Quake Live is either a testament to the longevity of Quake’s DM mode or to how powerful new computers are when you can run a real game as a web browser plugin. Quake Live probably offers the least friction to just go and frag random people on the net. And not only on Windows, the game also runs on a Mac (and Linux!), which is totally mindblowing. This should be my go-to instant FPS deathmatch game, but it just isn’t.
The problem is, I guess, that it’s only fun if you’re masochistic or really skilled. The game is really spartan, its deathmatch is distilled to its pure essence. And the game is hard, really hard. It’s a constant fight to rack up any kills and at least my K/D ratio is quite low even in skill matched games. I wasn’t that competitive when Quake DM was the most popular thing a long, long time ago so it’s not really that surprising. I never really got into that whole graphics setting and key-binding tweaking. I just can’t play with the ascetic graphic settings the pros play with. That’s not playing anymore, that’s working.
The Web interface that is used for everything else except the actual game play reminds me in a really bad way of those EA Sports games that decided building the game’s UI on a certain Microsoft Internet Explorer version was really cool move1. Sure, we have buried ActiveX and developed cross-platform ways to offer dynamic webpages since those hellish days.
Sure, there is the nostalgia factor. This is the grand-daddy of FPS games, the original deathmatch2. It’s the same experience as over a decade ago, but how your memory remembers it. I did try to play the original Quake at a LAN some time ago and, man, let’s just say that the graphics haven’t aged well. It looked nothing I remember it looking like. Because, as I’ve said couple of times already, good games aren’t really about graphics. The final experience is assembled in your brain, anyway. A good game leaves your imagination to fill up spots, making the experience more personal. Or maybe it just looked like crap because I didn’t have a 3Dfx Voodoo card.
On the other hand, this game doesn’t have much over UT2k4, for example. Except that it’s free and runs in a browser. If you just feel like blowing some steam off, Quake Live is excellent. For getting your ass kicked by your friends, there’s really nothing like Unreal Tournament 2004.