Quake III: Gold & Challenge ProMode Arena Review

Check out our video review:

The original Quake is an awesome first-person shooter, originally released in 1996, and is still being played by fans today. Even now, it’s still a unique game due to its dark fantasy and Lovecraftian aesthetic. The core gameplay will feel familiar if you’ve played any of the classic Doom games but Quake’s real-time 3D rendering was a breakthrough for the gaming industry. The sequel, Quake II was released in 1997 and is basically unrelated to the original game and was the first entry to render the series inconsistent. Gone are the Lovecraft and dark fantasy influences in favor of a more sci-fi theme. It was a complete departure in tone and atmosphere compared to the first game. Still, the gameplay was solid and it became a huge hit. As far as I can tell, Quake II was better known for its multiplayer than single player. Multiplayer is what the Quake series is known for and if it wasn’t because of Quake II it was definitely because of Quake III. Developed by id Software and published by Activision, Quake III: Arena was released for PC in December, 1999. Quake III is strictly a multiplayer-focused game. You can set up multiplayer matches against bots if you want to play solo but that’s as far as the single player goes. The expansion, Team Arena, was released for PC in December, 2000 and it introduced several new team-based modes among other things. Quake III: Gold is the complete package and that’s what I played for this review. Throughout this video, you’ll see clips of me playing on both vanilla and Dreamcast maps thanks to the Dreamcast Map Pack. I’ll also be covering the Challenge ProMode Arena mod which is designed for serious competitive play and contains all kinds of changes while managing to keep the core gameplay intact.

I primarily played Quake III: Arena and Team Arena using the Spearmint engine. Spearmint is directly based on ioquake3 which is an improved engine based on the Quake III source code. It contains bug fixes, new features, and enables the game to run easily on modern systems, among other improvements. Spearmint contains four player splitscreen support, gamepad support, improved bot AI, and my favorite feature “aspect correct wide screen FOV and HUD”. The original game was designed for the 4:3 aspect ratio but these newer engines obviously allow it to run in widescreen. ioquake3 does not include any FOV fixes or adjusted weapon placements. For example, when playing in widescreen, the weapons your holding are almost off the screen and even if you adjust the FOV using the command, it still doesn’t look right. Plus, the HUD is stretched and it just annoys me that I can’t fix this with a few commands or tweaks. I want to be clear that it’s not the game’s fault or the engine’s fault, it’s just the way it is. Regardless, Spearmint solves this problem and I love it. However, the Spearmint website claims the engine doesn’t support mods, although I found that it does support some. But I couldn’t get the Challenge ProMode Arena mod, which I will now abbreviate as CPMA, to load with it so I had to play the mod using the ioquake3 engine. Now I did see multiplayer sessions to join in ioquake3 but not in Spearmint. That doesn’t really matter to me but if you want to play the multiplayer, that’s something to consider. You can also just play Quake Live which has an active multiplayer scene from what I understand.

Quake III and its expansion do give you a decent amount of options to customize your experience, but nowhere near the amount of control Unreal Tournament gives you. Regardless, you can name your character and choose a character model, some are based on Quake characters, and then I saw the Doomguy model, and, well there was really no need to keep looking. But there’s actually a good variety of character and creature models to choose from. It doesn’t matter which one you choose because it doesn’t really affect the gameplay. Other than that, you can change your crosshair, basic audio and video options, and then it’s time to jump into the actual gameplay because that’s what Quake III is all about. If you decide to play solo, you do get to choose the bots before starting a match and, no, you can’t really customize them but you can set their skill level. Now the CPMA mod gives you a bunch of new options to tweak and I think many of the new options are provided to increase the performance, frame rate, and stuff like that for serious competitive play. But if you’re like me, you can also tweak things because you just like the way it looks. CPMA allows you to adjust your character model’s color, you can decide how names are displayed, you can change the announcer voice to a female variant, there’s different HUD options, and there’s even additional visual options. Unfortunately, all of the enemy bots are always colored green and they all look the same no matter what character model you choose and you can’t change this. If you can, I haven’t figured it out. I assume the green is to make them stand out more because they’re really meant for practice. This mod is clearly focused on the competitive aspect of the game, and in some ways the mod strips out the charm and soul of what makes this a Quake game. By that I mean aesthetics. But I can understand why. To be good, you need to aim accurately and know how to how to navigate the maps. Visibility and movement, two things the CPMA mod really focuses on.

The standard bot AI, or at least what’s on offer in Spearmint, is actually quite good but borders on cheap the higher the bot skill level. They’re reaction times can become quite ridiculous to a casual player like me. Some say practicing against bots is never efficient, others say it’s good practice, but if you’re not going to play the multiplayer then who cares? Regardless, bots always have exploits and weaknesses and I notice them fall off ledges a lot in maps with a lot of jump pads and platforms. But, overall, they get the job done and make for competent allies and foes. The CPMA mod allows you to raise the bot skill level way past the normal levels. There’s only a handful of vanilla skill levels but CPMA allows you to raise the level to one hundred. The bots seem to jump around a lot more in this mod which I believe does represent how real players move around. There’s a lot of jumping, flying through the air, and circle strafing. It can be very intense.

If you’ve played Doom or the original Quake, you’ll feel right at home. Quake III is a fast-paced, action packed shooter and movement is very important here. You can run, jump, and crouch, all normal shit for a game like this but to actually excel at the game you’ll need to master strafing, speed, and air control. You’ll need to memorize map layouts and learn how to perform rocket-jumps and strafe-jumps. I don’t mean just knowing how to do them, I mean being able to do them, like a reflex, to give yourself an advantage during combat. Any shmuck can fire a rocket at their feet, while in mid-air, to give themselves a boost but actually using this move to access hard-to-reach areas and rapidly navigate around the map, like your the Flash, is the key to fully mastering the game, or at least to compete against series veterans from the videos I’ve seen. This game developed a crazy competitive multiplayer scene and people still compete to this day. Apparently, the CPMA mod has become the standard competitive mod for Quake III. The mod makes several noticeable changes like you don’t bob up and down when you move, you’re weapons don’t sway but that can be enabled, and I think movement speed was altered. For example, swimming underwater feels much faster here. I believe the mod makes changes to the actual physics of the game which you many notice immediately if you’ve played the original game religiously. The mod also allows you to view your stats at the end of a match like weapon accuracy, hits, kills, deaths, suicide, and even efficiency.

Quake III does not really include a story. Instead, if you play through the single player mode, you’ll battle through seven tiers. All of the tiers consist of typical deathmatch matches against bots. Each tier is introduced by a brief cut scene but there’s no real narrative or characters to care about. The Team Arena expansion doesn’t even include tiers. The single player has you going from map to map competing against bots in the new game modes. You can earn medals during a match for specific achievements like kill streaks or kill streaks with specific weapons, not getting killed at all, and even accuracy. The real meat of the game is the multiplayer but you can set up Skirmishes against bots. Before starting the match you can select the game type, how many players or bots, who is on what team if it’s a team-based game type, the time limit, goal limits, all typical stuff for a multiplayer game. The base game includes what would now be considered very basic game types. There’s Free for All which is just deathmatch. You’ve also got Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Tournament. In Team Deathmatch the goal is for your team to score more kills than the opposing team. In Capture the Flag you want to bring the enemy team’s flag back to your base to score a point. The team with the highest score at the end, wins. Tournament is like a duel where you face off against one opponent at a time. Other players or bots will spectate while they wait their turn to face the winner. If you lose, you’re out. In addition to these, Team Arena includes all new team-based game types. One Flag Capture the Flag involves two teams competing for one flag located at the center of the map. You need to bring it to the enemy team’s base to score a point. Overload requires you to destroy the enemy team’s Skull Obelisk to score a point. The Skull will slowly regenerate over time when not being attacked. Harvester is my favorite new game type. The objective here is to kill enemies to generate skulls in the center of the map. You then need to collect the enemy-colored skulls and bring them to the enemy base to score points. How many skulls your carrying determines how many points you will score.

The CPMA mod includes several new game types. HoonyMode, which I believe is named after the creator, is loosely based on tennis. During the warm-up you choose a spawn point and if you don’t, one will be randomly generated for you. Apparently some spawn points give players advantages and others are less desirable. And the scoring system works just like tennis. I’ll be honest, it’s not my favorite mode, and it’s a one vs one match so it’s basically a duel with a tennis scoring system. Freeze Tag is probably my favorite game type introduced here. The goal is to freeze every player on the other team. You don’t kill them, they’re actually frozen. If you’re frozen you can spectate the match until you’re defrosted. To defrost a team mate you must stand close to him and move around a little for a brief time. Another new game type is Capture Strike which is a variant of Capture the Flag. Teams take turns on offense and defense, which means the match plays out in rounds, and you score a point by capturing the flag and bringing it back your base if you’re on offense. But the round will end if the defense completely annihilates the other team because if you die, you don’t respawn until the next round. The final game type I was able to play is Not Team Fortress. I had no idea what was going on at first, maybe because I never could get into Team Fortress, but it’s definitely a variant of Capture the Flag and I learned that players are separated into four classes which needs to be customized by the server administrator. I could not play the Clan Arena game type because the mod doesn’t come with maps for it apparently. From what I understand it’s a team-based mode where you start with every weapon and must kill every player on the opposing team. Evidently, this game type pays homage to the Rocket Arena mod.

The arsenal in Quake III is of your typical Quake variety. You always start with a machinegun and gauntlet. The gauntlet is a melee weapon. You can also acquire a shotgun, plasmagun, grenade launcher, rocket launcher, lightning gun, railgun, and the BFG 10K. My favorite weapons are the plasmagun and railgun. I just love the way the plasmagun feels and the railgun can kill enemies instantly if they’re not wearing armor. It also fires straight so you really need to have good aim at high speeds. The Team Arena expansion adds the chain gun, nailgun, and proximity launcher. All of the weapons definitely feel familiar but they have their moments and none of them seem useless. The BFG 10K, rocket launcher, and railgun are easily the deadliest weapons in the game and I think if you can master the use of these, you can really decimate the competition.

Quake III: Arena comes with a variety of maps and I actually enjoy a good majority of them. The base maps are small and confined so matches can be very hectic and intense. The maps introduced in Team Arena are much larger to support the new game types, and, honestly, I don’t really care for most of them. I found myself running around looking for enemies and objectives more than actually engaging in combat. Many of the maps have a sci-fi feel, some even resemble locations from the Doom series. The maps are littered with skull structures, demonic imagery, fire and lava, tech areas, and some maps are set in what looks like outer space. Now when it comes to the CPMA maps, there is no universal theme, but they are all really well designed. Now whether it’s vanilla or CPMA maps, there’s no shortage of jump pads, ramps, traps, portals that warp you to different areas of the map, health, armor, and weapon pickups, and even powerups that last for a limited time. If you die with a powerup active, you’ll drop it. The Haste, or Boost, powerup increases your movement and firing speeds. Regeneration will enable your health to regenerate until it hits two hundred points. The Battle Suit makes it impossible for you to be harmed by splash damage. Invisibility is obvious and the Quad Damage is a classic that amplifies your weapon damage, perfect for turning enemies into gibs with one shot. You can also collect items that you can hold onto and use whenever you want like the Personal Teleporter and Medkit. The Teleporter will send you to a random spawn point and the Medkit restores your health. Now Team Arena adds a whole new roster of powerups, split into two categories – powerups and team powerups, otherwise known as Runes. The regular powerups include the Kamikaze which kills the player and damages everyone in the blast radius and the invulnerability shield which will immobilize you but makes you immune to damage and it will also reflect projectiles. Runes are always placed around your base, and once acquired, they last until you die. Scout doubles your movement and firing speeds. The Doubler doubles the amount of damage you can do. Guard increases your health and armor to two hundred points and it also provides you with health regeneration. Finally, there’s the Ammo-Regen rune which regenerates your ammunition.

The visuals definitely look dated but the map layouts, architecture, and texture work are well done. The game looks fantastic in widescreen, especially with the correct HUD and aspect ratio but even so there’s plenty of little things that still hold up or are still entertaining. Turning enemies into gibs is fun, the death animations are satisfying, and Quake III includes muzzle flashes. For some reason, they were missing in Quake II but they’re present in Quake III and just make the combat ever so satisfying. The default HUD in general seems pretty large, or at least the text and numbers, and the Team Arena HUD is just obnoxiously big in my opinion. The CPMA mod includes a new HUD and you can even toggle aspects of it on and off, and while it, too, is a bit on the large side, it is a bit more pleasing on the eyes. On the audio side, the weapons sound powerful, characters rarely speak but occasionally shout things during gameplay in addition to basic grunts and moans. Team Arena includes a bit more dialogue but the only voice work you’ll hear often is the announcer who normally congratulates you when you earn a medal, among other minor things. As for the music, I know there’s some rock and electronic tracks but nothing really stood out to me. At least not like the Quake II soundtrack did. On the technical side, the game ran fine using both Spearmint and ioquake3. I experienced no frame rate dips, crashes, or serious glitches of any kind.

Quake III is a multiplayer game, plain and simple. It’s a multiplayer game with a very competitive multiplayer scene. However, it does offer a decent single player thanks to competent bots but who cares about that, right? I do. I’ll admit, I had fun with Quake III but I didn’t think Team Arena was all that great. The new game types were okay but I didn’t really care for the new maps. I preferred the tight confined maps found in the base game. As for the CPMA mod, I think I’m just indifferent towards it. I’m not going to say it’s bad because it’s not but I didn’t love it. And that’s probably because I played against bots. The mod is clearly designed for competitive multiplayer and that’s it. It lacks the Quake charm and soul in favor of emphasizing the gameplay mechanics. That makes sense if you’re really into it for the competitive aspects but I’m not, and it just didn’t hold my interest for long. I was mainly excited to see the changes to the bot AI and they’re definitely tougher but I also felt like I was playing through some kind of Quake III simulation which is not far from the truth.

Quake III is basically a multiplayer-focused game that borrows all of the core gameplay mechanics from previous id Software shooters. Running, jumping, strafing, and fast-paced combat. Ultimately, I would recommend it if you enjoy all that. People do still play this and there’s some great fun to be had here. It’s hard not to compare Quake III to the original Unreal Tournament because they were competing with each other since they released around the same time. As much as I love id Software and their games, in this case, I prefer Unreal Tournament and would recommend it over Quake III if I had to pick just one. But Quake III is still an excellent shooter and they just don’t make them like this anymore.

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