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First Impressions:
Quake Live

Format: PC
Genre: Online FPS
Developer: iD Software
Publisher: iD Software

Currently in Public Beta

Lewis Denby lives for Quake.

Playing Quake Live drives one thing home: games have slowed down. The modern multiplayer shooter is a more careful, more strategic affair, with solid tactics and an abundance of teamwork. Quake Live, by comparison, is utter carnage. Utter cathartic carnage.

One thing to get out of the way from the start: Quake Live is Quake III Arena. Simple as. Not Quake III in a browser, even: you still have to download a sizeable application, and the whole thing plays out in full-screen, as if IE or Firefox weren't involved at all. The only time you'll use anything resembling a web page is for the game's menu, so for all intents and purposes, you're back playing iD Software's seminal multiplayer shooter from 1999.

So it's a ten-year-old game, which is an interesting thing to return to. You just don't get this sort of online experience any more. It's all circle-strafing, bunny-hopping, rocket-jumping mayhem. There's no careful thinking; just light-speed reactions and lots and lots of dying. And, having spent a few hours back in Quake III's company, I'm not sure what to make of it all.

"it's pure, 
 brains-off action" 

I'm very rusty. I was once a rather fine Quake III player, way back when, but now I'm struggling. Others, it would seem, are not. After I proved in the training level that I knew how to rocket-jump, the game decided to match me against expert players. The resulting insanity was overwhelming, and I perished within seconds of spawning, repeatedly. It came as a shock to the system. While by no means a hugely adept FPS champion, I'm alright with the genre. I play all my single-player games comfortably on medium, and I like nothing more than a Left 4 Dead campaign on expert. In the company of others here, all fiercely blasting away, trigger fingers always ready, I pale in comparison.

I've still not quite got back to grips with the sheer pacing of it all just yet. There's something about it that feels a little clumsy. It's pure brains-off action, but even more so than we're used to seeing these days. What I hoped would make me all nostalgic, causing me to yearn for the long-evaporated days of no-frills deathmatch, has instead only made me somewhat frustrated. I'm good at games. Why am I no good at this one?

At times, the game is plainly to blame. There's a very slight delay to the mouse movement at times, which can be absolutely crippling in a game like this. It doesn't seem to relate to the internet speed - I didn't experience any noticeable lag in the usual sense - but the controls seem to be very occasionally unresponsive. In another game, it would be so miniscule you wouldn't notice. In Quake Live, it can mean the difference between a perfect Railgun hit, and a waste of ammunition.

"pretty much identical 
 to before

The Railgun has been interestingly balanced. What was once a guaranteed one-hit-kill now only takes 80% health off the unfortunate victim. So, often, a direct hit often does result in the opposition's untimely passing. But the Railgun was all about that devilish satisfaction when you finally managed to land a good strike. When it's so difficult to hit a target in the first place, it's somewhat disappointing to see the opponent able to immediately shoot back. Elsewhere, you'll need to unload a whole bucket-load of anything to gun someone down. Would one gun that devastating really spoil the game that much? It never did before.

Elsewhere, everything's pretty much identical to before, only with the new Quake Live logo plastered on every surface imaginable. What was once a beautiful, revolutionary graphics engine now looks extraordinarily flaky. What were once awe-inspiring sound effects now sound decidedly lo-fi. And the action just feels weird.  The level design remains as perfect as ever, but I need time to get back into this. I hope I can. At the moment, I kind of wish I hadn't played Quake Live. It's spoiling the memories. Oh, such wonderful memories.

Issue 5


Editor's Note

The Special Report
Ban this sick filth! etc

16-Bit Boy
Is multiplayer gaming breeding a generation of angry souls?

Dwarf Fortress Diary
This freeware ASCII game has captured our imagination

The Hero
Can inferior games provide us with the most lasting memories?

First Impressions: Quake Live
Should we be quaking in our boots?


Resident Evil 5

Empire: Total War

Street Fighter IV

Killzone 2

Halo Wars

Warhammer 40,000:Dawn of War II


Men of War

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.


Shifter's Box