Cory Ker on
November 16, 2000
Review: Keyboard?! I don't need no stinking keyboard!
I never intended to own this game. I really didn't. I went out to my local EB last week, expecting to grab up a copy of Shenmue. I just figured they'd lost my pre-order or something, and forgot to call me to inform me Yu Suzuki's opus was in. Hell, the game had been out for a couple of days now, surely that must've been the reason.
So on that fated Thursday afternoon, I quickly made my way to the mall, adrenaline pumping with the realization that I would be playing Shenmue within the hour. I crashed through the doors, and bounded to the Dreamcast rack in one fell swoop. I looked at the games. I looked again. Then again. And um, one more time. I noticed something was sorely missing. Shenmue was nowhere to be found. So I looked again. And about, 17 more times. Finally, I had an epiphany: Shenmue was too great to be put on the rack next to this filth; they must just be keeping behind the counter.
So I made my way to the counter, a swagger in my step. I boldly pronounced, "I'd like my Shenmue, please."
To which the attendant replied, "Sorry, it's not in till next Tuesday or so. They still have to translate the manual into French."
It all came soaring back - The reason why I get all games a week or so later than the rest of you lucky space cowboys and cowgirls. Y'see, I live all tucked away down there in the Great White North of Canada. And as many of you are aware, this is a bilingual country. Therefore, we don't get the games until the manual can be read by all. Sucky.
I sadly ventured back to the Dreamcast rack. This cash was burning a hole in my pocket, and I needed to unload it, and fast. I glanced at a few games, and eventually my wandering eye settled on the much-hyped Quake III Arena. I grabbed that sucka up, and made a mad dash for the exit.
I finally got home, and practically threw the damn GD-ROM into the Dreamcast, and let me tell you, this is a damn fine game. Really. No foolin'.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Quake line of games, it's considered one of the best FPS' (First-Person-Shooters) on the market. And Quake III Arena is the most recent in the series, first out on the PC, and now on the Dreamcast. This game is a lot more killing-oriented, as opposed to the more story-oriented shooters such as GoldenEye. Don't make the mistake or thinking this is Perfect Dark, think more along the lines of a first person Power Stone. With a little more emphasis on guns.
The big hook to this game is definitely the multiplayer. Four-player split screen is a joy to play, and there's hardly a drop in frame-rate. The graphics do tend to suffer a little when you're in multiplayer mode, but that's to be expected, I'm afraid. There's plenty of maps in which you can get your frag on, as well as loads of characters to pick from. And with weapons ranging from rocket launchers, to plasma guns, to the infamous railgun, your range of choices truly do run the gamut.
The graphics are really quite fantabulous, you've gotta see this game running. It literally looks as good as on most PCs (save those ultra high-end behemoths), and moves along at a rock solid 30 frames-per-second. Though most Dreamcast games run at 60 fps, you really can't notice a difference, as long as it's steady. Which this is. The models are detailed, the environments dark and macabre, and everything is clean, pretty (well, as pretty as a blood-splattered skeleton can be), and effectively sets the mood without any hindrance to the gameplay. This is probably the best-looking PC port I've seen in a while.
A huge source of controversy on this game is definitely the control; everyone has been badgered into believing that the keyboard and mouse is a necessity. To put it bluntly, you don't need it. No joke. The Dreampad (though it coulda used two more face buttons) can be fantastic, if well implemented. You move left/right/forward/back with, respectively, X/B/Y/A. The triggers are used for jumping and shooting, and the D-Pad for weapon recycling. The stick, assumedly, plays the role of the mouse, which is used to look around. And of course, these controls are fully customizable to your preferences.
So there you go; a quick QIIIA control primer. And while the keyboard/mouse combination is obviously better, as this is how it was meant to be played, the controller does a damn fine job. And if you're looking to get better, just play with the railgun (this gun is extremely potent, but requires bang-on accuracy) for a while. If you can get proficient with that, every other gun will follow suit.
While all the buzz is on multiplayer; the single-player mode is surprisingly fun. It goes like this - You enter an arena with 1-to-3 computer-controlled opponents, and you try to be the first person the hit the frag limit. It's just that simple. After you win three or four times, you will encounter a boss. Beat him (or her) and you advance upwards to the next tier of levels.
While a single-player mode this fun was a definite surprise, there are some, well, oddities with it. The most rampant is the enemy AI. Occasionally they'll be so smart you'll swear you're playing Thresh (World Quake Champion) over the net by accident, and then sometimes they'll literally just walk in circles, letting you frag the hell out of them. It's a wildly fluctuating ride, and you'll end up pretty confused. And it kind of left me feeling somewhat dirty, chasing after the baddies and railing them is one thing, but shooting a static enemy in a rain of blood is frankly more disturbing than I'd like. Hey, whaddya know, videogames haven't de-sensitized me.
You probably won't notice the sound, as your mind has a lot of action to deal with without thinking about audible stimuli. And this is a real shame, as the sound can be pretty good. The sound effects are about what you'd expect, splat, and boom, whatever. But there is some quality tunes in this game, like some pounding house beats, and some crazy 80's-esque guitar shredding. Which, by the way, seems to have become a staple for Dreamcast games. Sega just can't forget the 80's.
Simply the fact that you can play online is a boon for replay, and the surprisingly immersive single-player mode has a lot to offer. In addition, you can compete in the many modes such Capture the Flag, Team Modes, and Tournaments. Even though it's a relatively simple concept, its execution is delicious, and you'll be playing this one for a hell of a long time.
As if this isn't enough, give the boys at Raster a cookie for the brand-new interface - it's completely anti-PC. It's now fully console friendly, and has a quality look to it as well.
I guess you've all noticed a seemingly glaring omission - how is the online play? Well, I'd like to tell you, but I can't. I haven't done it. This is simply because I'm in Canada (wow, it sounds pretty sucky to be a gamer up here, eh?), and SegaNet hasn't put their network up yet. That, and the fact that I can't use my regular ISP because I'm one of those cable folk, and unfortunately the broadband adaptor isn't out yet. And I also scoured the net for a free ISP that would work with Dreamcast, be available for the Mac OS, and also in Canada. Needless to say, I've been banished to the depths of local games.
But keep this is mind - I love this game even without the benefits of online play, even without the use of a mouse and keyboard. It's a fantastic game as is, and online is just gravy. I look forward to a day when I can actually play it online, but I don't have time to complain - I'm too busy having fun. You should be too.