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Quake Champions Hands-On Preview – Classic FPS Meets Modern Design

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by Kyle Hanson

Bethesda now has a proven track record for taking classic shooter series and reimagining them for the modern age. Doom was expected to bomb. All the elements were there, and yet it became a smash hit and totally delivered on the promise of a brand new Doom game. Now they’re heading back to the past once again for Quake Champions. This time, things aren’t as easy though, with this new entry really mixing things up. Still, all that classic fast twitch shooter gameplay is here, so things are looking good so far.

Quake Champions is an interesting amalgamation of old and new

Quake Champions is an interesting amalgamation of old and new. The game takes its titular franchise in some definitely interesting directions. Players now choose between quite unique characters, each with different stats and abilities. During my time with the demo I was only able to try out a few of the characters. You don’t totally unlock them just by playing. Instead you can either purchase them with real cash, or rent them using currency earned through gameplay.

This system is pretty full of microtransactions, but Quake Champions is a free-to-play game, so that was kind of expected. To buy all the characters will take some cash, but prices weren’t set in stone after the beta, so I won’t go into specifics just yet. The rental price did seem fair though, as I was able to earn a few extra rentals just by playing a couple of matches. It wasn’t ideal not having the characters always available, but I was never hurting for in-game currency.

The characters themselves are quite different from one another. Their base stats are different, with each having unique values for health, armor, and speed. Depending on my mood or the particular game mode I could choose between fast, stealthy characters, or big hulking tanks. On top of the stats, the bigger difference is the character’s main ability. Charged through combat and time, each character has a different power that can be triggered multiple times throughout a match.

Quake Champions Hands-On Preview

These ranged from invisibility to a shield, from super speed to an explosive projectile. Each character has something different to bring to the table. Playing Team Deathmatch, you might think that you need to coordinate between other players to put together a solid team. That wasn’t really the case during the Quake Champions beta though. Instead it felt like it was OK to just pick the character that I preferred. This could change in other game modes though, of course.

Speaking of the game modes, they remain largely the same so far, with Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and the unique but not totally new Duel mode. Duel is where players face off in a 1v1 battle. What makes it different than other shooters out there is the draft, where players choose three Champions to play as during the match. To win the round, you need to eliminate all three of the opponent’s Champions.

So that’s a lot of old and new stuff, but what makes Quake Champions really worthwhile is its total focus on classic twitch arena shooting. The game is fast, blisteringly so at times. As I’m used to slower shooters like Halo, it was a big adjustment for me, and I still don’t think I ever caught up to the veterans. This game is skill based, and requires fast reflexes, at a minimum. You can give yourself a boost by focusing on map control and item pickups, but if you’re not pulling off those quick headshots then you will get killed. A lot in my case.

And yes, I said “item pickups.” Scattered all around the map are different and sometimes more powerful weapons. Along with this are health and armor pickups, as well as the extremely powerful Quad Damage powerup. Players who focused on controlling these important spawn points had a leg up on everyone else in the match.

There were only a few maps available during the beta. They looked great and were well designed, with lots of verticality and layers for players to work with. The weapon and item spawns seemed logically laid out, with players naturally working through lanes and deciding on spots to hold up. I’d like to see more, but so far the maps were solid and enjoyable.

Other than that, it’s the usual improvements here. The game looks really good, though it wasn’t mind blowing, even on Ultra settings. It ran well though, so that made up for not totally blowing my mind with its visuals. For a game that relies on fast reflexes and twitch controls, having a steady framerate is far more important that some extra effects.

Overall, my hopes for Quake Champions remain fairly strong. This beta didn’t cement it as an all time great just yet, but if you’re looking for that classic arena shooter gameplay that the series is known for then you will find it here. The microtransactions, which also include loot boxes full of cosmetic items, might get in the way for some players, but that’s how free-to-play works these days. Quake Champions hits a lot of the right buttons while modernizing the series in new and interesting ways.

Find out if it’s a new all-time great when Quake Champions hits PC later this year.

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