||Quake III Arena
Did someone say "killer app"? - Review By BenT
Sound is another strong area. The crisp sound effects from the PC version are back in action, including all of the character/model-specific shouts and taunts. The railgun hums with its trademark buzz, and the bloody gibs fly with a suitably wet splatter. For some reason, the developers seem to have decided to toss the tunes of the PC version, and it's probably safe to say that it's for the better. The new tunes are a decent batch of your standard rock/techno FPS tunes, some of them actually containing enjoyable guitar riffs and melodies. It's nothing too special, but certainly better than the PC version's boring, bog-standard techno.
Unfortunately, the aspect ratio is somewhat messed up in splitscreen.
Lastly, kudos should be given for the vastly improved interface featured throughout the game. The menu system has always been a sore spot in the PC Quake III, so it's nice to see that Raster took the opportunity to spruce things up, and the result is a decent improvement. With the addition of some slick 2D art and loading screens, the interface no longer looks so unspeakably shabby when compared to the gameplay, finally giving the game the visual cohesiveness that the PC version clearly lacked. To put it delicately, it no longer looks like ass.
My number one problem with Quake III on the Dreamcast is the framerate, or lack thereof. Although the developers claim it to be hovering around a steady 30 frames per second, I can't shake the feeling that the average framerate is somewhat lower, perhaps in the low to mid-20's. The game is just not as smooth as I would like or expect, which makes it quite difficult to fully enjoy at first if you're used to the insane framerates afforded by decent PC equipment. This lack of fluidity had a noticeable effect on gameplay, as I sometimes lost targets that I should have tracked with no trouble, and the railgun, my number one weapon on the PC, became extremely hard to use effectively. While the framerate is on par with other console-based first person shooters, I still think the developers should have given the player the option to turn off some graphical niceties, in exchange for a gain in framerate.
Speaking of options, there really isn't any way you can tweak the game to your liking, outside of obvious things like customizing the controls. The console is still there but has no more than a dozen commands, none of which are particularly useful. Do you dislike the exaggerated view bobbing when you walk? Tough, you're stuck with it. Would you like to turn on simple item graphics, to speed up the gameplay a bit? Sorry, you can't. This last bit is quite illogical, since simple items are present in splitscreen mode! Want to increase your FOV (field of vision)? Nope. (Of course, that's good in this case, since increasing it would only make the framerate hurt more...)
The control is good, but not great. Believe me when I say that you really, really need a mouse and keyboard to play this game at its fullest. It is possible to do alright with the standard DC controller, but you're gonna get ripped apart by just about any half-decent mouser out there. Assuming you do get a mouse, what makes the control fall short of "great"? Well, movement just seems a little imprecise when compared to the PC version, meaning I'll sometimes go an extra step before stopping, or feel the air control kick in a few instants too late. The mouse sampling rate seems low, too. This is possibly due to the lower framerate, and it's also probable that I'm just being anal. But, I thought it'd be worth mentioning for the die-hard PC Quakers out there.
Ahh, CTF, and on a new map, no less. Too bad about the four player limit.
Unfortunately, the single player game is almost as weak as it was on the PC. It still consists of deathmatch after deathmatch against braindead bots that exhibit few human-like qualities. Yeah, the bots still suck, meaning they run the same stupid patterns over and over and have ridiculous, superhuman accuracy when cranked up to the highest difficulty levels. They're also not really team players, doing stupid things like grabbing health from in front of the flag carrier (you) and generally being useless. It's a good thing that Quake III's online options are so strong, because this doesn't really stack up well as a single player title.
Moving back to multiplayer, I was a bit disappointed to see that it only supports four players simultaneously. That's only four players per server, at a time. This seems really low, since the PC version can have 32+ players duking it out at once, making for some epic fragfests. I suppose this low cap was imposed to maximize both graphical and network performance, but it is disappointing nonetheless, especially since the game will eventually be network-compatible with the PC version. This also puts a crimp on Capture the Flag... it's just not the same when there are only two people per team.
Lastly, as slick as the interface looks, there are some annoying tidbits that should have been fixed. One is that the game does not auto-load your personal config file, meaning you have to make an extra trip to the setup menu every time you boot the game. The first few times I played I forgot to do this, and only noticed when I logged onto servers with screwed up controls and the wonderful nick of "Noname". I then had to back out of the game, wait for the browser to load, close the net connection, wait for the title screen to load, go to setup, etc. Surely they could have come up with an intuitive and handy way to do something as simple as loading my config in-game. It would have also been nice to give mouse users a cursor with which they could point and click on menu objects, ala the PC version. It seems kind of silly to have the excellent mouse hooked up, yet still have to tap through the (sometimes complex) interface with the keyboard or d-pad.
The Final Word
Despite the niggling flaws (mostly carried over from the PC version), Quake III Arena is a first-rate title for the Dreamcast, and probably the best PC-to-console FPS port yet. While all of the lucky PS2 owners are fighting bots in their sad mockery of Unreal Tournament, why not go online for a few hours with Quake III and kick some virtual booty? You'll likely find it quite addictive, and gain a newfound appreciation of that tiny little modem that was included with your Dreamcast. If this is any indication, online console gaming is here to stay.
Developer: Raster Productions / id Software
Highs: Superb online functionality and visual quality, great deathmatch gameplay, good control options.
Lows: Somewhat lacking framerate, slightly cumbersome interface, dearth of customization options.
Other: 1-4 players, VMU compatible (25 blocks), VGA Box Compatible, Jump Pack Compatible, Keyboard Compatible, Mouse Compatible, Modem Compatible, Broadband Compatible.
Intro (MPEG) - For some reason, it looks better than the PC version's. [Big (12.7M)] - [Med (6.8M)] - [Small (1.5M)]
Gameplay 1 (MPEG) - Online deathmatch on a pretty good new map. [Big (16.3M)] - [Med (8M)] - [Small (1.7M)]
Gameplay 2 (MPEG) - Online deathmatch in Arena Gate, the #1 map of railgun whores. [Big (16.4M)] - [Med (8M)] - [Small (1.7M)]
(out of a possible 10)
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