Let me start this review of Quake 3: Arena by saying that comparing this game with Unreal Tournament is inevitable. They are both superior in their own ways. Both involve hard-core deathmatches set on a grand scale, but where UT specializes in both single play and multiplay with all new tweaks, Quake 3: Arena (Q3A) sticks with the classic deathmatch engine, and in essence, this is not a bad idea.
Now we know that the Quake series has never been well known for plot, and Q3A is no exception. The manual does explain about an alien race called the Vadrigar and their battleground, the Arena Eternal. The toughest gladiators in the universe are sent here to do battle to please the Vadrigar’s love of combat. Even the concept of death is neglected, as gladiators are immediately restored upon being fragged. It is the goal of each gladiator to win the Arena battles in order to fight the champion, Xaero, in the Final Arena.
But put simply, there is one rule to Arena, and the manual states it clearly …"FRAG EVERYTHING THAT ISN’T YOU!"
That sums up Q3A easily. Q3A is an all out deathmatch carrying on the tradition of previous Quakes. In the single player mode, you will have to progress through 7 tiers, each (with the exception of the final tier) consists of 4 arenas, and you must finish first in each arena to progress to the next tier. Single player might not have the complexity and the depth that Unreal Tournament has, but it does provide a good training for the real meat of Q3A – the multplayer mode.
Mutliplayer on Q3A has been improved, as it runs well even on someone who has a ping rate of over 500. I’ve noticed that here, compared to UT, it can be just as easy to wipe out an LPB (Low Ping Bastard) as it is to frag someone who might have a 999 ping time. Also, there is a meter in the corner of the display that makes it easy to determine your connection status so you can keep track of any serious net choke ups.
Players can choose from over 30 in-box skins, consisting of characters dating back from the original Doom series to the current Q3 brood.
A lot of effort went into Q3A’s graphics, which have been vastly improved. Just as Quake 2 improved on Quake 1’s ugly box soldiers and flat environments, Q3A adds more color depth (up to 32-bit), more rounded structures, and amazing effects to the weapons. In addition, the "brown" scenes that were dominant in Q2 have been reduced, and everything looks much nicer.
The audio is also improved, as there is now an announcer who calls out multiple kills and announces any new arrivals to the matches. Music consists of lighter techno and metal, sort of in between the ambient tracks in the original Quake and the heavy metal in Quake 2.
However, Q3A isn’t perfect. As mentioned before, the single player mode is pretty basic compared to UT and it’s multiple game modes. Also, the weapons, though looking gorgeous, are the standard FPS fare: shotguns, machine guns, rocket launchers, and plasma guns. Even exotic weapons such as the lightning gun were based on earlier games (the lightning gun was used in Quake 1).
Still, with these shortcomings, Q3A is very enjoyable, and comes pretty close to toppling UT’s position at the top of multiplayer FPS. Compared to UT’s rating of 5/5 Gems, Q3A gets 4 Gems for its single player mode, and gets a perfect 5 gems for its multiplayer capabilities, for an average of 4.5 Gems. Let the fragging commence!