Review | Quake Live
Format: PC | Genre: Online FPS | Publisher: id Software | Developer: id Software | Out now: Open beta – free to play here
By Andy Johnson
We mention on the ‘About Our Reviews’ page that we’ll consider some free-to-play games for the proper ‘Reviews’ section. This is likely to be a fairly rare occurrence, but we think it’s justified in this case. Quake Live is not only the work of a renowned, revered developer, it’s also an exciting new way of reaching an enormous collection of players. Plus, well, it’s really quite good. Take it away, Andy…
Quake Live is an odd affair. It’s both old and cutting-edge, elitist and accessible. After years in the wilderness, id software have seen fit to do something other than develop mediocre sequels Doom 3 and farming “their” games out to Raven Software. Besides working on the as-yet-unreleased Rage, they’ve also decided to bring us a browser-based version of Quake III: Arena, which also includes the Team Arena expansion. It may not seem like this title, currently in public beta, is a particularly spectacular offering from the godfathers of the FPS, but Quake Live is actually a hugely exciting prospect for anyone who’s enjoyed even the occasional deathmatch. But why?
Well, because, from its release in 1999, Quake III was always more of a straight, purist deathmatch game than its arch-nemesis Unreal Tournament was. So whilst UT was a brilliant, jack-of-all-trades multiplayer classic, Quake III remains possibly the most perfect out-and-out deathmatch game ever developed. Having it reborn as a browser game is great because it essentially reboots that multiplayer experience – personally, I’d always preferred vanilla Quake III, without any extraneous mods or daft maps: an undiluted experience. I’ve felt like that with every multiplayer FPS I’ve dabbled in over the years, and anyone who shares that feeling will quickly warm to this. Yes, this kind of shootery may be old-school, but here it is again, freely available for anyone with an interest, exactly as fast and furious as it was years ago.
//One small step
What’s most enduringly striking and amazing about Quake Live is, frankly, the fact that it works at all. To go from the most primitive flash games to this in a few short years is astonishing, and id have done an amazing job of making it fast, slick, and eminently playable. To get in on the action, only a single small download and a compatible web browser are required – within ten or fifteen minutes, you can dispense with a training match against Crash and move on to taking on human opponents out there in the big wide world. You can make the game fullscreen, at which point even a die-hard Quake-head would struggle to tell it apart from a conventional Quake III installation. The two really are almost completely identical – in fact, Quake Live is arguably even better, due to its matchmaking system and its immediacy. Possibly the only thing that holds it back is a slightly clunky interface, and the fact that player profiles seem slightly bugged at this point in time – but it is still in open beta, after all.
Even though the core game content isn’t new, it’s still masterful. Nobody’s really challenged Quake III’s deathmatch dominance in all these intervening years. Competition on the servers is quite fierce at the higher skill levels, and it would appear a few very serious Quakers have crossed over to Live already. There’s still nothing quite like landing an exquisite railgun shot to help you snatch the quad on The Longest Yard; watching new players repeatedly hurl themselves into oblivion on Hero’s Keep; or taking a bullet-ridden swim on Dredwerkz. Unless you’re a particularly jaded Quake-player, or not a fan of the multiplayer FPS at all there’s an enormous amount of fun to be had from Quake Live. The technology behind it, though it’s a bit difficult to get a bead on given its brower-based nature, is a stunning step forward, one thath could soon fundamentally change the way we play games. To be part of that at an early stage… well, what better excuse could you ask for to reach for your rocket launcher? “IMPRESSIVE!”