Seemingly, when the PS3 gets a cross-platform port of a PC title, as was the case with The Orange Box, it’s the inferior version. With Valve’s classic and this new squad-based FPS, the PS3 ports were handled by a third party, and although we have great respect for (the former) Z-Axis, Underground Development, they’ve come up short here with what we presume was a fairly steep learning curve. So, instead of focusing development time on creating a Campaign mode and a Training section, as there are in the 360 version, Underground had to build the network code, party system and matchmaking, all things that the 360 does out of the box, meaning that right from the menu screen PS3 owners are losing out on key features.
But it doesn’t stop there, once into the game (which we’ll come too soon, promise) it’s a distinctly flat looking experience, with none of the anti-aliasing and depth-of-field effects seen on the same game on Microsoft’s console. Even the textures suffer here, and some of the maps seem to be missing a few minor details; there’s also some cruel slowdown throughout the action not seen elsewhere. However, that doesn’t make the PS3 version a complete washout – despite the lengthy install time and the problems mentioned above, Quake Wars is actually an alright game beneath the surface, but you’re really going to have look past the visuals and the somewhat confusing controls to find it. So, let’s get in there.
On the most basic level, Quake Wars is a team-based shooter, much like Battlefield 2: Modern Combat a couple of years ago. Choosing between humans and the Strogg, which determines the weapons and vehicles available, you’re thrown into one of a dozen levels which all have their own gameplay rules and mechanics, and vary widely enough that you’ll soon find your favourite. They’re essentially missions with smaller mini-tasks within, but most involve you infiltrating the enemy base (or indeed, defending it) capturing areas along the way, (literally) building bridges and planting bombs. We’ve seen it all before but the action flows quickly and, assuming your team knows what they’re doing, it’s all rather exciting. Sadly, the lack of a training mission and clear direction on the HUD means that most online players are happy enough to run about shooting the enemy and not progressing the objectives, which can be frustrating.
The weapons, a key to any FPS, are lightweight and difficult to use, although frequent play will improve your skills alongside subtle level-ups to your characters, but the vehicles are a joy (and the PS3 version has an exclusive in-vehicle view mode) and played right can easily change the tide of a battle. It’s a shame that it’s never really clear what your next objective should be though, because during our playtest we actually had more luck with the missions playing single player with bots than with real humans, although we assume that over time the hardcore players will remain and the experience will be improved for those willing to stick with the game. Engineers can use the terrain to build turrents and bridges which provides some key moments of strategy but if your soldiers aren’t defending you whilst you’re trying to construct there’s very little point.
It’s hard to see who’s at fault here – the PS3 version desperately needed the training mode, in our opinion, and thus perhaps should have been delayed whilst it was implemented. Without it, it’s something of a free-for-all with a distinct lack of focus and some baffling moments of game design: the constantly repeating announcer spouting his mantra on what you’re supposed to do next is ridiculous, surely an arrow on your map would have been fine in marking the next objective – something Battlefield Bad Company excels at. We’re disappointed, because Quake Wars could have been a great FPS, but it’s one marred with visual issues, some badly realised mechanics and crucial missing menu options that would have gone some way to fixing the issues people clearly seem to be having online. By all means rent the game, or play the demo on PSN, but a purchase would be for the hardcore FPS fans only.