Quake Arena Arcade

Anyone interested in seeing what multiplayer-centric games used to look like, and more importantly, what they played like before Call Of Duty and Halo, should give Quake Arena Arcade a try. For about $15, gamers get a 16-player online experience spread across 45 maps. Thirty of the maps have been ported from the fan favorite Quake III: Arena, while the remaining 15 have been created from scratch for this game.

Gameplay is generally of the old-school, mano-a-mano, quick-and-dirty variety, with none of the camping bullshit that takes place in today’s online play. It's every man—or man-thing—for itself. Maps are intentionally on the small side, with plenty of choke points designed to keep gamers shooting at one another. 

Encounters with opponents come in two classic varieties: the circle-strafe and the backpedal-pursue. Lulls are spent hustling about the map in a selfish attempt to consume any nearby weapons and power-ups, regardless of whether you need them. Taking a floating armor power-up off the table means your opponent can’t pick it up, which could mean the difference in your subsequent circle-strafe (or backpedal-pursue) encounter. Also, weapons carry limited amounts of ammo, so during any given skirmish, weapon fire automatically cycles through a veritable rainbow of ammo hues and types.

By today’s sophisticated standards, Quake Arena Arcade looks absurdly cheesy. Enemies are dressed like their bus broke down en route to a renaissance fair. The music is all low-level chants, bass, and moans. The pseudo S&M dungeon look of the maps—brick, chains, and low-light flickering—feels the most dated: The entire game is unnecessarily dark, as if the electric bill needs paying.

Yet there’s something hypnotic in simply moving through the game (via more of a speedy, dreamlike floating than actual footsteps), eyes peeled for bobbing armor and poorly dressed enemies. There are no perks, no prestige levels, no obtuse objectives. It’s merely a handful of people in a tiny room trying to blow the hell out of one another. And the sheer visceral simplicity of that experience, regardless of how dated it sometimes feels, is timeless.

More Game Review