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The title of Quake III Arena is a straightforward explanation of what Quake III can be described as, for those already familiar with Quake. It's just like Quake, only it takes place in an arena. With that said there should be more to that, especially since this game ranks next to Starcraft among games nearly ten years old and still played in gaming tournaments. Fortunately, there really isn't that much more, and in this case that's a good thing.
Most FPS games try to mainly go for two types of goal orientated setups. The first being the most simple is to shoot and kill as many opponents as possible while racking up a score and winning by reaching the allotted limit. The second type actually has more of a "goal" in mind, and usually consists or capturing the flag, territory control, or destroying a specific person or object. Quake III keeps in touch with the first style and doesn't complicate the game with any balance issues, over-the-top weaponry, or large scale maps, though it has the option of capture the flag.
For players unfamiliar with playing Quake or any other shooter, the single player is a great way to get started before entering the multiplayer mode. The single player story has no actual plot; just that players assume the role of an unknown soldier, fighting through multiple foes to ultimately face Xaero, who is basically a harder version of the other foes. There is no real purpose or plot, just to kill many and try to stay alive. The best part is that this completely encompasses the purpose of the game which is online multiplayer.
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Much like the Battlefield series, Quake III's sole value comes from facing human players online, not the single player campaign. The multiplayer modes are divided up into four types: free-for-all, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and tournament. Free-for-all and Team Deathmatch have the same goal of racking up the most kills. The only difference is that free-for-all is done so that all players fight each other and teams score for one group. Capture the flag is the only mode where fragging your opponent isn't the only way to win, which provides some variety to the matches.
Tournament mode is a good option when participating in or setting up competitions for Quake III. The game automatically pits players against each other and forms a bracket-like setup for the winners and losers. Each player goes one-on-one with each other with a time or score goal.
The weapons are well-balanced, though there are only a few available. The guns include the shotgun, machine gun, plasma rifle, rocket launcher, rail gun, lightning gun, and BFG. Each gun has specific recoil and damage rate which does not always place one gun over the other, save for the BFG. For example, the rocket launcher and shotgun are powerful, but do not fire as fast as the plasma or lightning gun.
Each arena is well-designed with hardly any areas that give a player an advantage over another. Closed arenas have multiple walkways and tunnels and open arenas have pitfalls and lifts to send players across the maps. Though the arenas are fairly generic, there are a good number of them.
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Quake III Arena is a well-balanced, simple frag-your-opponent shooter that takes players back to the basics of FPS games. It’s no surprise that it remains popular among games like Counter-Strike and Unreal Tournament for fast-paced action. It isn’t too flashy with graphics and doesn’t contain any real story, but its intent appears to focus on gameplay, and that is what this delivers.