Perception of time is a funny old thing. Find yourself in a car accident, for example, and an enormous dump of adrenaline into your system will cause the world to slow down. You might notice a similar effect after a sustained session on Quake Arena Arcade - switch off the console and glance, blinking, out of the window, and you'll wonder why the people outside aren't sprinting around the place and bunnyhopping over the street furniture.
It's entirely likely that Quake Arena Arcade will be the fastest deathmatch you'll ever play. Combatants and ordnance fly around the arenas and, like fellow specialised murder-machine the shark, if you stop moving, you're dead. That's not to say there aren't any tactics involved, but every call must be made in a split-second - a speculative rocket through a doorway or a lunge for the red armour as you barrel through the map is about as ponderous as this is likely to get.
Anyone familiar with Quake III, the game at the core of this XBLA refresh, will recognise it as the quintessential deathmatch experience, built by the guys who initially popularised the concept. It's absolutely rammed with beautifully crafted arenas and is as finely balanced as an Olympic gymnast. The conversion from mouse and keyboard to the trusty twin-sticks is handled well, and while PC veterans might initially feel like they're playing with boxing gloves on, it doesn't take long for the old timing to return. The only weapon we genuinely struggled with was the hyper-precise railgun - while there are some players who could part your hair with it, our efforts looked more like a Romford laser disco.
Quake Arena Arcade is by no means complicated, but its purity is absolutely an asset.
If you want to boil online multiplayer down to the business of putting a rocket in another person's mush, you won't find a game more exhilarating. There is single-player, but it's just an AI facsimile of the Xbox Live experience - excellent for practice, but not as unpredictable as the real deal. Off the multiplayer battlefield, players expecting persistent rewards and coherency between matches are going to be disappointed - in Quake you're only ever as good as your last session.
Like all retro remakes, Quake Arena Arcade is a throwback, but it remains relevant today because you still won't find a greater test of your reaction times and ability to think on your feet. You may think you're good at online deathmatch, but until you've tested yourself on Quake, you'll never truly be sure.
Deathmatch in pure, concentrated form
- Supremely fast
- Chock-full of maps
- Excellent weaponry
- Railgun is hugely tricky
- No persistence