Quake III: Team Arena
(Activision for the PC)
by Eric Johnson
Picture an aging rock band, one that puts out an album every couple of years. Their songs are decent enough to not change the station, but it’s completely baffling that anyone would consider them their favorite band. If that band were a video game, it’s name would be Quake. Team Arena is an expansion pack for Quake III. It won’t work without the original and has the dubious distinction of adding features that should never’ve been left out of the initial release. It’s essentially an EP, something to tide you over as you begin to tire of waiting for a sequel.
Here’s the quick history lesson: Quake III is the direct descendent of the original first-person shooter, a 1991 game called Wolfenstein 3D. Wolfenstein begat Doom and Doom begat Quake in the same manner that Hawkwind begat Motörhead. The most recent in a long line of violent, plotless, and immensely enjoyable bloodbaths, Quake III was stripped of all single-player elements and released as an online multiplayer fiesta of death. A dozen people run around in enclosed areas, icing one another until time runs out, a set number of kills is reached, or the server crashes. It’s so much fucking fun. The initial introduction to this world will feel like total immersion in a deadly maelstrom; but familiarity with the surroundings and controls will soon transform you from a confused target in to a rabid, salivating, angel of death.
A thousand clichés have been coined to describe the sensation you feel when the threat of bodily harm causes those hormonal glands situated on top of your kidneys to squeeze out a large supply of that sweet nectar we call adrenaline. Fuck Mountian Dew, two hours in a virtual arena will leave you as shaking and over-stimulated as if you’d just jumped off a mountain, led an armed assault against a standing fortification, or dryfucked a great white shark. Quake III is capable of making you feel all of these sensations, but it’s not the best out there. Not by a long shot. It has aesthetically-boring and badly-designed weapons, but it’s an amazingly good time and you can always find a game. If you already own Quake III, don’t bother reading this; just go and buy the damned expansion because the game you purchased wasn’t complete.
When it hit the shelves, Quake III was completely based on the Deathmatch, a game mode in which victory is achieved by racking up the highest number of kills. No objectives, no plot, just the repetitive task of killing the same sloppy bikers, aliens, and skeletons over and over again. Team Arena adds three new match types to the mix, new levels, three new weapons, and a number of special items. All of these additions are specifically and perfectly designed for team-based play. The three playing modes are all variations on Capture The Flag. The best of the three is Overload, where teams work to destroy each other’s home base. Harvester and Single Flag CTF both involve relaying items from the center of the arena home. Special items augment skills, specifically making defense or assault easier. The new levels are large and well-designed, aesthetically attractive and full of dangerous nooks for snipers to hide in. The new weapons are cool but don’t compensate for the fact that Quake III has astonishingly poor gun design for a game primarily concerned with shooting.
There’s not a whole lot of extra game to lay down thirty bucks for, but it makes massive improvements on the existing title. I just can’t recommend whipping out sixty bucks to get yourself hooked up with the full Quake III package. The best pro-Quake argument lies in the size of its following. With thousands of players online, with over a thousand matches available 24-hours-a-day, I promise you’ll get bored long before having to wait for some action. The uninitiated would be better served picking up a copy of Unreal Tournament or Half-Life: Counter Strike. Both are about the same price and have an equally passionate following. A word to the wise: Although they’ve been optimized to run on slower connections, think twice about buying a game like this if you’re working with a phone line and a 56k modem. You’ll be cut down faster than grass under a John Deer if you run into an obese adolescent with a Big Gulp and a cable modem.