Quake is known for its fast pace, its momentum, and the quick response times required to master it, and Quake III combined these elements in a unique way to turn the game into an unrivalled experience: a true classic. To many it is sacrilege to attempt to tamper with the formula, but that's what is being proposed here. A fresh take, albeit built atop the same foundations.
Developer id Software brought a lot of fresh ideas to the action genre with its reboot of Doom last year, however, despite the success of the whole package, the real focus was on the story campaign and not the multiplayer. If you were one of those who didn't like the brutal multiplayer of Doom, then, what you'll find here in Quake Champions probably won't be for you either, as it offers an equally archaic multiplayer experience, including tight arenas, verticality, and a crazy flow to the game.
Quake Champions will be released as a free-to-play title by Bethesda, so it's full of microtransactions and there's lots of room to upgrade your character over time. Experience points, loot crates, and challenges offer a variety of in-game rewards, but they don't have any impact on the gameplay in the arena, which will probably reassure a lot of people interested in the game, as it looks like it won't be pay-to-win.
The eponymous champions are the most important feature of the new Quake, and each comes with their own appearance, abilities, and statistics. This aspect already splits the existing community into two camps, though, because not every fight is equal for this very reason. Each champion has advantages and disadvantages, including individual abilities that can give you a very important edge over your opponent, and as in Overwatch it's possible to choose another hero when re-spawning. Heroic abilities have a powerful impact too, but luckily we found that these don't appear overpowered.
There were nine champions available as we tried the game at a preview event, each with varying amounts of health, armour, abilities, and even movement speed. The Paladin Warrior, Galena, was picked often, because she can heal herself and teammates with a small AOE totem every 30 seconds or so, making her a good support character. The lizard Sorlag was also selected a lot, as he's able take a lot of pain, and can dish out toxic damage too. As we've said, each has their own strengths and weaknesses, but we can't comment on balance after just three hours with the game.
As we moved around the maps, we realised that Quake Champions has a great sense of agility, combining nicely with vertical gameplay, and both of the maps we tried showed this very well. In the temples, for example, enemies could come from all angles, forcing us to react quickly to situations, and as soon as you internalise the layout of the maps, you begin to move like lightning through the narrow alleys and open spaces they offer. In the process, you collect weapons, ammunition, and armour, all of which spawn on alternate paths as pickups. Besides ammunition crates, there are also pickups that reduce the remaining cooldown of your heroic ability, and these come in handy too.
Although we liked the game flow, we found that it takes a while to eliminate an opponent, and it's certainly not like Call of Duty where you die within seconds of being shot, but this is something that we appreciated a lot, as it places the importance back on aiming. If you find yourself taking fire, for example, you can always try to evade your enemy, and at times it takes a lot of skill to score that fatal shot.
Quake Champions, in short, is like the arena games of old, with a fast-paced feel to the action, but the free-to-play aspect does seem a bit tacked on, and may not be everyone's cup of tea. The game is still very much all about who plays the best, who aims the straightest, so if you're looking for a tough arena shooter that demands a high level of skill and offers a unique sense of speed, Quake Champions may well be for you, and if it is, then check out the Quake site to sign up for the closed beta.