Quake Live is far from being a new game, it was officially released to the public in February 2009 but it’s really just a more refined re-release of a game that was released in 1999, Quake 3. I wasn’t really into Quake 3, so I’m not aware of all the changes. What I do know is that many of the maps were cleaned up to meet today’s expectations, the weapons were tweaked, and the movement was tweaked, and the game is now launched through a web portal. The game’s engine may not support many of the graphics effects that are now taken for granted, but that doesn’t matter. While a great looking game may be a good way to attract attention, ultimately what matters most is the overall experience, not how pretty it is. Quake Live provides a great overall experience, but perhaps not for everyone.
On the surface, Quake Live is a simple game. Run around, pick up guns, shoot at your opponent. Of course, the same could be said of most FPS games. I’ve played a lot of them, and I feel Quake is actually one of the more complicated ones, with the most amount of strategy. Though at the same time it can also be the simplest one. It all depends on how you choose to play it.
From the point of view of a newbie, they may see Quake as a game with little depth. They may see a game that appears to simply be an elaborate way to measure one’s dexterity with a mouse. They would be wrong, though. In reality, your ability to aim is only a small portion of what determines your success. Everything you see or do in Quake determines the outcome of a match: how you move, how you look, how you think, how you shoot, and even how you’ve configured your game. At this point, you may be eager to mention how every shooter is like this, and you’d be right. The difference comes from the depth of each of these elements.
I reviewed VVVVVV recently, and one of the things I really appreciated was how it took a simple idea and explored it a fully as possible, without ever becoming dull. Quake Live explores the FPS genre much the same way, unlike many of today’s modern shooters which seem to be becoming more like RPGs or strategy games. Quake Live does have strategy to it as well, but the strategy comes about naturally as a result of the genre, whereas, in a game like Counter-Strike: Source the strategy was quite deliberately added to game. I should clarify that I don’t mean to say that one is better than the other, just that Quake’s more natural strategy is less obvious, and so it takes more effort to appreciate it.
It’s also a bit harder to describe the strategy involved with a game of Quake, and it varies from game-type to game-type. In Duel, for example, maintaining control over the more powerful items in a map becomes a priority. Without those items to provide you with an advantage over your opponent, you will have a tough time fragging them, even if you have far superior aim. To maintain control, you must make note of when each item is picked up and be sure that you’re around to grab it or defend it when it responds 25, 35, or 120 seconds later. On top of that, if you’ve positioned yourself in a less favourable position, you’re more likely to take damage when the item finally respawns, assuming that both players are around to fight for it. You would never be expected to do this in a game like Call of Duty, and I can’t imagine that the typical Call of Duty player would want to be doing math in their head as they play.
So that’s duel. You still have deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, clan area, and freeze tag. Deathmatch is like duel but with many players, it’s harder to maintain control with the increased players so aim and your ability to move around the map become bigger factors. I think the same can be said about team deathmatch and capture the flag, but I haven’t really played enough of them to be sure. Freeze tag is the least traditional game type of the bunch. Instead of dieing, you get “frozen” and if a teammate is nearby, they can stand beside you and unfreeze you, hence the name “freeze tag”. Clan arena is the most aim and movement dependent of the bunch, simply because there is no item collection. You spawn with all of them to begin with and with your team simply need to annihilate the opposing team. The one special part of clan arena is that you can’t inflict damage to yourself. This means you can propel yourself around the map with your rocket launcher without taking damage, further emphasizing the importance of movement.
Movement is far more important in this FPS game than many others (one possible exception being Warsow). To start, you move far faster than most other games, so you are given far more opportunity to use that to position yourself, or to gather items or weapons quickly. If you happen to come across a video of someone playing Quake, you’ll see the player jumping around a lot. Despite what you may think, they are not goofing off. You can use jumping to gain speed and move around the map more effectively. There are techniques you can learn to gain speed incredibly quick and jump over large gaps like they aren’t even there. On one of the more popular maps, there is a gun visible from a bridge. You can try to jump normally but you’ll never make it, instead you have to do what is described in the video below. If you can’t complete this jump but your enemy can, that’s yet another disadvantage you need to deal with.
The weapons in Quake Live are quite varied and once again this fits in with the idea of exploring the FPS genre fully. Unlike many of the FPS games out today, each weapon is completely unique and each one is optimal for certain situations. The rocket launcher is arguably the most versatile, but if your opponent is above you or too far away, you’ll have a hard time hitting them and your machine gun might even be more effective.
Yes, that’s right, the starting machine gun can be the best weapon for the job in certain circumstances. Mastery of your weapon choices is very important, even just knowing which one to have out as you’re wandering around is important. For example, if you’re running around with your rail gun or lighting gun out during a duel, your opponent is going to be able to hear you more easily due to the hum or buzz that your weapon makes. On top of this, your weapons can aid in movement. You can perform a rocket jump by shooting the ground with your rocket launcher and jumping. This allows you to reach higher up levels or platforms more quickly, at the cost of losing some health and armour. You can also climb walls with the plasma gun by pushing yourself up against the wall and shooting at it at the correct angle. Plasma climbing is harder to perform than rocket jumping, but if you master it you can propel yourself up to certain spots on the map while taking less damage than you would have from a rocket jump.
Almost everything I’ve said so far is true about both Quake 3 and Quake Live. The key difference between the two is how the game is launched and your interactions with the community. Instead of installing the game to your hard drive and then clicking the icon to launch the game, you head on over to QuakeLive.com and enter your username and password. After that you are presented with a list of servers to join as well as links to view your profile (and stats), manage your friends, join a clan, change your in-game settings, view news, or view the discussion forums. You may also be presented with the option to upgrade your account. This gives you access to more maps and the freeze tag gametype. You can pay even more for the ability to start a clan and request that a private server get started for you.
One other component of all this web stuff is that the game tries it’s best to match you up with similarly skilled opponents. In my experience it works fairly well, though there’s the occasional game where I feel like my enemies are way too weak. Often it depends on what time of day you log on, as the community isn’t necessary large enough for there to always be the perfect game for you.
That’s Quake Live. Hopefully I’ve done a good enough job of explaining why I like it so much. It’s completely different from most other FPS games released these games in that it fully embraces the FPS genre and does it’s best to explore it fully, instead of tacking on needless RPG elements or feeling like it would rather be considered a strategy game. Movement is very important, as is item and weapon collection and using your weapons strategically, at the right time. The web interface provides you with stats as well as greater community interaction, as well as the ability to find evenly matched opponents. Overall the presentation is quite good, and the game doesn’t feel nearly as dated as Quake 3 does. I’d recommend this game to anyone who is getting fed up with the direction FPS games are heading today.