That's a shame, because community is one of the essential ingredients of the Quake Arena experience. While the original PC game did away with the Lovecraftian single-player story of id's first Quake, this XBLA port introduces a fairly sorry campaign for the solitary player. Designed as a series of deathmatch encounters with the various 'personalities' of the Quake world, it's dry and often tiresome.
Quake Arena is at its best in a level stuffed with 16 players, not skulking in the shadows for a one-on-one face-off. So the decision to include so many two-player matches was a poor one, and in the more sizeable levels, inching your way to the requisite 10 kills can be tortuous, even if you are given an hour – yes, an hour – to do so. A score attack layer is added to the single-player campaign, offering points multipliers not only for the number of kills but the manner in which they were achieved, while multiplayer matches are divided into plain and ranked varieties.
One area in which Quake Arena Arcade cannot compete with its forebear is servicing the modding community. A great deal of Quake III Arena's ongoing appeal lay in the work of the amateur modders who twisted the game's aesthetic and appeal through their skins and designs. This XBLA release can hardly do the same – a Forge-style map creator is probably to much to hope for in a download game – so the developer seeks to provide value by way of 33 classic maps and a further 12 Xbox 360-exclusive ones.
Despite the number of maps on offer, 1200 Microsoft Points (£10.20 / €14.40) is too high a price for what has become, sadly, a niche title. With the ad-supported Quake Live freely available for people to play in their browsers (and, crucially for many, with mouse control), Quake Arena Arcade needed to bring some hefty extras to the table to justify its price tag. In reality, there are few tangible benefits aside from a weak campaign and Xbox Live's strong online infrastructure.
The code firing the game is nippy and impressive, with very little lag when you do finally manage to get a 16-player game up and running. But without the support of the community, Quake Arena Arcade is destined to be demoted from a vibrant competitive playpen to something of a museum piece.
These brown corridors, devoid of the kinetic excitement of sprinting avatars, bouncing grenades and shotgun shells, offer little more than an ugly, outdated ghost town. The truth is far more interesting and relevant than that, but unless more people are willing to get involved, those newcomers who do teleport into id's classic will wonder what all the fuss was about.
7 / 10