Quake Champions Early Access Preview
I was still struggling to eat solid foods when Quake III Arena was released, and I had never even played any arena shooters until a few years ago, so when I first launched up Quake Champions I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d be more familiar with the respawn screen than I’d like to be. With a series as old as Quake, it may be a bit off-putting to try and jump into the fray this late, but I found Champions to be easy to pick up and totally worth the initial pain.
It seems that the new hot thing for recent video games is the free-to-play MOBA model with an added option to buy all current and future champions for life. This allows the game to be funded through micro-transactions for champion skins and other aesthetic changes. id Software decided to adopt this model for Champions and try to emulate the genre-defining game that was Quake III with a whole new twist.
This new addition to the series implements a variety of different MOBA-style characters to play as, instead of one standard dude. Each champion is unique with their own individual skill set and an ultimate ability to charge up over time, but some die-hard players may have a hard time getting used to this. Some characters’ ultimate abilities let them go invisible or see through walls, which adds completely new elements to the arena. You’ll need to consider the enemy’s positioning, whether they have used their ult recently, and what their line-up can do as a team. I feel this adds a fresh twist to the genre, but it may come as a hard pill to swallow for some.
“There is no reloading to be had, movement is fast, and the controls are tight.”
Now, what keeps arena shooters fun and addictive above all else is the constant flow of gameplay. Quake Champions decided to shake off some of the standard FPS tropes to keep it fast and simple. There is no reloading to be had, movement is fast, and the controls are tight. Although you’ll most likely be smashing the respawn key more times than you’d like, the good news is you’ll be able to spawn back in before you really know what killed you.
As for gameplay, there are four game modes for you to die horribly in. There’s your standard deathmatch and team deathmatch, but there’s also a king-of-the-hill styled mode, and a 1v1 game mode where you choose a pool of characters to play from. I’ve heard complaints about the lack of game modes, but you really don’t need more than your standard deathmatch/team deathmatch. It’s the fast-paced fragging, the thrill of the hunt, and the creative map layouts that keep you hooked.
Each of these beautifully designed maps are littered with various weapon, health, ammo, and armour spawns. The weapons in Quake Champions are the same beloved weapons that long-time fans will remember being killed by, such as the ‘holy trio’ of rocket launcher, lightning gun, and rail gun. Each weapon and consumable have a set location on every map and a timer for when they will respawn after being taken. You can hold one of every weapon available to you in the game, giving you limitless ways to joyfully murder your fellow man.
As you may have guessed from my constant talk of death, the learning curve for Champions is very, very steep. There will be times when you go entire matches without getting more kills than your deaths, but I never found it to be disheartening. The continuous flow means there isn’t any downtime in matches, but with the spawn rates being so fast, it means you’re very likely to die the instant you spawn if you don’t get a move on. Though this is more of a problem against the higher leveled players, you’ll still need to familiarize yourself with the controls and the layout of each map to find the quickest route to your favorite gun spawn.
“Champions continues this tradition and then some with the inclusion of characters whose specific niche is their maneuverability.”
The controls themselves have always been a defining factor for arena shooters. In higher levels of play, you’d see people skating about the map to pick up weapon spawns and kill a few dudes along the way, or strategically rocket jumping to traverse a ledge and get a kill on some unsuspecting fool. Champions continues this tradition and then some with the inclusion of characters whose specific niche is their maneuverability. Though you can still skate around with the best of them, some of the characters whose sole objective in life is to go fast will obviously outmaneuver you but are usually very squishy to compensate for this.
Thankfully, just like many of id’s games throughout the years, the soundtrack for Champions manages to capture the eerie feel to some of the maps whilst still working in some of the heavier tracks that previous installments are remembered for. Each map has its own soundtrack that might be no more than a few raspy voices and an unnerving synth running through your head, whereas others boast pounding drums and awesome guitar riffs which really gets the blood pumping. They might not be as satisfying to play along to as the newest DOOM installment, but having a great soundtrack to listen to really takes the edge off of dying for the tenth time each match.
Quake Champions is a perfect example of what online arena shooters should be. Fast paced action with little to interrupt the flow of gameplay, balanced heroes that won’t dominate those who want to play for free, and the tried-and-true formula of id’s classic arena shooter all make for a good time. The introduction of classes may put off a few people, but it seems to only improve an already solid formula.