When Tim Willits introduced Quake Champions at this year's QuakeCon, he was in fairly safe company when he exclaimed that "we all wanna go fast". And he was right, the audience do want to go fast. Fast is practically the name of the game. This new champions infused take on the shooter series is quintessential Quake, this despite the revisions to the classic formula.
Further playing to the crowd, Willits explained that Champions will be clocked at "the speed you expect", and thus we were shown a gameplay clip of the arena shooter running at breakneck speeds. There's a baseline velocity that the various characters will fluctuate around, but at the end of the day, the action is going to be fast and furious and twitchy as hell. If you're after a plodding, more measured shooter experience, this ain't for you.
So what can we expect from Quake Champions beyond snappy movement? In short: new characters, obscene rocket jumps, and the return of the "holy trinity" (the rocket launcher, rail gun and lighting gun). All were on show during the behind closed doors demo at QuakeCon, and they all looked wholly destructive. Will there be any new weapons for players? Simply put, yes, however during our time spent talking with id's Tim Willits, he didn't offer any indication as to what they might be.
What we did talk about was the titular Champions. Following down the same path as hero-themed shooters like Blizzard's Overwatch and Gearbox's Battleborn, and even the increasingly defined classes that we saw in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, id are introducing characters to spice up the selection process. The game is set to go into beta next year and when it does it'll feature "around" a dozen Champions, with more set to come online thereafter.
All of these characters are going to be nippy, of that there is no doubt, but there will be subtle differences (as demonstrated when we saw two characters make the same jump, one - Ranger - with the help of a rocket, the other - Anarki - with just the wind at his back). The significant changes are going to come in the form of abilities that, along with some distinctive visual designs, will distinguish these champions from one another.
Willits told us that his personal favourite, Galina (we're not sure on the spelling on that one, she doesn't seem to have been officially named), throws down health packs. A handy trick indeed. Ranger, who long-time fans might possibly remember, can teleport wherever his Dire Orb lands. Nyx has a move called Ghost Walk that does exactly what you think it does, but that can be countered by Visor and his wall-Piercing Sight. ScaleBearer has a deadly dash called Bull Rush, which it uses to charge through opponents with explosive ease, although he might run straight through Nyx's ghostly special, who could then shoot him in the back. They showed eight, talked about four, suggested the beta will have twelve, and confirmed that they don't have a final number in mind when it comes to new designs.
This ever expanding of roster of characters will bring in some undoubted variety and modernise the Quake experience to an extent, but it will remain traditional in many other ways. For example, there isn't going to be any load outs or prematch tinkering. When it comes to the guns you pick there'll be no limit to what you can carry, and what you carry will depend entirely on timing your pickups or, of course, picking up guns from the hands of fallen foes.
Level design looks like it'll appease fans too. There's the mixture of gothic and science fiction, and a dash of Lovecraftian influence to bring everything together and keep it feeling authentic. We saw two different maps. One of them is called Blood Covenant and according to Willits it's based on a classic map called Camp Grounds. The two we've seen certainly looked like Quake arenas, from the gruesome looking eyeball through to the imposing cathedral-like architecture.
If truth be told, our hands off look was rather limited, with the only showing of the game of significance taking place after we'd departed from QuakeCon in pro-player behind-closed-doors matchup. We desperately wanted to play it ourselves, but, for now at least, id are only showing it to pros and drawing on their feedback. A pity, because right now we can only tell you that it looks like Quake, it sounds like Quake, and it runs at Quaketastic speeds, however, we can't tell you if it feels like Quake. For that we're just going to have to wait until next year.
And so there's plenty of time for id to polish up and add more characters to the mix. We know that they're drawing on the esports heritage of the series and are looking to position Quake Champions is a viable alternative to the new breed of online shooters that are currently strutting their stuff on PC and console (although id aren't currently targeting PC for this). The question is, has the game playing public moved away from what Champions has to offer? That's something we're just going to have to wait and find out. It certainly looks promising, but until we're strafing around our opponents and rocket jumping our way through gothic levels while firing ridiculous weapons at breakneck speeds, we're going to declare ourselves as cautiously optimistic while we wait for our first hands-on taste.