Title  : Quake III Arena
Platforms  : Sega Dreamcast, Windows
Publisher  : Sega
ESRB Rating  : Mature
Game Rating  : 9.0
Review by  : Ken Gagne

If Nintendo's Perfect Dark is a gentleman's game, and may the best man win, then Quake III Arena screams, "I'm gonna mess you up — bad." This Sega Dreamcast game is published by Sega and offers console gamers a taste of what PC users have been enjoying for years — namely, online play. 

Quake III is a first-person shooter comprised solely of deathmatches, in which players enter arenas and try to earn the most "frags," or kills, against other characters. There are no monsters, no missions, no story lines — just a lot of fragging action. 

There's a one-player mode that pits players against tiers of increasingly-difficult computer opponents, but the action quickly gets stale. Instead, grab a friend or three. Or go online and challenge the world. 

Yes! Quake III Arena has Internet support, so you can frag people across America anytime of the day. It's amazingly simple to connect the Dreamcast with your Internet Service Provider (ISP). If you don't have an ISP, take advantage of Sega's offer of 50 free hours of SegaNet, an ISP optimized for Dreamcast play. 

All the Quake arenas and gameplay modes are available. Two more features will be available by year's end: cross-platform challenges between the Dreamcast and PC versions of Quake III; and connecting the Dreamcast to the Internet using Sega's broadband adaptor, compatible with DSL, cable modems, and other high-speed connections. 

Online gameplay is flawless. There's no lag; your opponents could be sitting in front of your television. Taunts can be typed, though doing so leaves you vulnerable to attack. 

The online features begin and end with gameplay, though. Quake's online community is not sorted by skill level, and there are no online profiles, score rankings, or any other method of tracking people online. Quake gets you online and fragging, but that's it. 

Whether online or off, Q3A has a few negative aspects. Strangely, for a game based on multiplayer, Quake offers fewer options than Perfect Dark. There are only four modes of play: free-for-all, team play, capture the flag, and tournament. Only four players total (any mix of human- or computer-controlled) can participate. And when online, only one person per Dreamcast is allowed — so no grabbing your buddy to go online as a killer team. Perfect Dark offers nearly infinite combinations of gameplay modes and styles; Quake III, on the other hand, offers a limitless supply of opponents. 

The standard Dreamcast controller cannot contain all the functions Quake offers. Some fiddling can produce a satisfactory configuration, but you may have to go without being able to zoom, crouch, or scroll backward through your weapon inventory. 

Quake enthusiasts weaned on a keyboard-and-mouse setup need forsake nothing, for these input devices are available for the Dreamcast and supported by Quake. Console gamers may not be used to so many buttons, but try playing against a keyboard-player, and you're likely to find yourself at a disadvantage. 

The menu interface is a bit awkward, with too many steps involved in the simplest tasks. Character profiles and game progress are saved separately, and cannot be switched when online or saved when in the middle of a game. Less access to the VMU would've streamlined the process. 

The graphics are too beautiful for a game this base. The arenas scroll smoothly at a high framerate. The attention to detail, from the ominous clouds to the tapestries fluttering in the wind, is just amazing. The characters in the arenas don't always appear well-animated, and split-screen mode causes further loss of detail, but overall the graphic presentation is astounding. 

The music, a techno-industrial mix, plays in the background, while the sound effects are composed of flying rockets and exploding corpses. A deep bass voice gives comments on the score, and occasionally the characters squeal or scream over their recent kills. 

Quake III Arena is a competitive and violent game. Compared with Perfect Dark, which also has a Mature rating, Quake's characters and weapons are bigger, louder, and more violent. Confrontation is the game's focus, and there's no avoiding it. Kids should be kept away from this title. 

For everyone else, Quake III's online features make it a wonderful treat for online gamers. It's offline modes are run-of-the-mill, but who can resist the challenge of live, human opponents, 24/7? Introduce yourself to the world — then frag it. 


This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 30-Oct-00