The concept was clever. I admired Id's boldness in making a multiplayer-only game. Previous games in the Quake series had been criticised for their bland single-player experience, and it was brave of Id to damn the torpedoes and put their sterling silver in one basket. Especially here in the UK, where we lagged behind the Americans by a couple of years; broadband has only recently become the mainstream.
It was doubly bold of Id to ignore the obvious gap in the market for a single-player Quake III, given that Quake II had sold well and that the obvious competition - Unreal - was also going the multiplayer-only route. So, three cheers to Id for being bold. It worked, too. Quake III was a substantial hit that spawned a little galaxy of spin-offs. It appealed to me as much as black pudding, but I admired it nonetheless.
But what about the game itself? Quake III is very attractive. It follows the same visual path as Quake II, in that it is colourful and cartoonish. There was a lot of hype at the time about curved arches and glowing lights etc, and although it is not the technical breakthrough of its predecessors, the visual style hasn't really dated today.
The intro movie was short but fantastic. If only the Doom film had been done in the same style.
I can think of few more unpleasant things than teenagers. I certainly don't want to spend time playing computer games with them. With this in mind I am uninterested in Quake III's multiplayer game. I was similarly uninterested in Unreal: Tournament as a multiplayer title, but I enjoyed it immensely because it looked fantastic and the computer opponents were enjoyable. They ranged from stupid cannon fodder to absolute fiends, but they seemed alive. Sometimes I felt that I could even put down my weapon and negotiate with them. The sniper rifle was wonderful. I loved to shoot off their heads.
Quake III reminded me of another multiplayer-only title, X-Wing Vs TIE Fighter. In the latter game the AI was duff, in that it was entirely robotic. The enemy spacecraft were uniformly perfect shots and were only there to fill out the numbers. They did not miss. They could, superhumanly, tell where you were pointing your crosshairs and where you were going. They could track you and lead and nail you like the fire control software in an F-14 jet fighter. Six targets at once, from a range of two hundred miles. I felt as if I was the navigator of a Russian bomber, contemplating the incoming missiles, unable to dodge or bail out. It was not pleasant.
Quake III is not nearly as bad as all that, but the AI is nonetheless too obviously computerised, in the sense that it is a perfect shot that has been degraded with some clever code. It quickly becomes impossible to suspend disbelief and imagine that you are playing against another person. This can be alleviated by lowering the difficulty level, but that smacks of failure.
Some people will argue that I am simply a very poor gamesplayer, and that I am old and have lost my touch. This is the kind of argument a teenager might use, and it is one of the reasons why I have come to detest teenagers. It is a conservative argument. An argument that stems from a desire not to lose face in front of one's peers by admitting weakness. It is the kind of argument that ends up with a drunken child trying to walk along a wall, and falling off and breaking his neck.
Unreal: Tournament is the more complex game; there are far more modes of play and you can customise the environment and the effects that weapons have upon it. I assume that there are mods and patches to allow this in Quake III as well, but by 1999 I had begun to grow past the age of caring and I care less in 2006.
The Bottom Line
Most reviews compared Quake III with Unreal: Tournament, and so did mine. There were partisans on both sides, all of seven years ago. The general consensus amongst teenage gamesplayers who I detest was that Quake III was a manly game for manly men, whereas Unreal: Tournament was a limp-wristed game for men who were not manly.
Nonetheless I prefer the latter game. Quake III is more obviously a multi-player engine with bare support for single-play, whereas Unreal: Tournament had more thought put into the single-player experience. Quake III might well be the bee's knees as a multiplayer game. As a single-player game I quickly became bored with it.