A) would be the benchmark title to determine whether multiplayer-only gaming was for the masses.

Not surprisingly, id Software succeeded... and then some.

Installation

85% - Quick and Quiet

Insert the disc and away you go.

In this day of dedicated installation CDs and 1-2GB installs (Freespace2, Wheel of Time) it is surprising that Q3A has one of the lightest installations in the PC industry right now. Its tolerable, but still far too much for some users to swallow. Q3A offers a maximum installation weighing in at "only" 520MB. There is also a downright tiny 25MB installation, but it requires you to have a hefty CPU and CD-ROM combo - otherwise the load time is unbearable. The full install thankfully puts 99% of the game on your hard disk, making the CD-ROM useful only as a copy-protection measure. You will also need at least 45MB for swap file space.

Some gamers will be annoyed by the CD-key protection mechanism - you need to type it in the first time you play Q3A. While newbies will be frightened by the lack of description as to where it is (the back of the jewel case) and intermediate gamers will be irritated that the key-entering program prefers lower case typing, it is only a one time irritation that is far more pleasing than the copy-protection quizzes from days long past.

Q3A is surprisingly easy on your system requirements. While there has been word of slowdown problems for owners of Voodoo3 cards, it appears to be strictly a driver issue. On the two systems I have tested with, slowdown was never apparent at all unless I cranked up the details beyond their default settings. TNT users can expect to use 800x600 with most detail settings enabled without any frame rate hit, while older cards like the G200 seem to do best with the default settings.

The game is setup automatically to use 56MB of RAM, so users will see little or no difference on normal installations between 64-128MB of ram (load times drop a bit by setting a higher ram usage, but it is not groundbreaking). Load times are swift and there was never any of the painful loading and precaching times associated with games based on the Unreal Tournament engine.

 

Graphics

98% - To Die For

This is the category where Q3A wins by knockout. No other first person shooter (FPS) comes close to the graphical splendor that Quake 3 provides. Although changing settings inevitably kicks you out of a given level or server, it comes at a load time so exceedingly short that you will love it compared to the ungodly hard-drive chugging of Unreal Tournament based titles.

The most immediately apparent attention to detail is the large selection of characters. With 89 character skins and 32 models, there is no shortage of personalities to go around. Although there is a wide selection of human characters, it is by no means a requirement.

Characters such as "Orbb" use their hands to walk while using a head-mounted gun, while others use reverse knees (chicken-legs), hoverskates, hoverboards, or cybernetics. Because of this, each model follows it's own rules of animation - no two character models move the same way. And with a maximum detail setting of 800-900 polygons, they all look and act first-class.

Effects Supported:

  • Particles
  • Light Sourcing / Colored Lighting
  • Texture Glows / Animation
  • Trilinear Filtering

Maximum tested resolution:

1600x1200x32-bit color

The levels are not quite as spectacular, but only by a slight margin. Dominated by metal grays and blood reds, it is a perfect example of the Quake style, and, more importantly, it helps to keep the focus on the characters, not the arenas they play in. Texture detail is superb, ranging from a Voodoo compatible 256x256 for most of the walls, to lengths or heights of 1024 for special monuments and other objects. The curved surfaces work remarkably well because they are such a low profile addition - people expect to see a curve to certain areas, and it's there.

Weapons are perhaps the most outstanding new feature. All weapons are of very high texture quality, but the first-impression is from the models themselves. The rocket launcher, for example, actually has a real barrel - not just a texture trying to pretend to be one. The plasma gun and BFG both have amazing swirling plasma tanks while the latter also has little, fully modeled gears than spin while in use. The gauntlet (essentially a taser) has interlocking parts and lights up the immediate area, and the classic doom-style shotgun even sports a thin laser sight!

Items come in a plethora of brightly-lit boxes, and the weapons come in the exact model that the character uses, providing a strong level of unity in the game.

Unfortunately, despite the all-too-graphic splendor of gibs (body parts) when you kill opponents, there is no real variation. Even entirely cybernetic or alien creatures all explode with the same human organs. Considering how the German version will use gears, sprockets and other mechanical gib trinkets to fulfill laws regarding video game violence, it seems to be a fairly easy thing to include.

Some gamers will also be annoyed by the character selection menu. Although it is implemented with a great deal of finesse and style, character models are not unloaded after being selected. This inevitably leads to an "out of memory" message which prevents further characters from being displayed without exiting the menu.

The only major letdown appears to be the cut-scenes. With the exception of the finale, and the first few seconds of the intro, the cut-scenes are animated stiffly and prove to be so fleeting that time must have been the prime factor in making each of them.

 

Sound & Music

96% - Fast, Hectic Techno at it's best!

Although many gamers were hoping for another CD full of the stylings of Nine Inch Nails own Trent Reznor, id Software appears to have made an even better choice for the final game in the Quake trilogy. Both Sonic Mayhem and Front Line Assembly, exciting techno/electronica bands, were hired to provide tracks, and the quality shows every step of the way. Any complaints about the intro or endgame cut-scenes are wiped away before they are started because of the excellent music tracks. During frag-matches, I have never encountered music so appropriate, kudos to id for giving music so much attention.

This sense of unity becomes most recognizable in the final Tier 7 battle with the reigning champion, Xaero. Church Bells introduced in the cut-scene are used throughout the final arena to provide a powerful sense of finality that is usually only heard in console RPGs.

Sound effects are perhaps just as stellar, with a wide variety of effects to represent damage or the collection of key power-ups. A3D provides the 3D sound experience that heavy quake players will find invaluable to keep others off of their backs. Most surprising, however, is the customization between models. When injured or destroyed, characters give off unique sounds, ranging from screams (women), to grunts (men), to bleeping tones (robots).

The most notable sound effect of all, however, would be the voice proclaiming "humiliation" when somebody dies from the impact of the gauntlet. It gets even worse when quad damage is in use!

 

AI / Difficulty

70% - Suspiciously Uncanny

The bots in Q3A are a mixed bag. Most of the time, they are fantastic, showing tendencies to follow certain strategies in each level, and chatting up a storm when need be. Just like myself, they seem to fall out of space levels from time to time, or not look behind themselves. However, when the difficulty level is raised to the middle or better, their tendency to miss seems to fall dramatically. Characters such as Xaero and Visor are uncannily proficient with the rail gun, and won't hesitate to hit you multiple times in a single jump. Although this can be lessened in multiplayer games by loading different characters (each character has their own tendencies, strong points, and problems) it is still pretty flagrant.

Difficulty levels are thankfully supported by a 5-level system, with the bots being barely capable of pulling a trigger on the "I Can Win" setting, while circle strafing and rocket jumps are common on the "Nightmare" setting.

 

Game Play

94% - Goes down Smooth

Not even Unreal Tournament can beat Quake III: Arena when it comes to pure gameplay. Quake 3: Arena is death-match brought down to the lowest common denominator - it isn't complicated, but it sure is fun!

Levels are very effective for the most part, with the biggest example of innovation being the space-jump arenas. They provide a new level of gameplay with deaths from falling, excellent railing platforms, and mid-air ammo exchanges. Gamers seem split on the other levels, with few levels suited for one-on-one death-match, but the addition of power-ups makes Q3A an instant classic. A level that seems a bit boring at first is quickly turned into a fan favorite thanks to a selection of super-items, like Quad Damage or Flight. The flight powerup is only available in games without bots, however.

Power-ups:

Quad-Damage:

Causes 3x damage to opponents (not 4x).

Haste:

Greatly increases player speed and rate of fire.

Flight:

Reduces G-Force and allows players to fly using the jump button. *Only available in multiplayer

Invisibility:

Player model is impossible to see except at close range. *Muzzle flashes and power-up glows are still visible.

Megahealth:

+100 Health (up to 200 maximum)

Regeneration:

Increases health by 5 points every second up to 200 maximum or until the effect times out.

Battle Suit:

Protects the wearer from lava, slime, drowning, and other hostile conditions (including splash damage from weapons. *No protection from the Fog of Death or the Void

Medkit:

Returns user to 100 health with one key press.

Teleporter:

Instantly transports the user to a random location with one key press.

Armor:

Armor Shard:

Improves armor rating by 5 points each. *Even beyond the normal max of 100.

Combat Armor:

Increases your armor rating by 50 points.

Heavy Armor:

Increases your armor rating by 100 points

Health:

Green:

5 points each *even beyond maximum

Yellow:

25 points each *to a max of 100

Gold:

50 points each *to a max of 100

 

The single player mode is exceedingly straightforward. Gamers must finish first in each arena to move on to the next tier and view a tiny cutscene, until they face Xaero and finish the game. This Mortal Kombat style play mechanic would quickly bore gamers, but it is offset fairly well thanks to the medals system. Specific achievements award you with medals periodically during an arena match, such as "Excellent" for making two frags in under 2 seconds, or Gauntlet for making a kill with the hardest of all weapons to use successfully. Best of all, these stats are saved with your game automatically, giving you career objectives to gun for.

Medals System:

Excellent:

Two Frags within two seconds.

Impressive:

Two consecutive hits with the railgun.

Frags:

Awarded for each 100 frags in a career.

Accuracy:

Finish an arena with better than 50% of shots connecting.

Gauntlet:

Kill an opponent with the gauntlet.

Perfect:

Finish an arena without dying once.

 

Multiplayer

94% The Heart of the Game

Q3A is one of the few games on the market where multiplayer IS the game. The single player mode was designed merely to train players for the world of real players, and also to provide entertainment for those with problematic access. Although there is plenty of controversy surrounding the single player mode, I found it to be a blast to play.

There are four distinct gameplay modes:

Death-match:

Everybody for themselves killing spree.

Team Death-match:

Players join Team Red or Blue and attempt to increase their team frag scores.

Tournament:

One-on-one duels in a playoff format to determine an ultimate winner.

Capture the Flag:

Team based Death-match where scoring is based on capturing the enemy flag.

Of the four, Death-match provides the quickest thrill. Team Death-match keeps players thinking about where to shoot. Tournament is played mostly by the elite who are well versed in each map, and Capture the Flag provides the best team experience. Although, many gamers are still annoyed by the lack of grappling hook or a wider variety of levels.

Game selection is ludicrously easy. Select the multiplayer command, then choose either local (network) or Internet scanning, and a list of servers quickly pops up. Server player counts are far more accurate than in the test, and ping times are fairly low, with induced lag showing up for modem-gamers, mostly on the space-jump maps.

 

Final Analysis

95% - "The Pinnacle of Frag-Fests"

It's not as complicated as Unreal Tournament, and doesn't have the variety of levels, but the bottom line is that Quake III: Arena is fast and fun. It's so fun in fact, that it seems ideally suited as an arcade game, so its probably only a matter of time. Id Software made good on their promise to get rid of what they were not doing right and focused their core gameplay to a razor sharp edge. The end result is one of the most polished and exciting products to hit the market.

Quake III: Arena

id Software: www.idsoftware.com
Activision: www.activision.com

MSRP: 39.95 US, 59.95 CDN (Standard)

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Review:
Quake III: Arena

Developer:
id Software

Publisher:
Activision

Review by:
Richard Knight

Published:
Dec 13, 1999

Requirements

Operating System:
Windows 95, 98 or NT4.0 + Service Pack 3

Computer:
100% Windows 95/98 compatible.

CPU:
233MHz Pentium MMX Processor or faster required.

Memory:
64MB RAM required

Video:
100% OpenGL compatible 3D Accelerator card with a minimum of 4MB RAM required.

Sound:
100% directsound compatible soundcard required.

CD/ROM:
Quad Speed CD-ROM drive required.

Input Devices:
Keyboard and mouse required. Optional support for all other directX compatible devices and force feedback.

Multiplayer Support

Up to 200 players are supported at a time depending on modem and computer speed.

Additional Multiplayer Requirements

Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster modem for Direct Modem or Internet Play.

Internet: 32 bit Dial-Up or Direct TCP/IP connection. 28.8 Kbps Minimum.

Direct Serial Connection: Null Modem Cable required.

Quake III Arena Screenshot
Xaero is in the orange suit, but who is that blue guy?

Quake III Arena Screenshot The wonders of quad-damage electrocution.

Quake III Arena Screenshot
Mirrors, glows, and big weapons.
Quake III Arena Screenshot
Just some of the opponents you will face.
Quake III Arena Screenshot
Fragging with the
BFG-10K
Quake III Arena Screenshot
Zooming in with the Rail-Gun
Quake III Arena Screenshot
The awards ceremony
 
 

"For additional information on Quake III: Arena, be sure to check out the following websites:"

Quake3World
"For the latest news on Q3, period. Keep a constant watch over the forums too."
Quake3Mods
"The hotbed for info on how to make levels, skins, characters, and so on."
BluesNews
"Keeps you abreast of all of the important developments for Quake 3 and other games in the FPS genre."
PlanetQuake
"One of the longtime hotbeds for Quake information."

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