All the fragging without all the fuss.
Though the system has been out for over a year, the true power of the Dreamcast is just starting to rear its head. The latest innovations are really impressive. From arcade and PC ports to the sheer joy of NFL2K1, the little white box holds more power than I had expected. With online gaming becoming available to the casual gamer who doesn't want the nightmare of the constant upgrades and education involved with gaming on the PC, the console is breaking new ground.
What better to test the waters of online multi-player than Quake 3 Arena? The Quake games have always had a major online following. The first two incarnations were gritty, industrial environments full of guns and realistic bloodshed, as well as a single player story line. For the third installment, developer Id Software went more for the arcade feel and dropped the single player levels, leaving behind arena after arena full of enemies and weapons in which to romp.
The port from the PC to the Dreamcast is nearly perfect. Quake 3 Arena looks almost as good as its PC brother, the only real difference being screen resolution, which can't be helped. The game is playing on your T.V., for God's sake.
In fact, Sega already has this base covered by making Q3A one of the first games to support the VGA box, so if you have a PC, for about 50 bucks you can connect the monitor to your Dreamcast and play in high resolution. Problem solved.
The graphics engine in the Dreamcast really comes to life in Q3A; it performs as well as my PC with a Voodoo3. With smooth textures and rock solid polygons, you'll quickly forget that this is just a console system.
Aside from looking great, Q3A is fast. Running at a FPS but Q3A flows like liquid. The big upshot of consoles is perfect compatibility...all the time. Since Q3A was designed around the Dreamcast, there are no crashes, setup, or compatibility issues...just pop in the disk and frag away.
The biggest concern in the transition from PC to DC lies in control. I am a PC Quake veteran and used to a keyboard/mouse setup, so learning the Dreamcast controller layout was trying. But as Mr. Charles Darwin discovered, I was able to adapt to my new situation with relative ease (It's amazing what a little humility will do to a gamer who is rapidly descending the leader board.) You can map out the controller to suit your tastes, which is helpful.
If you're used to playing Quake on the PC and just can't seem to get the hang of fragging with a controller, Sega has a keyboard and mouse that plug right in to the controller ports of your Dreamcast and work great. You'll feel right at home.
The single player version of Q3A is structured in tiers. There are five tiers, each with four arenas; the fourth arena of each tier contains a Boss. To advance tiers, you must take first place in each of arena. As the game progresses, the arenas get more elaborate and the bots get smarter.
The AI of the bots in Q3A is impressive; they are no joke. With the ability to hide and ambush you as well as disappear like a scared rabbit when you fire at them, it's almost like playing against real people, so you won't be finishing this game any time soon.
Especially when you consider the multi-player. Joining an online game has never been easier. I was able to connect to a game in under a minute each time I tried. In fact, as a sweet little bonus Q3A comes with fifty free hours of Seganet. Sega's own online service manages to have pretty consistent fast connections, but costs around twenty bucks a month. Using your current ISP doesn't have the same high-speed connections, so it's a matter of cost and willingness to switch ISPs if you want to game online regularly. But hey, at least you get fifty hours free to help you decide.
Whether online or off there are the three standard types of game to join: Deathmatch, Team Battle or Capture the Flag. Another noticeable difference between the PC and Dreamcast versions is that the Dreamcast only supports four players in an arena at a time, where the PC supports up to sixteen. Those familiar with Quake on the PC will find this a pain, but if you've never played the PC version, it won't make much of a difference.
Plus, Dreamcast gamers will eventually be able to play against owners of PC Q3A via the PC map pack. While not finished as of this review, a simple download in the future will bring the 'PC vs. Console' war to the forefront.
There are over thirty skins to choose from, each with it's own look but no statistical differences (they all play the same); and nine different weapons. Ranging from the gauntlet to the BFG-10K (which can mow through enemies faster than Sonny through a box of Cocoa Puffs), the choice is yours. There are also a variety of power-ups to help you in your quest for final victory.
Quake 3 Arena is a great game; it brings to the table strong online gaming for dedicated console gamers. The sharp graphics and fast-paced gameplay will keep your thumbs busy for hours on end. While PC owners will probably stick with their PCs, it's brilliant of Sega to offer this kind of experience to console gamers...we have waited long enough.