Quake Live Hands-On Preview

The odd thing about playing a PC FPS online is you briefly begin to feel like you’re in a different universe, where the laws of normal communication, mouse dexterity, and response time don’t apply. It begs the question of whether some CounterStrike plays actually possess precognitive abilities when it comes to putting a round through my head, or whether people in Quake Live have faster reactions than a 4 GHz processor.

Quake has been the standard for hardcore online FPS players for more years than I’ve had hot dinners, and it shows in the sheer amount of people who’ve already plunged into the beta for the title. This being said, you do need to factor in the fact that it doesn’t actually cost anything to play, as people will more often than not pounce on a title that costs them nothing and plays like a dream over a title that costs slightly more.

Quake Live

This game does indeed play like a dream, but if you’re looking for a Crysis engine-based, crisp, bloom-filled experience, you’re going to be disappointed. The graphics haven’t been updated, and frankly I would say that’s practically self-explanatory as running a game as detailed as Halo 3 in a browser window would require more RAM and internet speed than the Pentagon’s server hub.

The graphics do serve the purpose though, with colourful characters and environments to help make everything that little bit clearer, and they work to an astonishing degree. Red and Blue teams are almost radiant in their neon splendor, and it makes the task of finding them a lot easier. Gears 2, take note, because not everyone wants to spend twenty seconds trying to spot a sniper among textures the color of a rainy day.

The environments themselves are what we’ve come to expect from multiplayer maps over the last ten or so years; ramps, bridges, bottomless pits, and of course, the Quake jump pads that will launch you fifty feet through the air, across the map, and into the blue base. I’ve had experiences where I’ve met someone in mid-air, taken them out, and watched their corpse land on the other side. Brutal, but glorious. If only Halo 3’s Narrows map had aimed the man cannons at each other, we’d have had a lot more fun. But the folks at id are the kings of online FPS map design, and it shows in little touches like this.

That said, if you’re aiming to blow someone’s head off while squawking to your mates about it over MSN, you’re going to need two things: an efficient use of your alt-tab command, and some weapons with which to wreak your merciless havoc. Weapons are something id have been doing well since Doom, with equipment like the BFG, and Quake’s wonderful Lightning Gun. All the weapons you’re familiar with in the Quake series are featured in the browser incarnation of the franchise, and they’ve all got a realistic amount of damage tied to them, but aren’t too serious.

This is the main failing a lot of multiplayer FPS titles have; the developers seem to forget that the player isn’t experiencing any storyline, horror elements, or anything that would put them in a serious and concentrated mindset. They’re playing with random abusive people, their friends, and people spamming emotes in German and Japanese. The servers on Quake Live are fast, efficient, and you will find yourself in a game, blasting through people at blistering speed within a minute of logging in.

This brings us to the skill level system id has implemented in order to make sure everyone’s having a good, fair time. At the start of your experience, you’re given the mandatory tutorial (a little patronizing in this case as Quake never evolves past controls for jump, shoot, and move), and then pitted against an AI character who will adjust itself to your skill level over the course of a first-to-fifteen match. It’ll then give you a set skill level, and apply this to your server list; maps full of players around your level of competence are given a green tick, and arrows upwards and downwards represent the self-explanatory higher and lower skilled players inhabiting the map you’ve selected.


Quake Live 2


Once you’re in the map, you’ll begin to experience what Quake is all about — speed. Respawn times are non-existent, and after Halo 3 and TF2 boasting respawn countdowns anywhere from 10 to a farcical 30 seconds, it encourages you not to worry as much about being "fragged", and just to jump back in and keep enjoying and learning the Quake skillset. The skills you’ll need are variable, as the aiming is sometimes a little questionable in its efficiency to kill your opponents. I’ve fired a rocket point blank into someone’s face, and nothing happened. Someone scored a glancing hit on me with the same weapon; I was currently undamaged, but I died. It’s little slips like this that remind you why the game is still in beta.

id has gone to a lot of effort to stay in touch with their beta community, and it shows through their forums. Problems are fixed at lightning speed, and regular updates are something that can, for once in an online gaming experience outside the patch-fest that is World of Warcraft, be expected. There are still a fair amount of bugs and glitches, from server bots kicking you randomly because of an unnecessary set of criteria, to the occasional crash. But the game itself suffers no real problems, simply because it’s a tried and tested formula, and has been for over ten decades.

Quake Live is something I strongly advise you to take a look at, even if you’re not a major fan of the "lol shotgun" gaming experience. It’s free, browser-based, and you can apply for the beta experience here if you’d like to be part of the community that really are shaping and changing what the release code of this title will look like. It’s a huge gift from id to us, for years of loyalty throughout Quake and Doom, and it’s a loyalty that’s still being shown in the hundreds of people online at all hours in the beta, posting huge bug reports and bouncing around tens of feet in the air with a rocket launcher.


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Author: Christos Reid View all posts by

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