Title: Quake III Arena
Developer: Id Software
Publisher: Activision
Date Published: 1999
Platforms: PC CD-ROM (Windows & Linux), Apple Macintosh, Sega Dreamcast, Sony Playstation 2 (as Quake III Revolution)
ESRB Rating: Mature

Quake III Arena is another in a long line of graphically ambitious first-person shooters from the originators of the genre, Id Software. Q3A is almost entirely based around networked multiplayer gaming, with the single-player component being little more than a training mode against computer-controlled bots. This was seen as a daring move at the time, when online gaming was still seen as something of a novelty by many gamers. Q3A is often criticised as being an 'engine looking for a game', although within the narrow gameplay boundaries it sets itself (straight deathmatch), it is easily the best implementation yet seen.

Quake III Arena takes Quake 2's deathmatch mode as its starting point. The controls, game rules and weapons have been tuned with the intention of making them as 'pure' as possible. There are nine weapons, each of which represents a typical FPS weapon type (mélee, machine gun, shotgun, rocket launcher, etc.). There are no 'sniper scopes', players are allowed to zoom in their view at the press of a button, regardless of what weapon they are using. This is especially handy for the railgun (almost identical to its Quake 2 counterpart), the weapon of choice among skilled players (although all of the weapons serve a useful purpose). Health and ammo collectibles are now represented by large glowing icons. The usual Quake powerups such as Quad Damage and Invisibility are still there, joined by some new ones such as Flight and Regeneration. There are three game styles: deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag. The game is basically a collection of fairly small levels (arenas), and a pack of nicely animated character models with highly detailed skins. The levels are heavily stylised, with a mixture of biomechanical, sci-fi, medieval/gothic and infernal architecture. Some arenas are little more than arrangements of metal platforms and bounce pads suspended in a black void.

Quake 3 Arena was extremely graphically impressive at the time, and the (OpenGL-based) engine is still occasionally used by new titles four years later (as I write this, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and Star Trek: Elite Force II have recently launched). Scripted shader effects allowed surfaces to be animated and multitextured in interesting ways, such as environment-mapped glass and fluttering banners. The engine could also render 'true' curved surfaces allowing for all kinds of archways and domes, as well as volumetric fog and (very computationally expensive) portal surfaces, which could be used to make mirrors and teleport gates. The lighting model, texture resolution and polygon count could all be ramped up substantially compared to the previous generation of shooters. The engine's main strengths however were its scalability, raw speed, and extremely robust network code. The engine further cemented John Carmack's position as the most important single PC games programmer, leading to him having an even greater involvement and influence in the 3D graphics hardware sector.

As should be expected, the game is highly extensible, with the modding community using it over the years as a base for hundreds of projects including Quake 3 Fortress, Urban Terror, Freeze Tag, Reaction Quake 3, and countless others. In spite of its technical merits, the game never spawned any modifications as popular as the phenomenal Counter-Strike, based on Half-Life. There was actually one official add-on pack released, Quake III: Team Arena (seen by some as an attempt to 'catch up' with the more diverse gameplay modes of Epic's Unreal Tournament), but this was met with a lukewarm critical response and poor sales.

Quake 3 Arena has basically become part of the furniture in the PC gaming scene. It is extremely easy to get running on virtually any modern machine, and can be dipped into for a quick blast or configured to cater for many different gaming tastes. It is still played competitively in tournaments, and is used as a 'real world' performance benchmark by many publications. It remains perhaps the best game of its kind, although in later years it has become apparent that the FPS genre as a whole is capable of more varied game styles (stealth, teamwork, adventure...) than just plain old deathmatch.

Quake III Arena is a Deathmatch based first person shooter from the gaming giants idSoftware. It has a beautiful graphics engine, that has been the basis for many other retail games such as Star Trek: Elite Force, and American McGee's Alice. It was the first graphics engine to enable curves to be created, rather than lots of polygon flat shapes placed close together.

There are three types of gameplay, all of which are more fun played online. These are:

All of these involve running around and blowing people up, rather than slow strategy FPSs like Counter-Strike.

There are altogether 9 weapons and here is a list of them with pros and cons.

This is the weapon that you always have when you run out of ammo for your other weapons. The obvious disadvantage is that you have to run up to a player to inflict any damage, and if they have a weapon it is unlikley that you will make the frag. It is good however for sneaking up on people, as it does about 50 damage.

Machine Gun
This is the weapon that you start off with when you spawn after being fragged. The damage it does is minimal, and you dont have very much ammo, but if you know someone is almost dead it is good for finishing them off because it is accurate and instantly reaches the player.

This weapon is leathal close range. It shoots out about 6 or 7 bullets at a time, so inflicts 6x the damage if you are close. It is really only good for close range, because the further away you are from your target, the more the bullets spread out.

Grenade Launcher
This small weapon shoots out grenades at quite a pace. The grenades have a large splash damage radius. (This means that they damage players even if they do not make contact). If somebody is unlucky enough to hit a grenade before it explodes (after 4 or 5 seconds) it deals a great amount of damage. It is good for small corridoors when you know somebody is following you, but they do not travel far, so can not be used at distances. It is a bad idea to fire a grenade forwards as you are running, as you will probably kill yourself in the process.

Rocket Launcher
This is by far the most popular gun. Firing rockets in a dead straight line, a rocket can completly kill someone with 100 health in a direct hit. The splash damage is also quite large, so you have a good chance of hitting somebody in a duel. If used too far away, it is unlikley you will hit the target, because the rocket moves fairly slowly, but at medium range it is fantastic. It is advised not to use at close range too much, as you could kill yourself from the splash damage.

Lightning Gun
This gun fires a constant lightning beam in a straight line towards the enemy. It is great for finishing off, and is also good for confusing the enemy. Nothing is harder than trying to kill somebody with a face full of lightning. The downside is that, although rapid firing, it doesnt do excess amounts of damage, and does not reach an unlimited distance.

This has to be the most lethal gun in the game, bar the BFG. It does almost lethal shots. 2 hits is guarenteed to equal death, unless you have armour, and one will bring to down to about 15 health, leaving you an easy target for a machine gunner. The "slug" immediately reaches the target, so people with a good aim, and a good ping, deal death in buckets with this weapon. The only downside is the slow recharge time.

Plasma Gun
This plasma charged weapon fires at an alarming rate, and the ammo does a large amount of damage. It is great for close and medium range, and good for spamming to hide your position from railgun snipers. Don't get too close to a wall while firing though, or you will find yourself dead within seconds. Long range it is pretty poor however because the bullets move quite slowly.

This is the mother of all weapons. With damage greater than or equal to the rocket launcher, and a firing rate only slightly slower that the plasma gun, it is very hard to beat someone wielding this. There are a couple of drawbacks, one being the very very large splash damage radius. If you dont kill yourself, you might blow youself off a cliff. The other drawback is the rarity of the weapon and ammo, and the ammo runs out very quickly.
Oh yeh, and when someone else has one of these things...

This game boasts many well designed maps. Each map has clearly been well thought out, but a few favourites have emerged. These are:


The player models are also very well crafted in Q3A. With each model having 3 or more skins (one default, a red one, a blue one, and sometimes one or more alternatives) it is unusual to have the same one in a server.

With the new release of Q3, this has become even more true, with the ability to choose a model, and a different head model, eg.

A cyborgs body with a huge eyeball for a head
A skeleton with an aliens head

All this makes for an excellent playability time. Also, one game of Q3 is never the same, especially played online. Sometimes when you join a server, it is a walkthrough, and others you will lose terribly.

Other than the four game modes mentioned above, you can download other modifications for free. One of the most popular small ones is Instagib. This game mode only lets you use the railgun, but one shot kills... always. This is most popular for lpbs.

Another, bigger and profession mod is Threewave. It is a capture the flag mod, with many different twists to normal CTF.


Quake III: Corkscrew Railgun

If you've ever played Quake II, you will know that the railgun has a corkscrew around it. If you like that effect, you can also use it in Quake III Arena! Simply type /cg_oldrail 0 in your console, and set your colors with the following commands:

Beam Color: /color1 <number>

Corkscrew Color: /color2 <number>

  1. Blue
  2. Green
  3. Cyan
  4. Red
  5. Violet
  6. Yellow
  7. White

Now you have a personalized corkscrew railgun! But remember: only people who have it activated can see your corkscrew color, and people who have cg_oldrail set to 1 will generally have a purple corkscrew (unless they like it), because it's the default.

Frag Everything That Isn't You!

So you've been playing Quake 3 Arena for a while now and you want to start a clan? Well, you've come to the right place. Starting a clan is easy, and this writeup will explain how.

  • First, get good at the game. Nobody will want to join a clan led by someone who ends up with -17 on q3dm17 when playing with a bunch of newbies.
  • Next, come up with a name for the clan. It should be as badass sounding as possible. Names like "Ass Kickers" and "Killers" are too obvious, though. Come up with something creative and original.
  • Start your own clan server. Open it to public access and let random people connect. When good players are on, ask them "do j00 want t0 jo1n our clan???!???#?#?!?#?!?" and kick them off if they say no. When sucky players ask "can i join ur clan" kick them off too. Hell, kick off anyone who kills you more often than you are comfortable with, or uses the BFG even though you left it enabled. You also must kick off anyone who camps, even though they're just guarding their base in Capture the Flag.
  • Troll other servers for people and invite them to your server, so you can kick them off and try to ruin their egos. The more times you kick the same player off and they come back, the better your clan is doing.
  • Start a clan web page. Make it all l33t so that when people come they realize there's no way you'll ever let them into the clan. The page must make them WANT to join, though, so make sure it has lots of custom graphics and nifty game screenshots.

Once you have all the best players in the Q3A world and all the newbies hating your guts, congratulations! You have created a Quake 3 Arena clan. Enjoy your godly position and the big compressor you've attached to your ego!

It was probably a bad idea to come to Quake III Arena so late. Indeed, by the time I actually got around to inserting the CD into my drive and clicking the relevant buttons, I had already played through - and loved - some of its descendants. One of the most popular engines to have been licensed, it forms the basis for such luminaries as Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Jedi Knight II; impressive children indeed. But how does the parent compare? One of the most popular online FPS games of all time must, surely, be worth playing? Eager to find out what I'd been missing, I set about giving it a go.

Quake III Arena is, as its name suggests, the third of the Quake series, but the first to explicitly promote multiplayer as its raison d'être. Previous games in the series have had a single-player campaign, which while never being the most well-fleshed out of stories, were still worth a play and were by the by enjoyable. Quake III dispenses with that; its offline component merely sets up a number of different predefined arenas populated by bots, to be played through in sequence. In addition, the usual 'instant action' mode is provided for, allowing the player to pick a map and play with bots to their heart's content.

Speaking of bots: the game comes with plenty to choose from, with a wide range of models and skins to pick from. Some are culled from iD's history: the Doom marine makes an appearance, as do representations of Quake and Quake II's player characters.

Equally well-represented are the game's weapons, with many taking direct cues from earlier titles. There's the typical Quake rocket launcher (point at enemy, admire new red wallpaper), the grenade launcher (complete with satisfying Quake sound effects), and the railgun for those with a fondness for sniping. Even Quake's lightning gun returns, reminding us all why playing with high voltages is dangerous, if compelling to watch from a safe distance.

There's a remarkably large range of maps shipped with the game, and although the visual style is hardly diverse - pentagrams, fire, and lava all present, as per iD Level Design Guideline #23 - each map has a distinctive feel, and many bring fresh challenges to the player. Q3DM10, for example, apes Unreal's "healpod" level, providing a chamber players can use to heal themselves (while providing a perfect location for their foes to find them). Few of the maps will leave the player finding unique, only-in-Quake-III touches, but by and large they're professionally designed and play well.

By this point, you're probably wondering, "Golly, Oberon, you sound really enthusiastic about this game. Why did you give it such a low score?", to which I would reply that it serves you right for skipping to the end of the review.

The fact of the matter is this: I found Quake III simply not very much fun to play. On paper, it should be elementary: iD are one of the masters of the art, having brought us fantastic FPS games every few years and effectively creating deathmatch as we now know it. They are, presumably, good at their jobs. And as a technical achievement, the game is perfectly competent.

Yet I can't shake the notion, after ten minutes or so playing, that I'd really rather be doing something else. My chief argument in favour of this would be the words 'Unreal Tournament'. Everything Quake III does, UT one-ups, with the sole exception of sheer graphical prowess; Quake III still looks quite impressive, while UT (despite its many charms) hasn't aged quite as gracefully.

Offline play, which to me still holds many joys, is barely comparable. Where Quake III has a barely-concealed ladder with barely a paragraph of explanatory text to tell us why we're running about gibbing everyone, UT presents a much more enjoyable campaign, with multiple ladders for each variation of gameplay (deathmatch, capture the flag, and so on), with individual trophies for their completion and a hugely satisfying final boss. Quake III's single player is tedious; defeat one set of opponents, and you move straight onto the next, with no variation to be seen; not even CTF or team deathmatch. Disappointing.

The weapons in Quake III feel unsatisfying, too; the rocket launcher has punch, but many (such as the shotgun) have no feeling to them, and seem to be highly arbitrary when it comes to actually using them. To this day I cannot quite work out how the shotgun seems to be utterly lethal one minute from across the room, and yet the next fails to graze my opponent point blank. By comparison, UT's arsenal boasts a clutch of weapons which almost universally (save, alas, the Ripper) feel much more exciting.

Unreal Tournament boasts voice taunts from its bots, whereas Quake III can only provide written responses, as if the bots had typed them in, which may have been a shade more realistic given the general lack of voice chat in online games at the time, but does betray a desire on iD's part not to allow a bot backchat gap.

Really, the biggest criticism I can level at Quake III Arena is, again, that I simply do not find it particularly fun to play. While this opinion probably makes me about as popular as malaria in sub-Saharan Africa (That's enough - taste and decency Ed), it remains my continued and unrelenting feeling as I plow through another grimy, brimstone-tinged map, shooting the same bots over and over, wondering quite where iD went wrong. 6/10; and honestly, I expected a lot better.

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