Quake is one of the most iconic shooters there ever was. Like id's Doom, it quickly became a staple of the shooter market. It featured a lot of mechanics that would later become mainstays of the first-person shooter genre. Quake III Arena was one of the first FPSes to decide that maybe all of this "story" stuff was a bunch of hooey and focused itself on player-versus-player combat. Quake III Arena was also notable for being one of the first truly successful PC-to-console ports, with the Dreamcast version of Quake III Arena still popular enough that people still play it to this day. Quake Arena Arcade is functionally Quake III Arena and its expansion Quake III: Team Arena for the Xbox 360's Live service, and it will allow old-school gamers and curious newcomers to revisit the "glory days" of the late '90s, before games like Halo changed the shooter genre.
Quake Arena Arcade is every inch the old-school shooter on which it's based. Players shouldn't go in expecting any the modern mechanics that are so common in FPSes nowadays. There's no regenerating health, no vehicles, no cover system — none of that. It's just you, your opponents and your firing button.
The controls are not particularly hard to pick up, since the game is so simple. The left and right analog sticks control movement and aiming, and the B button performs an instant 180-degree turn. The right trigger fires, and the left trigger jumps. The left bumper allows you to zoom in slightly, which makes it easier to hit enemies across the battlefield. The right bumper will use any item you are holding. That is functionally all you need to know to play the game.
OK, that's not entirely true. The arenas in Quake Arena Arcade are filled with dangerous obstacles that you must overcome in order in order to survive. Harmful obstacles can range from bottomless pits to pools of lava, and they should be avoided at all costs. Environmental hazards can be a threat to your opponents as well, and clever players can make a lava pool into a deadly weapon. Winning involves blowing the crap out of your enemies, although there are a few game modes that will give players other objectives. Arenas also have helpful items, such as boost pads, which allow you to jump further than usual, and portal gates, which allow people to travel quickly from one part of the arena to another.
The various gameplay modes are fairly simple. Free-For-All is a deathmatch mode where the winner is whoever has the most kills at the end of a round. Team Deathmatch is just like Free-For-All, but with allies. Duel is a one-on-one fight between two players, with the winner continuing to fight while the loser has to spectate until his next turn comes around. Capture the Flag challenges two teams to capture the other team's flag and bring it back to its base while protecting its own flag from enemy capture. One Flag Capture the Flag is the same, except there's only one flag for both teams, and the only goal is to bring it back to your base. Harvester challenges players to collect the skulls of defeated opponents and bring them the enemy's flag base to score a point. Finally, Overload places a "skull" on both sides. The skull is a target that can be damaged with weapons and has 2,500 regenerating health points. Both sides have to compete to blow up the other team's skull while protecting its own. These modes can either be played multiplayer or single-player against the game's AI-controlled bots. While the bots are reasonable substitutions for human players, they certainly can't replace them, and those looking to get the most out of Quake Arena Arcade should plan to play the game with friends.
Quake Arena is well-known for its wide variety of memorable weapons, many of which have, at some point, become FPS staples. All the classics are here, including the machine gun, rocket launcher, shotgun and grenade launcher. There are quite a few unique weapons as well. The lightning gun fires a long stream of lightning energy at foes, and while it's great for finishing off wounded opponents, it's not so hot in a straight-up firefight. The nail gun fires slow but powerful nails into the opponent, rewarding high accuracy with high damage.
Of course, the big mama of all weapons is the BFG 10K. As anyone who's ever played Doom knows, the BFG is the biggest freaking gun in the game. You shoot someone with it, and he'll regret he was ever born, although ammunition is scarce. Each weapon has its place in your arsenal, and unlike most modern FPSes, you can hold basically every gun at once. This may sound a little awkward, considering how annoying it can be to change between multiple guns on a console controller, but there are some reasonable workarounds. Switching back and forth between guns is done with the X and Y buttons, which allow you to scroll backward and forward through your list of guns at the touch of a button. The d-pad is bound to the rocket launcher, lightning gun, shotgun and railgun, allowing you to switch to any of those important weapons at a button press. The A button will automatically switch you back to the last weapon that you used.
In addition to weapons, Quake Arena Arcade also has a wide selection of available items. Some of these are instant-use power-ups, which activate as soon as you find them. Instant-use power-ups include health- and armor-replenishing items to extend your warrior's life. However, there are also unique power-ups that grant you special abilities for a limited time. Haste will increase how fast you move around the arena, Battle Suit will prevent you from taking damage from any environmental obstacle that doesn't instantly kill you, Flight will allow you to jump super high and so on. The most coveted item is the Quad Damage power-up, which does exactly what you'd expect: four times the damage and four times the death.
Other power-ups can be held until the player chooses to activate them with the right bumper. The Medikit will instantly replenish your health to 100 when used, and the Invulnerability shield will make you invincible but take away your ability to move. A teleporter will instantly teleport you to a random place in the arena, which is a great way to avoid getting fragged in a bad situation. Finally, Kamikaze lets you self-detonate to take out any enemies around you, and it will automatically activate when you die as a last-minute act of revenge against your killer.
Quake Arena Arcade is a port of the one of the most iconic multiplayer shooters there ever was. Not a lot has changed in the adaptation to the Xbox 360, but then again, not a lot needs to change. The gameplay and combat still is fast-paced and frantic, and it's still all about blowing your opponents into chunky gibs. It's a solid game for anyone looking for an easy-to-pick-up shooter where all you need to know is how to aim and shoot. Those unfamiliar with Quake may have a hard time adjusting to the old-fashioned style of gameplay, but those who recall the days of Doom or the original Quake III Arena will be glad for the nostalgia trip.
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