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August 2018

Quake Champions

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Saber Interactive (EU), id Software (US)


PC Preview - 'Quake Champions'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on May 2, 2017 @ 6:00 a.m. PDT

Quake Champions is a competitive, arena-style first-person shooter for the PC that returns fans to the frenetic, skill-based competition that made Quake an industry legend and solidified it as one of the first major eSports games.

For a long period, Quake was the online FPS franchise. There were others before and since, but Quake had a massive influence on the idea of competitive online multiplayer. Basic elements in modern shooters trace their roots back to the Quake franchise in some way or other. With the successful reboot of Doom last year, it shouldn't be a huge surprise that its spiritual successor is coming back. Quake Champions isn't just an attempt to revive the franchise, but it also brings back the high-energy, twitch-heavy shooter gameplay that Quake fans have been missing.

Quake Champions is old-school in every sense of the world. It's an intentional throwback to the pre-Halo days of FPSes. You have a boatload of weapons, no real reloading, and health and armor bars instead of regenerating health. It's fast, which is probably the most striking thing about Quake Champions in this day and age. Like the Doom reboot, it focuses on speed above all else, and Quake is faster than Doom was. You zip along the ground at ridiculous speeds, though your mobility is reduced by default. You have to find jump-pads, teleporters or other items to quickly get around the environment because that's a major part of the game. It's clear why Quake Champions is a PC-only title thus far; the sheer speed and mechanics lend themselves far better to a mouse and keyboard than controllers.

Quake Champions' weapons are also from the old school, since Quake is one of the pioneers of online multiplayer gameplay, and Champions is genuinely trying to stick to that. You have machine guns, rocket launchers and shotguns: all the classic favorites. That also includes Quake­-exclusive favorites, like the railgun, which is difficult to hit with but has an absurdly powerful long range, and the lightning gun, which deals tons of consistent damage. You can choose a starting weapon from a small variety when you spawn, and you'll have to find and procure the rest of the weapons on the battlefield. There are no loadouts here.

That's probably one of the biggest things that makes Quake Champions stand out in the modern gaming market. Old-school FPSes were not just about who had the best twitch skills but also who understood the maps and battlefield the best. It's critical to know when and where to control the powerful weapons and important items. From what we've seen in the beta build, this is no less true in Quake Champions. While accuracy is important (especially with the railgun), you need to take advantage of the maps. You need to know escape routes, where weapons and items spawn, and the fastest way to reach the all-important Quad Damage power-up when it spawns.

As you'd expect from a F2P game, Quake Champions has a wide and diverse selection of characters, though most will have to be unlocked via play. Each character has the same selection of weapons but wildly diverse stats and special abilities. The default character is Ranger, a Quake marine, and he has good speed, good health and good armor. His special ability is Dire Orb, which is effectively a teleport grenade. You toss it, it flies, and it either explodes when it hits something or you can reactivate it to teleport to its location. He also takes reduced damage from self-damaging attacks, like the rocket launcher. He's the beginner character, and it shows, though not in a bad way. He's a great default, and Dire Orb allows him to be more interesting than expected.

The other characters get more complex. For example, Nyx has the lowest health and armor in the game, which makes her absurdly vulnerable to damage. However, her Phasewalk ability allows her to become immune to damage, and she can bounce off walls, so she has almost unparalleled mobility. Her basic gameplay is the same as Ranger, but you can't depend on winning in a straight-up fight and need to play in a very different way. On the other hand, the robotic Clutch is slow and incredibly brawny and relies on out-tanking an enemy's attacks. You have great health and armor and can create a barrier that limits how much damage enemies do.

It's an interesting mix that doesn't quite hit the complexity of a Team Fortress 2 or Overwatch but manages to give each character a distinct flavor. You're not going to get too far away from the twitch-heavy, fast-paced gameplay no matter who you play. Clutch might be able to take damage but still needs to move and respond quickly to actually survive. The beta has some concerns about character balance because some abilities seem better than others.

Characters can be purchased in two ways. One is using Favor, which is earned by fighting and completing daily challenges, but a character purchased with Favor is only temporarily unlocked.  Another way is Platinum, which can be spent to permanently purchase characters. There are also loot boxes, which can be used to get shaders and other widgets exclusively for your characters. It's hard to get a feel for how generous this system will be, since the beta is still rapidly adjusting it, but at very least, it seems incredibly easy to earn Favor. A few simple challenges a day yielded boatloads of the stuff, so it shouldn't be too difficult to get enough Favor and try out characters.

All in all, Quake Champions, is shaping up strongly. The beta still shows a lot of work being done, but what we've seen looks great. The gameplay is fast, frantic and fun, and the diverse selection of characters should keep the experience feeling fresh. There's a lot of care being spent on making Quake Champions feel old-school, though we'll have to see if it hits all the marks in the final version. What we've played has a ton of potential, both from the nostalgic perspective and as something distinct and new. Quake Champions will be coming exclusively to the PC later this year.

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