Quake Champions Preview

Since the 90s, Quake has been known as one of the most hardcore shooters in e-sports. Id Software's Quake 3 Arena revolutionized both the genre and competitive gaming scene with one swift twitch of the mouse. It was considered a masterpiece with precise controls, fluid combat, and a very dedicated fan base. While it's extremely technical it's also a bundle of fun, especially if you're playing with your friends. Quake Champions has, in theory, just about everything that made the aforementioned title so special.

I believe that it makes the most sense to put a small disclaimer at the start of the review: this game has a very steep learning curve. If you have not played the original Quake titles or similar shooter games, it is very likely that you will be dominated if you play online with other people. On the bright side, you have the option to go into a private game with friends and create your own rules as needed. If you're looking for a single player campaign, unfortunately, there is nothing to be found in that area.

For those who have never played a Quake game before, or more specifically an Arena Shooter, it is a fast paced first-person shooter game with the goal being to score the appropriate number of frags before your opponents. You have the machine gun, shotgun, and nail gun weapons available to choose from during spawn, as well as a selectable melee weapon if needed. The machine gun is automatic and fires a spread of bullets which is great for hitting distant targets with consistent damage output, the shotgun is a close range weapon that can do high damage in bursts, and the nail gun is an accurate rapid fire handgun that requires precise targeting, but it yields large amounts of damage on contact. Each of these weapons are fairly low in damage compared to other weapons until you upgrade them to a heavy machine gun, super shotgun, and super nail gun respectively. You do this simply by picking them up at their individual weapon spawn points.

There are also a few more weapons that you can only get through their individual spawn points as well: the lightning gun, rocket launcher, and rail gun. The lightning gun is a long-range beam that outputs consistent damage very quickly when it is hitting the target. The rocket launcher is a very high damage burst that can also harm the user; it has a fairly large area of effect where the damage spreads on indirect hits, but it also greatly increases the damage done on direct hits. Lastly, the rail gun is your basic sniper weapon. It has an extremely high damage output and requires precision in order to effectively use, but it has a fairly large reload time after each shot, so it has noteworthy trade-offs. Explaining more about what each weapon does and how they can be used is very important to the competitive nature of the game, but for the sake of the review, I will leave out any additional information on the weapons.

One of the biggest changes in Quake Champions is the inclusion of characters and stats, or for lack of a better term, champions. Each character is fit with three stats: health, armor, and speed. Some characters are very fast, but have low HP to start. Typically these characters are smaller and harder to hit, and the opposite is true for the character with more health and shielding. In Quake, health does not regenerate. You are required to search for health and armor spawns in order to survive, and this element greatly increases the amount of density in each encounter with the enemy. You get to decide if you should attempt to retreat and recover health, or if you should risk trying to get a frag at low HP. There are various variables that contribute to the thought process behind the metagame, and they will generally make or break your match.

Alongside the new stat system comes active and passive abilities. These abilities are locked to each character class and do various different things. Active abilities will generally provide a special attack that does a high amount of damage or provides mobility and will be usable after a certain amount of time has elapsed. There are also hourglass shaped power-ups that speed up the cooldown recovery times so that you can activate your ability sooner. Again, this plays into the meta of Quake Champions quite heavily and is what makes it so unique in comparison to its predecessors. Passive abilities, however, are always active and therefore do not provide a burst of damage like the active abilities do. One of the most common types of passive abilities affect your movement speed; the character Visor has the ability to strafe jump and gain speed indefinitely without a cap to his speed. Another example of a passive ability is with Ranger: he has reduced self-inflicted damage. This makes him well suited for using the rocket launcher in closer quarters than other characters. Ultimately, it's plain to see that the character classes really do change up the formula quite a bit to provide a more diverse and logical game session than before.

Aside from your basic Team Deathmatch and Free-for-all modes, there is an additional game-mode that uses the new character class system to create a more competitive experience. This mode is called Duel. Duel requires you and one other opponent to go head to head after drafting for which champion you will be choosing. Like most other sports or competitive games, it gives players the options to ban and counter-pick different characters. This really shows the model that Bethesda was going for when developing for the game: they want to impress the hardcore players. I don't think I can stress that fact enough because it is something that I noticed very quickly upon playing the game for the first time. Very little is explained; it's almost as if they expected that only veteran fans would be playing the game. I think this creates a bit of an accessibility gap for new players and generally turns them away from these types of games. Fortunately, I do believe that Quake Champions is doing a better job than ever to make the series more accessible, but I still don't think that it's enough. While most games today already have a mode like this, it's definitely a joy to see it here.

While I am by no means a hardcore Quake player, I did enjoy playing the original games back in the day. Quake Champions has a few striking issues that can really be a bit of a problem for anyone trying to get into the game. With the difficulty curve aside, I have personally found myself missing a lot of shots due to poor connection issues. I do not believe the game has completely figured out the netcode, but it isn't terrible. There is a lot of work that needs to be done in order to create a perfect environment for players to have a lag-free session every time. Another problem I encountered was when I finished a match and clicked yes to rematch the same opponents. If there is a single person who did not accept the rematch, the game will hang indefinitely until it is restarted. Aside from these two things, I haven't seen too many issues with the game. Quake Champions is very fun, but I do believe it needs to be tweaked as soon as possible considering how important the net-code is to actually play the game.

This brings me to the last point I want to make, and unfortunately, it's one that a lot of games have been suffering from over the past few years. Quake Champions feels empty. It's sad, but the lack of quality sound design and general repetition within the game doesn't really sit well me. The game looks really nice, and it even works pretty well on older PCs, but everything else about it almost feels like a hollow shell. The community seems distant, there aren't very many maps or game modes, and it just generally feels unpolished. It is a really neat idea to run with when considering how to make Quake fresh again, but it ultimately fails to execute it in a way that works quite as well as many of us hoped. Quake Champions needs just a little more work before it can take a place among the greats.

Most of my time is dedicated to tearing apart games and movies, then telling you what I think about it. I've been a gamer since birth, practically born with a controller in my hand. I've always spoke my mind, so critique was a natural fit. Twitter: @Jsrf38