Given the constraints of our review format we couldn't go into much detail comparing the two games every Deathmatch fan is talking about. So as an addendum, we offer what we feel are the standout reasons for our scores in our reviews and also give our users a sense of where we stand on the genre itself. Keep in mind that this article is by no means a proclamation of the superiority of one game over the other.
5 Reasons Why Quake III Arena is Better than Unreal Tournament
By Chi Kong Lui
1. Future Mods and Add-ons
The reality is that id loyalists have been churning out mods (modifications) and add-on levels since the early days of Doom to the latter day Quake games. And while the Unreal series have made quite a name for themselves and developed a strong following, Quake III Arena (Q3A) has already proven to be everything that its long-time fans have hoped for and is sure to receive their continued support with an inevitable deluge of user created mods and add-on levels. Unreal Tournament (UT) may currently sport more variety in weapons, levels, and modes of play out of the box, but with the sizable Quake community continually pouring their efforts into Q3A, that standing may soon prove otherwise. Not only may Q3A sprout longer legs then its competitor, we might also see more innovations along the lines of Team Fortress (an original mod for Quake) down the road. Commercial companies will probably be more inclined to develop add-on packs for Q3A as well due to the larger user base.
2. Speedier Action
By making design decisions like implementing kinetic bounce and acceleration pads rather then stilted elevators to quicken the overall pace, Q3A is simply more a intense and thrilling experience then UT. UT is far from boring in itself, but with deadly long-range weapons like the sniper rifle and the remote-controllable Redeemer missile, that encourages 'camping,' coupled with limited use anti-gravity boots, the action in UT is in some ways just more restrained. Q3A, on the other hand, boasts unrelenting non-stop action that really gets the adrenaline pumping especially on maps with plenty of bounce and acceleration pads that will have players leaping and flying all about in a frenetic haze.
3. Visual Style
While both games depict particularly brutal violence and gore, I preferred the more artistically direct and vivid graphics in Q3A. The stages maintain an architecturally-consistent fusion of Gothic, demonic, and Cyberpunk styles. The cast of 'skinned' character models in Q3A are also bunch of rag tag individuals who, while bordering on absurdity (especially the skeleton models), still maintain a grittier and wonderfully more wicked edge to their bold appearance and personalities. UT, on the other hand, boasts a blander and almost generic new-age look where stages look like they belong on the covers of dime-a-dozen sci-fi novels and the characters look like they can't decide if they want to be GI Joes or X-men. Bottom line, the characters in Q3A look like they could eat the characters in UT for lunch!
4. More Refined Gameplay
id Software made no secret of what Q3A was going to be like when they released test demos out to the public to gauge reactions. It was a bold and risky move that effectively showed their hand to competitors, but id themselves weren't overly concerned since they were always open about what they were trying to do through their notorious .plan files. So they plainly continued about their
business, collected feedback from users, and then further fine-tuned the gameplay in Q3A. The final results are a testament to the craftsmanship that id put forth in making sure that none of the weapons would be over or underbalanced, competition would stay more or less fair, game flow would be consistently heated, and the final Deathmatch experience would be without equal. Again, that's not to say that UT is lopsided or unbalanced, it just doesn't seem to be as finely tuned as Q3A.
5. Superior Competition
When all is said and done between Q3A and UT, what it ultimately boils down to for me is competition. After all, the basis of both games is battling out with people all around the world and seeing how you stack up. And when it comes to the most skilled and serious competitors, no one can deny that Q3A is where it’s at. Unlike the Unreal franchise, a long tradition of Quake playing gamers has been Deathmatching for years to the point where they have formed extensive communities and clans. This, along with support from groups who organize official competitions like the PGL (Professional Gamers League), ensure that Q3A will be the definitive game to determine who is the very best in Deathmatching. So if you want to see if you're the best, Q3A is the only true test.
5 Reasons Why Unreal Tournament is Better than
Quake III Arena
By Dale Weir
1. Extensive Options and Customizations
When playing games like Q3A and UT that claim to be training games for future Deathmatch kings, it becomes apparent how important having control over the game can be to improve your skill. Q3A will have everyone progressing at the same levels and working on the same areas (with the exception of different difficulty settings) with no consideration of individualized pacing. UT, on the other hand, allows an unparalleled amount of customizations so that I could change the game however I saw fit. My character’s appearance could be customized in a variety of ways from skin-color to team affiliation. Weapon selections and switching can be prioritized to my own preferences. Not only were there more computer skill levels (for the Bots) to choose from, but there’s even an auto adjust skill option dependent on player performance. If I ever grew tired of even the abundant play modes available, I could try my hand at the mutation option. Here I could change characteristics about the levels like adding chainsaws to everyone’s arsenal or creating a level where there are solely sniper rifles available for some Professional gameplay. In fact, just about everything in this game from weapon damage levels, overall game speed, and gravity control can be tweaked. Finally, as a true sign of savvy development, UT comes with levels that wouldn’t necessarily fit the bill as typical arena stages. For one, they are a lot more varied and diverse than those of Q3A are. Running around the levels in UT was like running through actual buildings or arenas while Q3A seemed to be recycling the same dungeons that I saw in previous releases.
2. Single-Player Mode
For all the popularity of the Deathmatch genre, jumping into online play is not the intention of everyone starting up Q3A or UT. On one hand, there are the beginners who will have absolutely no clue as to what to do and will need something to break them in easy and, on the other hand, there are those who are familiar with Deathmatching but want real training levels to sharpen their skills. In Q3A, only the latter gamer is satisfied while the beginner must stumble through the ‘training’ courses and jump into the online arena unprepared. The single-player in UT isn’t tacked on at all; instead it offers true training in all the different modes of play and is presented in a far more satisfying, unlocking ladder format. The tutorials in UT better familiarize users with all the basic Deathmatch moves and provide better training levels that get progressively harder at a more reasonable rate. And, thankfully, the competition in the game (the Bots) impede or assist you more similarly to how a human player online would. They are even great for the more experienced player simply looking to sharpen his or her skills. Plainly put, UT’s single-player mode is a more complete experience and has something for everyone. This puts it ahead of the pack.
3. Diverse Weaponry
Where Q3A gets points for their ‘more bang for your buck’ weapons, both in appearance and results, UT takes the prize for its diversity. I must be honest that the weapons don’t look as impressive as the ones in Q3A, but they are all unique. The game comes with everything from the simple automatic handgun to an always-cool sniper rifle to a portable nuclear warhead launcher. But even with such variety I would have to say that the most telling of the craftiness of the developers is the sniper rifle. It changes the game whenever someone gets it. For one, kills are easier if you’re a crack shot and there is no feeling more visceral than picking off an opponent with a well-placed headshot. The best Q3A has to offer is a rail gun and only the most experienced Deathmatchers find any use for that thing. If this weren’t enough, all the weapons in UT are essentially doubled thanks to a secondary fire feature. While a left-click with the Flak Cannon launches a nice blast of shrapnel at opponents, a right-click lofts a shrapnel grenade with even greater destructive power. Battles are rarely one-sided due to the variety of the weapons and this makes the need for player skill to become more apparent.
4. Superior Menu Interface
Back in the day, getting around id games and games of its ilk were cumbersome. Every menu showed the game engine’s archaic DOS roots. That was fine for its time, but many games were still sticking to this right into the age of Windows 95. Epic Games remedies this right away with a slick menu system that puts all the control in front of the user. It begins with a polished Windows-like menu system that is wonderfully easy to navigate in. Jumping into a multiplayer game is as easy as starting up a single-player game. With their streamlined interface, I could get into the chat mode and start up a game by simply clicking various labeled tabs. Even better was the fact that the list of available servers stays in
memory and doesn’t automatically refresh itself when disconnected from a server the way Q3A annoyingly does. It was another sign of the interface facilitating less work for the gamer so that he or she could focus just on the game; which is, after all, what we shell out the money for in the first place.
5. More Modes of Play
Let’s face it, Deathmatching is cool, but it can get old quick or at least it would if there were only a Deathmatch and Capture the Flag (CTF) mode. UT succeeds in bringing the gamer more variety right from the start. Along with the two traditional modes I mentioned, Epic added interesting diversions in Assault and Domination. Both of these modes are new to online play and offer unique gameplay experiences that Q3A can’t even come close to providing. I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that Deathmatches are great, but I must also say that they can get tiring after a while. These two levels alone mean there are more levels and more types of gameplay to be mastered, which only further prolongs the game’s life. You will always have something do when you sit down with UT whether it’s online or playing solo (due to the excellent AI). No Quake game to date can say that and that is something UT will be able to hold over its head for a long time.
5 Positives We Agree About Quake III: Arena and Unreal Tournament
By Chi Kong Lui & Dale Weir
Originally only available as a user created mod (modification) on previous Quake games, the Capture-the-Flag (CTF) game became so popular with fans, that it now comes standard issue on both Q3A and UT. We couldn’t be more pleased with that decision. Not only is it a great diversion from the often monotonous free-for-all of Deathmatching, but it is a wonderfully conceived game in itself. Requiring teamwork, defense, and a scoring objective to win, CTF has layers of dimension that make it a worthwhile edition to the overall packages of both games.
2. Innovative Level Design
In past first-person shooters (FPS) like Doom, multiplayer Deathmatches were played on maps designed for the single-player mode. Level designers at the time were far more concerned about delivering a solitaire experience and didn’t bother with creating Deathmatch-specific maps. So the pioneering few who actually tried to Deathmatch on those early stages were forced to endure problems like linear layouts (which are inappropriate for competitive combat) and dreadfully long hunts for opponents through massive stages. With the newest additions like Q3A and UT, times have definitely changed. Now focusing entirely on the multiplayer experience, the maps in both games are designed to be centralized arenas that encourage constant, flowing combat rather than mundane, drawn out searches with dead-ends. What we are now seeing is an inventive, dedicated, and often clever style of level design that the PC gaming masses have never quite experienced. Just try the ‘Longest Yard’ map in Q3A or the ‘Skyscraper’ map in UT and you’ll know exactly what we are talking about.
3. Solid Console-like Quality
PC games are notorious for shipping to retailers in need of more fine-tuning and polish. I think it’s safe to say that most gamers simply accepted this and relegated themselves to doing the fine-tuning themselves just to get their games to work properly. This is definitely not the case with Q3A and UT because even though they needed a patch to run on our system, both games ran without a hitch after that. Maybe it’s due to greater standardization in APIs and computer hardware itself, but there has been a sort of ‘consolization’ of PC games. Games like UT and Q3A, which were once considered impossibilities, are now up and running on even modest hardware setup and the games run at silky smooth framerates at most settings. Controls are tight and there are few (if any) bugs to speak of. It’s like programmers have just now caught up with the hardware and are learning how to maximize what they have so more people can enjoy it and not just the few with the monster gaming machines.
4. Easy Online Multiplayer Accessibility
In the past, online gaming usually required the aid of some confusing underground 3rd party software. Players also need to be savvy as to which mods (modifications) and add-on levels they needed to download in order to keep up with the Deathmatch community. With the coming of Q3A and UT, that’s all changed. So long as one is connected to the Internet, both games are ready to play online right out of the box. Menu options are amazingly streamlined to the degree that anyone can enter an online match within a few clicks. It’s a testament to how accessible these online multiplayer computer games have become.
5. Wildly Entertaining Gameplay
Try sniping someone’s head off from long range or running a ‘captured flag’ back into your base under a hailstorm of enemy fire in UT. Try firing a rocket in a crowded area while in possession of the ‘Quad-Damage’ for multi-frags or ambushing an opponent going for the BFG weapon in Q3A. That’s just some of the wild and crazy things that can occur during a typical session on either title. For pure thrills and excitement in videogaming, few things can compare with the multiplayer mayhem of competing against tens of human controlled opponents simultaneously online. It’s an intense adrenaline rush that can keep you playing all night and an incredibly satisfying experience when one excels.
5 Negatives We Agree About Quake III: Arena and Unreal Tournament
By Chi Kong Lui & Dale Weir
1. No Multiple Accounts or Records
Households with two or more players, who would like to maintain separate accounts with personalized names and character customizations with either Q3A or UT, are simply out of luck. No such extensive account management feature exist for either game, which seem to have a one-player-to-a-box mentality. While UT is able to save progress on the one-player mode on separate slots (something unbelievably minor that Q3A doesn’t have), neither games track records and statistics separately. So those with multiple gamers to a copy are left with no options. It’s a glaring omission that would be clearly useful even for those who would like to customize several looks to their personal character models or would simply like to play around with a few identities.
2. Lack of In-Game Communication
Anyone who plays pick-up games of basketball, knows how friendly or unfriendly competitors can get during and after a few match ups. The same can’t be said of Deathmatching, which can often be a much colder experience. Despite literally hundreds of people simultaneously competing and plenty of opportunity to build comradery or ‘talk trash,’ very little is said during or after Deathmatches. People of all colors, creeds, and backgrounds can be on the same server partaking in a few rounds of Capture the Flag, but aside from the often profanity laced names, there’s no way of knowing anything about them other than they thought everyone played a ‘gg’ (good game) as that is the most often typed line. Deathmatching can be a communal experience and recruitment into clans does take place, but it’s rare and games of this sort offer little opportunity to communicate in the midst of all the furious carnage and everyone’s participation is kept at a distance.
3. Repetitive Gameplay
Deathmatching can be the most exhilarating and exciting type of game. The action is fast and intense and sometimes games are so close that outcomes are predicated more on luck than actual skill. This makes them both appealing and addictive after only a few rounds of play. But even with the diversity of levels and arenas or super-cool weapons, Deathmatch games (more specifically UT and Q3A) tend to fall into a rut. Matches can sometimes blend into each other with the goals remaining essentially the same throughout. There is sometimes a palpable sense of déjà vu. It doesn’t help that some levels, namely Q3A, look amazingly similar to each other as well as to past releases. It may be the price you pay for such a focused theme and grand experiment, but it’s too hard to ignore.
4. Dominant Players
With hundreds of players constantly competing online, you’d think that the competition would be more even and scores would be tighter. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case as a majority of the players are still relatively newbies. It’s far more likely that you’ll find one or two veteran players dominating a game with either lower ping rates, constant control of the most critical power-ups, or the most amazing agility and deadly-accurate aim. Deathmatch fragging (killing) runs in streaks and a person who has keen mastery over any particular map can pretty much take a lead and hold onto it with a tight fist. Even in the final round of the PGL (Professional Gamers League) one-on-one tournaments, scores are usually incredibly lopsided with one player pretty much owning the other. There is hope that this phenomenon may be reduced as more players join in the Deathmatches and slowly realize what it takes to be successful. By having their very own tactics used against them, the dominating players might start to face more worthy adversaries and we might see more balanced competition.
5. Internet Connection Lags & Hardware Discrepancies
PC gaming has always been hindered by the hardware setup of the gamer. If I had a weak system, then the quality of the game’s graphics and sound (and consequently its gameplay) would be hindered while someone with a better system would naturally have a better experience. Situations like this are tolerable when it comes to single player games where the gamer plays against the computer but once players venture out to take on human opponents over the Internet, problems are exacerbated. For instance, when it comes to PC hardware, the guy with the Pentium III and GeForce card will get better framerates than the person with lesser computing power. But even more crucial to online playing is the communication setup that holds incredible sway over the outcomes of games. Business people playing on T1 lines or home users with insane broadband connections, are often the people racking up 30 or more kills a game while the rest of us are stuck at around 10-15. The discrepancy is great and no one has tried to hide it. After all the attempts at leveling the playing field as far as accessibility is concerned, it’s a shame that technology still plays such a huge part in determining the outcomes.
Somewhere between all the gaming, Chi some how managed to finish high school and get into the New York Institute of Technology. At the same time, Chi also interned at Virtual Frontiers, an Internet software consultancy where he learned the ways of HTML. Soon after acquiring his BFA, Chi went on to become the lead Web designer of the Anti-Defamation League. During his tenure there, Chi was instrumental in redesigning and relaunching the non-profit organization's Web site.
Today, Chi is the webmaster of the American Red Cross in Greater New York and somehow managed to work through the tragic events of September 11th without losing his sanity. Chi considers GameCritics.com his life's work and continues to be amazed that the web site is still standing after the recent dotcom fallout. It is his dream that GameCritics.com will accomplish two things: 1) Redefine the grammar of videogames much the same way French film critic Andre Bazin did for the art of cinema and 2) bring game criticism to the forefront of mainstream culture much the same way Siskel & Ebert did for film criticism.
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