Reviewed: October 25, 2000
Released: October 10, 2000
Just about anyone who has ever played any type of computer game has heard of Quake from id Software. Quake is the pioneer of modern day FPS (first person shooters) and has set the benchmark for every other game in the genre. Sure there were others games before Quake like Duke Nukem, Doom, Hexen, and even the classic Wolfenstein 3D, but for some reason Quake achieved success unlike any of its predecessors. Now after several missions pack add-ons, and two sequels Quake has finally arrived on the Dreamcast. This isn't the first time Quake has been ported to a console but Quake 3 Arena for the SEGA Dreamcast is certainly their best effort to date.
Throughout the course of this review I will be making comparisons to the PC version of the same game; it's only natural. But keep in mind that these comparisons in no way affect my rating or final score for the review of this game. I am reviewing Quake 3 Arena entirely on its own merit as a console title. Any comparisons are provided for your information only to make an educated purchase decision. With that out of the way, let's start fragging...
Quake 3 Arena is arguably one of the best FPS action games ever made, second only to Unreal Tournament. The Dreamcast version of Q3A sets new standards in a console FPS by including intense 4-player action locally via split-screen or online using the Dreamcast's built-in modem. You get to choose from 25 unique warriors and play across 30 challenging levels, over half of which are Dreamcast-exclusives that you can't play anywhere else.
All of the PC modes are available including Death Match, Team Death Match, Capture the Flag, Tournament and the Single Player Ladder mode where you progress through the levels of each tier until you become the ultimate champion of the arena.
A game is only as good as its controls and Quake 3 Arena has a few issues in this department. As any of you who has played on the PC can attest to, there is really no adequate substitute for the good ole' mouse/keyboard combo for controlling Quake or any other FPS game for that matter. Trying to play Quake 3 Arena with the standard Dreamcast controller was probably the hardest part of playing this game. Eventually I got used to it (as I did with MDK2 earlier this year) and was able to hold my own against the computer, but once you go online and start playing against others who are using a keyboard and mouse you may as way go dig your own grave and lie in it.
Q3A supports the Dreamcast keyboard and the new DC mouse, which coincidentally released the same day as Q3A did. So if you don't mind spending another $40 for additional hardware you will be able to play this game as it was intended and even keep up with the PC users later next year. Regardless of whether you can manage to skillfully play the game with the standard controller you are going to need a keyboard for this game. There are simply too many commands and not enough buttons. I spent over two hours tweaking and testing various control schemes and when I finally found one that worked I realized I had nothing left for the USE command so I was unable to use the pick-up items like the personal teleporter, etc.
Q3A comes with four controller presets, one of which is for the keyboard/mouse combo and another for the MadCatz Panther XL trackball/joystick combo. The others are for the standard controller but you will probably end up creating your own custom config as I did. Ultimate I ended up using the triggers for strafing left and right and the Y/A buttons for forward and back and the X/B buttons for jump and fire. The analog stick is your head-movement (mouse-look without the mouse) and I assigned each of the directions of the D-pad to various functions such as Zoom, Crouch, Change Weapons, etc.
Regardless of how skillful and dexterous you are there is always a certain level of imprecision when aiming with the standard controller. There is a "floaty" feeling to the crosshair almost as if it has its own momentum and continues to travel past the target. I found myself constantly having to tweak my aiming. When I switched to the mouse this problem vanished and my sharp shooting greatness from the PC version was restored.
Bottom line, if you want to play this game you can get by with the standard controller, but if you really want to excel at this game and become a frag-master either at home or online you had better pick-up that keyboard and mouse when you get this game.
That is the million-dollar question; especially if you are a current PC owner and have Quake 3 Arena for your PC. Q3A on the Dreamcast looks incredible. Does it look as good as the PC version? That depends on how good your PC is. Q3A is the equivalent of the PC version running on a medium-class 3D card at 800x600 resolution. If you have a PC and a next-generation video card like a GeForce or new Voodoo card then the PC is going to blow the Dreamcast version out of the water graphically. The DC looks great but it just can't compete with top-of-the-line PC hardware, but it was never intended to.
The thing to keep in mind is that many of these next-gen video cards for your PC easily costs as much as a brand new Dreamcast with keyboard and mouse and probably the game too. If you don't have a turbo-charged PC then the Dreamcast version may be the cheapest way to enjoy Quake 3 Arena, even if it means buying a Dreamcast.
While the Dreamcast can't compete with the resolution and pure speed of the PC and a good video card, SEGA does have some nice tricks up their sleeve. I found many of the animated textures like computer consoles, water, and even the sky outside to be much better on the DC than the PC. The dynamic lighting of the DC version also seems to be more colorful and the textures seemed to have more depth to them on the DC. These comparisons are made against my PC running a GeForce 2 GTS card using Open/GL. Screenshots 2 and 3 are a direct comparison between the DC and PC versions. Note: I have not enhanced these images in any way aside from resizing them.
Putting aside the PC version, Q3A is as good as it gets graphically for a console FPS game. The animation, textures, and special effects are stunning. Fog, real-time lighting effects, curved architecture, and clever level designs all make for a vivid and intense interactive experience. The blood is red and flows freely along with excessive gibs (body parts) and other grisly splats thus justifying the M-rating for this title.
These beautiful graphics are all displayed at a very smooth framerate. While I seriously doubt they ever achieve the 60-fps they were boasting about at the E3 show, the game never gets jumpy, even with several bots on the screen. Split-screen gaming begins to take its toll on the power of the Dreamcast. Two-player mode isn't too bad but when you go to three or four players things start to get jumpy in all of the view ports.
The opening movie is identical to the PC version but looks tremendous on the Dreamcast. The menus and interface are definitely different and better than the PC version, and even the load screens have been improved upon and now feature artwork from the game. The interface gleams with a polished and professional look and style.
Finally a word about the levels. Q3A for the Dreamcast features 17 levels from the PC version as well as 14 new levels that are exclusive to the Dreamcast. Are these levels worth purchasing the game? Probably not. While the new levels are very nice they aren't reason enough to get this game if you already have the PC version. Keep in mind that PC owners can enjoy an endless supply of user-created levels available for download, plus the Quake 3 Mission Pack is coming in November.
The music and sound in Quake 3 Arena are excellent. I normally keep my music turned down or even off when playing the PC version, but for some reason the music sounds really good on the Dreamcast and actually adds to the excitement of each level.
The sound effects are great and very powerful. If you have the jump-pack your controller will recoil with varying levels of shock based on the weapons you are using. Fire the machine gun and the controller will vibrate. Fire the rocket launcher and the thing practically leaps out of your hands. The sounds and the force-feedback are perfectly synched making for a very realistic experience. The jump-pack is perhaps the only reason to possibly favor the controller over the mouse/keyboard combo.
As with the PC version, the announcer with the deep, booming voice is back to make various comments and voice the frag count near the end of each match. It's amazing how much tension can be generated just by having this voice counting down the frags as you reach the end of the battle, especially when you aren't in the lead.
Quake 3 Arena was designed as an online/multiplayer experience from day one and this remains true on the Dreamcast version as well. There is no story, missions, or quest to complete. The single player game is basically a tournament of many battles, much like Tekken or other fighting games. Essentially the game can be played as long as you want to play it. From a completion standpoint, it took me about 4 hours to blast my way through the 31 levels, but that is only the beginning. The true value of this game lies in it's multiplayer capabilities, both locally and online.
Even if you don't want to go online, the 4-player split screen makes this a great party game. As long as you buy Quake 3 Arena knowing it is primarily designed and intended for multiplayer action you should get many months of enjoyment from this title. And if you want to take your Q3A on the road you can even download a 78-block VMU video from their website.
Quake 3 Arena is synonymous with Online Gaming these days. Id Software has probably done for online gaming what Bill Gates has done for the software industry. Q3A can be played with up to four players either locally or online. Yes, I realize that this is a very small number compared to the huge battles you can participate in with the PC version, but keep in mind we are dealing with a closed-architecture console system and not some high-powered PC. We can only hope this player-limit will be lifted when broadband becomes available.
As with any split-screen game your biggest sacrifice is having to play in that tiny portion of your TV screen. Depending on how big your TV is this could be a major problem. And in games such as this where strategy is a factor, it is hard to hide somewhere when your opponent can simply look at your window to see where you are. I found myself constantly distracted by the other view ports and often got killed while watching someone else. Q3A takes a serious performance hit when you start playing with three or four players. It's still very much playable but not nearly as smooth and nice as the solo or even two-player experience.
Going online is a snap. Aside from NFL2K1, this is the only true competitive online game for the Dreamcast right now. The online interface is very intuitive and it's never been this easy to connect, locate, and join a game. I played online for about 4-5 hours straight and only got disconnected once and only experienced noticable lag about 8 times over the course of about 30 matches. By keeping the number of players limited to four you are practically guaranteed a smooth gaming session, even on a slow connection.
When you log on you will see a list of available servers that will tell you which arenas (maps) are being run. Sometimes these are fixed and some servers rotate the levels. You will also see the type of game being played and how many human and bot players are currently playing as well as how many others are allowed to join. Perhaps the best feature is the color-coded bar graphics which indicate the best connect speeds to each server. The longer the bar the better the speed and each bar is colored red, yellow, or green to indicate the quality of the connection. While you do not have the option to host your own games there are currently over 500 Quake 3 servers out there that allows for 4-player DC game sessions, so finding a server shouldn't be difficult no matter where you live.
Perhaps one of the most exciting multi-player features is the ability to play Quake 3 Arena against opponents who are playing the PC version. While this feature isn't currently available, the map-pack required for this feature will be available for download to PC owners early next year. It will consist of maps and DC-textures for all the levels that are common to both the DC and PC. Note to PC owners: This map pack will NOT include any DC-exclusive levels.
It should also be mentioned that Quake 3 Arena is the first game to be approved for use with the new Broadband Adapter (i.e. Cable Modem). Even though it's not available yet, when it does arrive you can expect your number of green connection bars to increase in size and number. Until then, you can connect with your internal 56k modem and frag your fellow Dreamcast owners and enjoy some of the best multiplayer action available on the Dreamcast.
This was a hard review to do since Quake has been around for so long on so many different platforms. If it were a Dreamcast only game then this game would be a no-brainer definite purchase. But since all of you reading this obviously have a PC and an Internet connection then you may have already purchased Quake 3 Arena for your PC. Should you buy this game again?
If you have a fast PC with a 3D graphics card (Voodoo, TNT, or GeForce) then I would have to say the DC version just isn't worth it. If you don't already have the keyboard and mouse for your Dreamcast you are almost obligated to buy them for this game increasing the price of admission to almost $90. If you are cheap or stubborn (or both) and refuse to buy these items you can probably still play the game but don't count on being competitive with others who did purchase these items.
If you don't have a PC or video card capable of running Q3A adequately then by all means run right out and purchase this game. Quake 3 Arena is an experience everyone should partake of, and now you can enjoy this legendary game on your Dreamcast complete with online play and some great exclusive levels that will make you the envy of all your PC-Quake friends.
See you online - in my targeting sight.