With QuakeCon 2016 going strong at the time of this writing, I've been thinking about the game that introduced me to the event's namesake series and taught me the true power of the FPS bunnyhop. And while just about every aspect of Quake 3 Arena deserves praise, from the weapon set to the map designs to the marriage of complex strategy and twitch reflexes that defines high-level Q3A play, I'd like to give a little shout-out to this arena shooter's absolutely essential announcer.
He doesn't even have that much to say, in terms of raw word count; there's a blindingly brief tutorial, an announcement for each distinct character model, and tension-amplifying status updates like "Three frags left" to let you know that it's time to kick things into gear. It's not just that he speaks in a low tone, like so many disembodied video game voices - his speech has been highly modulated, then compressed, creating a distinct, crystallized chunk of 1999-era voice recording that not even Quake Live's redone VO could replicate. It almost sounds more detached than demonic, but his baritone declarations add a certain gravitas to all the chaotic deathmatch action. He's just a few degrees off from Mortal Kombat's Shao Kahn, minus any villainous condescension that comes with being the final boss.
Skip to around the 1:40 mark in the above video, and you'll get the announcer's full rundown of the cast (giving you the perfect opportunity to appreciate their creative character models, as well). Bask in the way the announcer says names like "Phobos" and "Orbb" as if they're bubbling up from deep inside his gut. Revel in how his deadpan delivery of such ridiculous names as "Tank Jr.", "Sorlag", and (my personal favorite) "Bitterman" make them sound like fitting contestants in a gladiatorial hierarchy of rocket-launcher-toting killing machines. And of course, the biggest payoff to scoring a melee kill with your Gauntlet sawblade is the announcer bellowing "Hu-mili-a-tion!" so that all may know of your face-carving skills.
Sure, the Unreal Tournament announcer gets all the glory these days - partially due to the fact that his lines were ripped verbatim for the original Dota, giving his excited exclamations some notoriety beyond the FPS playerbase. But Quake 3 Arena's announcer and his almost burp-like inflection will always hold a special place in my heart. And if it weren't for his voice being modulated even further, we'd never have the iconic utterance that is "Quad Damage" (a sound bite that made a glorious comeback in the new Doom). Really, all this is to say: there will never be a video game voice actor who delivers "Bitterman" better than Quake 3 Arena's announcer.
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