A Whole Lotta Quakin' Going On.
One of the biggest problems in my house last year was the conflict between my need to be online 24/7 playing Quake II and everyone else's selfish desires for stupid things. You know, like access to the computer for term papers or use of the phone line to call 911 because the cat was choking on a penny. Big deal.
Eventually I moved on to Quake III and again lost months of my life. And just when the whole thing was starting to feel a little redundant, Activision releases Team Arena. Thanks to the folks at id Software, I now have Cool Whip on my ice cream, making QIII a whole new experience.
Team Arena is a mission pack for QIII that adds several new game modes, maps, weapons and skins. Perhaps due in part to the success of games like Half Life: Counter Strike, these new enhancements are specifically designed with team competition in mind. No more frantic every-man-for-himself deathmatches - team cooperation is the theme this time around, and it seems that now the whole clan idea can really take off.
Oddly enough, QIII was lacking the Capture the Flag games from QII. Well, Capture the Flag is here in two forms. The original is a bloody version of everyone's favorite summer camp classic; go for the other team's flag. As a variation, they've created a single-flag version, which intensifies the struggle by making both teams battle for just one flag. The result is frantic and fun.
New to the arena are Harvester and Overload games. Harvester places a "skull generator" in the center of the arena, and every frag produces a crystal skull in the color of the team who bit the dust. The skulls then need to be collected and dropped into a portal in the enemy base, which ain't easy.
Overload places a giant skull obelisk in your base, which, like your flag, must be defended at all costs. The goal is to storm the enemy base and blow up the skull. The problem is that it regenerates health constantly at 15 HP/sec - not to mention the team of soldiers with chainguns and rocket launchers protecting it.
These new games provide opportunity for serious teamwork and coordination. Luckily, there is a new communications menu that makes it easy to send specific orders to your teammates, though most of the teamwork is non-verbal.
Team Arena also features power-ups to enhance your character's abilities. Ranging from Ammo-Regen to Scout, these new power-ups can increase the amount of ammo that you can carry, or, like the Six-Million Dollar Man, boost your speed and strength. Knowing when to collect which power-up can make or break your team.
There is a single player mode here as well, though it simply drops bots into the arena on both teams. On the higher difficulty settings, the challenge is definitely high enough to prepare you for the real world of online play.
Graphically, the new maps are right on par with the original QIII maps, which are very pretty and have a distinctly arcade feel. The smooth textures and gloomy lighting offer a dark, industrial look which sets a fine stage for such mayhem. The new skins are sharp and detailed, much like those from the original QIII, and the new models are as gruesome as ever.
The new maps fit the new rules extremely well, as they were obviously designed for two opposing teams, each occupying and defending a base. Some even go as far as to include bunkers and lookout towers, which drastically adds to the team organization that can happen. I love it when a plan comes together.
Generally speaking, the fragfest gaming world is divided into those who play Quake and those who play Unreal (it seems that everyone plays Counter-strike). Team Arena isn't going to draw in gamers who weren't playing QIII. It's mainly for die-hard fans, so if you didn't like QIII to begin with, you probably still won't.
Still, Quake III: Team Arena is a solid mission pack, adding a whole new team element. Team organization is something that is evolving in online multiplayer gaming, and it's nice to see Quake join the fray. Fans of QIII should definitely check this out.