Deathmatches weren't always tactical affairs that revolved around ironsights, claymores and killstreaks. They used to be insane twitchy furballs back in the day; chaotic and cut-throat maelstroms of explosions, buckshots and plasma that demanded razor sharp reflexes and copious rocket jumps to emerge triumphant. Or, indeed, alive. id Software practically invented the concept back when sprites were the pinnacle of FPS design- and surprised the gaming community 11 years ago with the release of Quake III.
Whilst Unreal Tournament started to embellish the humble Deathmatch into the complex form we know today, id's seminal shooter stripped the concept down to its most primal level. Over a decade later, Quake Arena Arcade is finally ready to take the action to next-gen consoles.
The familiar premise is completely unchanged. It's still unrelentingly fast, furious and occasionally confusing- with this new edition packing 33 original maps from Quake III as well as fifteen exclusive levels (including the aptly named Place Of Many Deaths). All of your favourite weapons from the puny Gauntlet to the mighty Railgun have made it through the transition; with each armament requiring very different strategies to use effectively. Or, you know, just a quick trigger finger. Straight deathmatches, team games and some objective modes conspire to create some serious value. The updated graphics provide smooth 60FPS visuals, and a range of thoughtful settings allow us to slightly tweak the experience to taste. New neon sports models can be toggled on or off (making opponents much easier to see)- and I'd heartily recommend disabling the on-screen weapon models to widen the viewing area.
The singleplayer mode is essentially just foreplay for the online action, but a little extra care and attention has made it a lot more rewarding. A new progression system makes unlocking new levels extremely satisfying, and range of difficulties can tune the action towards newbs or 1337 pwnz0rs alike. The bots may not be particularly clever, but they're incredibly fast and accurate on the more challenging settings. Xaero, in particular, is still an utter bastard.
There's only one major problem with Quake Arena Arcade... but it will be an absolute dealbreaker for many gamers. id veterans will remember that Quake III was incredibly twitchy and slippery (constantly feeling like sliding on polished glass in soft socks) and required pinpoint accuracy to actually hit anything. A mouse and keyboard provided this level of control... but unfortunately a controller simply doesn't cut it. Newcomers and even longtime Quake fans will be amazed at how difficult it is to hit anything at all, and a sticky reticle- or auto-aim, heaven forbid- would have gone a long way towards making this title more accessible to a new generation of fraggers. Strafe jumping is extremely tricky, and zooming with the railgun makes you take your finger off of the jump button.
Sure, you'll get used to it. But there's only one way to learn: dying a lot.
There are also a couple of minor irritants. The sound design is still absolutely terrible (constantly recycled bites, anyone?) and the lack of matchmaking feels a bit odd on a console. I absolutely love the freedom to browse games and servers, but losing a host results in every player being immediately kicked back to the menu. The netcode as a whole is a slightly quirky and could do with a little attention.
- 45 maps and varied gametypes make for decent value
- Mad, crazy, brutal awesomeness
- Rewarding singleplayer mode
- Hyper-accurate 'slippy' controls aren't suited to a gamepad
- Blistering speed and lack of unlockables may frustrate newcomers
- Occasionally quirky netcode
The Short Version: Despite Quake Live's unique pricing and ability to be played anywhere, its XBLA counterpart is much more than a cash-grabbing throwback. Quake Arena Arcade is blisteringly fast, packed with value and delivers a fitting revival of a classic franchise. FPS veterans and id fans alike should get involved with the destruction ASAP... but newcomers ought to consider testing the trial version to destruction first.