Familiar Fun, No Surprises

SAN FRANCISCO (04/19/2000) - Quake III ArenaBy now, action games in which you careen through hallways blasting the bejeezus out of anything that moves are familiar enough so that Mac players are in danger of finding the whole proposition a bore. The folks at id Software Inc.

-creators of legendary action titles such as Wolfenstein 3-D and the Doom and Quake series-undoubtedly hope their latest release, Quake III Arena (distributed for the Mac by Activision Inc.), will provide enough heart-pumping action, glorious graphics, and compelling level design to mask the fact that the game is mostly more of the same old thing.

Those who live for Deathmatch play, however, are likely to welcome this same old thing. In the latest iteration of Quake, id has produced some great Deathmatch maps complete with rounded surfaces, dramatic lighting, fog, and-replacing the elevators of old-jump pads that propel you from level to level. However, the game lacks extensive cooperative play. Although Quake III includes the team game Capture the Flag (with a scant four maps), it doesn't offer the innovative team play found in Unreal Tournament's Domination and Assault games.

As with Unreal Tournament, Quake III's single-player game is really a series of training missions where you face computer-controlled "bots." Going head to head with these critters, you can make your way through the game's 26 maps before challenging flesh-and-blood opponents on a LAN or the Internet. Single-player Quake III also gives you an opportunity to brush up on your skills. Bots are designed to emulate human players, dashing and leaping about in unpredictable ways. The degree to which they imitate their human counterparts depends on the skill level you choose. Only the newest players will find the first two levels challenging, while the fifth level, Nightmare, features inhumanly skilled bots-they never miss.

When playing against the computer, you can choose either Skirmish mode-where you can select any map, populate it with opponents, and determine the "frag" (kill) or time limit necessary to win the skirmish-or Tournament mode, in which you fight your way through a series of maps to reach the seventh tier, where you face Xaero, the ultimate bot. id has done a nice job of making the game playable over the Internet, even with a dial-up connection. Via a 56-Kbps connection, we experienced only occasional lags even with most of the game's graphic goodies switched on.

Macworld's Buying Advice Quake III Arena breaks no new ground, but it's a great-looking game that offers terrific Deathmatch play against both bots and human adversaries. And isn't that what Quake is all about?

RATING: 4.0 mice

PROS: Great graphics; responsive Internet play.

CONS: Limited cooperative play.

COMPANY: Activision (310/255-2000, http://www.activision.com).

LIST PRICE: $50.

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