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Quake Arena Arcade (Xbox 360) artwork

Quake Arena Arcade (Xbox 360) review


"It may seem strange to criticize the game for its single-player considering Quake III built its entire legacy on multiplayer, but it was this version’s one and only chance to prevent itself from being redundant. Instead, redundant is exactly what Quake Arena Arcade is."



Quake Arena Arcade marks the fourth time that Quake III has been re-released since the game’s debut in 1999, making this port the fifth version of the game in total. From the beginning, there was little doubt that this was never going to be the definitive edition of the game. It had to justify itself against the control inadequacies of being on a console and a swindling $15 price tag (considering the fact that one of the game’s superior versions is available for free). What really needed to be done in order to make Quake Arena Arcade relevant was to offer content that was both substantial and unique to this version -- instead, it’s a port that stays almost entirely within the scope of Quake III and Team Arena, transferred to a platform it isn’t suited to.

For years, the merits (or perhaps deficiencies) of controllers versus the keyboard-and-mouse setup in respect to first-persons were debated. Despite the eventual console-ization of the genre, the consensus is still that the former is inferior. Controllers are simply tolerated as adequate so long as a given game is designed to forgive a little control inadequacy and offers a unique and agreeable experience outside of its actual gameplay -- in other words, aspects like presentation and story.

The big name shooters that have developed over the past five years or so have been tailored to the limitations of consoles, which explains many of the differences between Quake III, and games like the Halo series or the Modern Warfare era of Call of Duty. They are much slower games, with single-player components that put an emphasis on cinematic visual presentation and pretending to be an action-movie blockbuster. Quake III was optimized for the mouse-and-keyboard setup without ever being re-tailored to a platform incapable of handling its steep control demands. Doing so probably wouldn’t be desirable either since it would compromise the twitch-based gameplay, which is all the game really has. While there was a time when Quake III was the peak of graphical technology, it has never been pretty in the aesthetic sense, nor did it ever have much personality.

The precision needed for Quake III just isn’t here. At the default setting, even a slight tap of the analog stick results in big, approximated crosshair movements that are often likely to overshoot. The sensitivity can be changed, but setting it too low increases precision at the expense of quick, adaptive and reactive turning, while too high has the opposite effect. One of the face buttons has actually been mapped to perform an instant, 180-degree turn; it’s the only effort that was made to adapt the game to consoles, but it’s an inflexible and limited maneuver compared to freedom of the adjustable, at-will turning of the mouse. The difference is reflected in multiplayer matches that play out differently from the game’s PC counterparts: a lot of rockets, bullets and lasers fly around to be sure, but the mid-air Railgun kills and 3-rocket combo locks -- feats facilitated by the tiniest adjustments of the mouse -- are absent.

Multiplayer may be a passable, if sub-optimal, rendition of classic gameplay, but ironically, it was in the single-player campaign that Quake Arena Arcade had its best chance of justifying itself. When Bethesda advertised the port, they stated that it would have “a brand new Single Player campaign… experience QUAKE like never before.” Yet neither statement could be more false. The only single-player that Quake Arena has is the one that Quake III has always had, which is not even a true single-player campaign: it’s the multiplayer mode with bots! The “campaign” is simply a series of bot challenges with predetermined settings and maps against increasingly difficult opponents. It is only “brand new” in the sense that those predetermined settings are slightly different from the 11-year old original -- otherwise, this is Quake almost exactly like before, just with subpar controls.

To use the word “difficult” is a bit of a stretch as well, since the difficulty actually seems to have been toned down, perhaps to accommodate control issues. The game is only really challenging on the hardest of five difficulty levels, and then the difficulty spikes dramatically for the final, but ultimately broken, confrontation with Xaero, the bot arena champion. It takes place on a map with a series of floating platforms, connected by jump pads and floating above a death-causing abyss. It’s almost impossible to go from one platform to the next without getting killed instantly, so what makes the whole thing ironically winnable is the fact that the AI will unintentionally plummet to its death dozens of times, keeping its score in the negative. As long as you can discipline yourself not to do the same thing, it’s an easy, but unsatisfying, victory of attrition.

It may seem strange to criticize the game for its single-player considering Quake III built its entire legacy on multiplayer, but it was this version’s one and only chance to prevent itself from being redundant. Instead, redundant is exactly what Quake Arena Arcade is. All it has left to offer that its PC counterparts do not are the 12 Xbox360-exclusive levels, a mostly quantitative concern that does not make up for its qualitative deficiency. In fact, while Quake Live does not have those particular maps, even non-subscription players have access to over 50 arenas, so technically it wins quantitatively as well. Quake Arena Arcade is not a bad game; it’s just an extremely misguided release considering Quake Live is free and superior. It’s not like system requirements should be an issue anymore either.

Rating: 6/10

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Community review by radicaldreamer (December 04, 2011)

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