Since the NDA is finally lifted on Quake Champions, I have some quick thoughts on it. I wanted to make sure those who jump into the Beta, or plan to play on release, know what they’re getting into.
Right off the bat, Quake Champions definitely has the feel of Quake III Arena. The air of the older games seeps through and it easily fits the series, between the quirky characters and the dark Lovecraftian environments. The Ruins and caves in each arena tell a story all on their own, but with the fast paced action going on, it’s hard to stop and take in the scenery at any corner. There are currently 3 playable arenas in the game: Blood Covenant, Ruins of Sarnath, and Burial Chamber. Each one is meant to give the Cthulu-esque feel of the original Quake and Quake III Arena.
Totaling nine playable characters in the Beta, the eclectic cast is very reminiscent of other modern games like Overwatch, Team Fortress 2, and the upcoming Lawbreakers. This Beta test unlocked all of the starting characters automatically, while the last beta had only a single starting character: Ranger (see below).
As the game is slated to be a free-to-play/freemium model, the Ranger (or Quake Guy from the original game) is what everyone gets for free and players can purchase, or rent, the other characters. Earnable currency comes from playing matches, which can be used to unlock or rent the other characters. In the final build, players will be able to purchase a different currency that can unlock skins, shaders, weapon skins, and other items. Those same items can be earned in Backpacks, albeit much slower. Players should expect a ton of Rangers running around every match early on due to this structure.
I had a chance to play the game during PAX East 2017 back in March, and the representatives eventually explained that the PAX version was pretty close to the Beta versions that were incoming from there. However, since this is the second Beta, I assume improvements were made since then. The character lineup is currently identical to the PAX version as well, including the voice acting and stats for each character. Each character is fun, varied, and comes with their own unique abilities. Although I played a little bit of each character, I’ve chosen three to talk about in this review for brevity.
Starting out, let’s talk about everyone’s first free friend: Ranger. He is the main character of the first Quake (aka QuakeGuy) and the free character for players that will jump into the final release. Tactically, he’s the perfect starting point for anyone wanting to try the game in both stats and features.
His Active Ability, Dire Orb, is a teleportation device that is thrown at players, allowing a “telefrag” capability that will likely be used often by professional players for cheap, quick kills. His Passive Ability, Son of a Gun, reduces self damage, which is very handy for classic Quake players that have perfected the art of rocket-jumping. Playing as Ranger brings back memories of old Quake games for those who played them twenty years ago.
Next, I played as Slash, who I also had a chance to test during PAX East. I’ve played as multiple characters at this point, but I keep migrating back to Slash as a main. Slash is not new in this game as she originally appeared in Quake III Arena. Every character has an Active Ability and a Passive Ability, as well as individual stat balancing for the type of character they are.
Her speed and Active Ability, Plasma Trail, make her much easier to pick up than some of the other characters. Plasma Trail leaves a Tron-like trail behind her that deals electric damage to those that touch it. Timing it right, players can detonate is as well, causing severe damage to opponents. Her Passive Ability is the Crouch Slide, which helps her duck down (much faster than her normal speed) as she slides across the ground to make herself a smaller target. She’s essentially the modern “roller derby” Harley Quinn (including a very similar voice) from DC Comics.
Anarki is my wildcard for this review. He originated in Quake III Arena and plays a part in the paragraph-long backstory for Slash. For the Active Ability, Anarki has Health Injection, which instantly heals and gives him a permanent health boost. For a few seconds, he gains a speed boost as well until his high dies down. He’s basically the fastest character in the game and yet his Passive Ability, Hoverboard Air Control, gives him a massive speed boost and control to make him even faster and deadlier. I found myself grabbing smaller guns more often while playing as Anarki that can take pot-shots as I run by other players because of his immense speed.
While we’re on the subject of guns, they seem varied and well-balanced. I find myself wanting to grab the shotgun as a heavy hitter, but the electric gun is fun if you know how to use it too. Knowing how to use your character’s abilities in conjunction with certain weapons can also help with your tactics. All guns are playable with all characters, but some guns seem to fit their character and their abilities more, such as giving Ranger a Rocket Launcher.
Play modes are pretty standard, with a free-for-all arena mode, a Duel Mode for 1v1 combat, as well as the Sacrifice Mode, which is 4v4 and is similar to capture the flag modes of other FPS games.
Bethesda touts that Quake Champions is playable at 120hz and has an unlocked framerate, which is impressive for a free-to-play game, but this also helps with the speed and pace that the Quake games are known for.
Every time I have booted up the game, I am forced to remember there is zero controller support implemented. As someone with tremors in their hands, I tend to play shooting and quick-paced games on a controller. This, on its own, immediately cripples my abilities. I hope this changes for the final release or I may find myself not playing it much at all by then.
The bugs are rough in this build, and I’m hoping most of the technical issues are solved by full release. I like to think my newly purchased, gaming PC and moderate internet (that can handle other games with ease) can handle a free-to-play game, and yet this one skips very often either due to framerates or latency. Generally it’s during a shootout and more often than not, I die because the person I’m shooting directly at is no longer in the same direction.
I’ve delivered direct head shots that did 8 damage and then turned around to be killed in a single shot by that same enemy. Since first person shooters focus on the milliseconds between movement, in which this beta fails gloriously, it’s hard to have any advantage. What I’ve heard from other sources has verified that this isn’t just my issue.
Quake Champions is a solely PC release, with confirmation that there’s no plan for a console launch at all. The game will only benefit PC gamers in this regard. As someone that’s seen the bugginess of this PC Beta release, the optimization on PC is quite poor at the moment.
As stated, I played the game during PAX East this year, playing what I assume is an even earlier build and didn’t seem to have this much trouble. Granted, it was a single match on a LAN, which could be a huge factor to the overall feel.
I hope we get to see a lot more polish before the end as this current beta is over a full week, rather than the short weekend spurts in the previous Beta. As a fan of older Quake games, I see that this game has a lot of promise. The game has the potential to be a great free pick up for people who want to play a shooter on PC with their friends.
However, in Beta, the game needs a ton more polish before it becomes a go-to freemium game like the more established (but older) Team Fortress 2. In its current state, Quake Champions would be going up against paid titles like Overwatch or Lawbreakers and would have difficulty holding a candle to them.
In the current state, it’s hard to tell if the final release will be chaotic due to the crazy, awesome, competitive factors… Or, if it’ll be chaotic due to the horrible, crippling bugs that make the game difficult to play.