Let me start off by saying that I did not spend too much time in the 90s playing Quake, when it was one of the dominant forces in the first person shooter market. It’s not because I didn’t like it, but I only started playing as a result of friends at a LAN, and had my behind handed to me at every turn. Venturing onto the global stage shortly after, things didn’t improve much, and my only achievement was finding new ways to die or be killed by opponents. Fast-forwarding almost 20 years to id Software’s return of the Quake franchise, Quake Champions has brought back feelings of nostalgia, all the while still having it handed to me on a global scale.
As was the norm on previous versions, Quake Champions is a frantic approach at a shooter game, providing ample excitement and nerve-wracking moments. Despite my continuous respawns, which may have annoyed my teammates, the game is still impressively fun. And while the graphics and other gaming elements have been upgraded substantially, it still plays as one of the most smoothest FPS titles out there. This has always been key to the game’s appeal, and it has lived up to that expectation once again.
Quake Champions takes you on a rollercoaster ride from near depression, thanks largely in part to my lack of skills, to feelings of euphoria when you perform amazing stunt kills in mid-air, with a voice of approval boosting your ego stating how good a move you just pulled off. You wouldn’t expect anything less from a Quake game. It’s moments like these that keep drawing you back for more punishment. And while I thought I was alone in my ongoing death scenes, it seems to be the norm. Even if you’re an expert, there’s always someone out there willing to take you on.
Co-developed by id Software and Saber Interactive, Quake Champions beta was made up of three maps with three different modes; the standard deathmatch, team deathmatch, and a new mode, Duel. While Quake has almost always been better known for its multiplayer approach, id Software’s take on multiplayer on their DOOM reboot left many fans shortchanged, citing a lack of substance and style. I wasn’t surprised that while there may have been great hype for the game, many fans and expert gamers had the scepticism. And the initial feelings after starting the game don’t do much to change that opinion, at least from my end. It takes some time getting used to the game once again because of its sheer pace, so you’re left running around in circles trying to get to grips with all of it, while at every turn been taking to the cleaners. Given its Beta tag, there aren’t all that many characters, levels, and weapons to choose from, which also makes it feel very boxed in. But we can ignore this latter statement, as it is, in fact, a beta and we shouldn’t expect much more than a sighter here.
What’s interesting about the characters, however, is that they vary somewhat. While most of those older arcade games had their generic set of four characters, which were supposed to deliver different styles, but were mere cosmetic shells of each other, characters from Quake Champions have varying attributes and skills for each. Some are slow, but with more health, while others are a lot faster but more easily killed as a result. Each character also has their own special abilities that grant them a temporary advantage over an opponent, such as shield protection or invisibility. In the same vein, weapons also vary substantially. Lighter weapons require more shots to kill an opponent, but are easier to control and aim your crosshairs, while the so-called bigger guns have a much more devastating end result with less accuracy and slower reloads. Each of the guns has a unique take on superfluous such as reloading style, barrel rotations, etc. But as any gamer would tell you, all those fine details add up to the overall appeal.
The three maps offer good insight into what to expect in terms of the geometry and structure, along with power-ups and hidden weapons. They do, however, lack the polished look and ambient feel. I appreciated the overall design and will expect the final product to deliver a lot more in this regard. So I will withhold my judgment on this for now.
With the recent success of Overwatch and the ongoing base for Team Fortress 2, I feel that Quake Champions wants to play in the same space. The major difference is that it doesn’t have the same level of character backstory and uniqueness, which makes it a lot harder to compete. In fact, I wouldn’t say that choosing any one character in Quake Champions will gain you any significant advantage over another, and nor does it do enough in this regard to build a team of suitably complimentary characters to make it significant.
Another interesting aspect to Quake Champions is its proposed free-to-play model. This in itself poses a fairly lengthy list of unknowns such as what will players be paying for? Simple cosmetics, unique characters, or additional weapons that make it almost impossible to compete? There are a lot of lessons to learn from games that have failed in previous years offering such promises of an F2P title, while others like DotA 2 continue to thrive. As it has been shown, players are willing and happy to spend real world money for cosmetics in-game, but games tend to lose players when the payment model is aimed at giving certain players an advantage over those not willing, or unable, to spend in-game.
Overall, Quake Champions beta was a fun and intensely crazy kill fest. I enjoyed my brief time during the closed beta period, of which there’ll be more. There’s still a lot of work to be done overall, with many still waiting for the final approach on some of the finer details on the game.