Strafe jumping for joy.
Quake Champions is simultaneously a return to timeless FPS action in the style of Quake 3 Arena, and a foray into the precarious and topical genre of Hero Shooters. My time with a preview build of Quake Champions was remarkably fun, in spite of the “Champions” element of the game failing to really click.
Weapon pickups, quad damage, strafe jumping and everything else synonymous with the turn of the century arena shooter celebrates a return to form in Quake Champions. Each of the seven weapons, from the projectile-based rocket launcher to the hit-scanning lighting gun exist with a defined purpose, and no two feel redundant. The three currently implemented maps provide ample variance, verticality, and winding passageways that facilitate Quake’s unconventional and remarkably-quick movement.
Team composition in general takes a backseat to personal skill, especially in the team deathmatch mode.
Overall, Quake Champions feels fluid, and mechanically superb. From tiny details like how much knockback is transferred from a rocket explosion, to the general bliss of gliding around the world, nothing feels out of place… until the champions come into play.
In the spirit of the genre, Quake Champions imbues each character with an individual aesthetic and mechanical identity. Every champion possesses unique active abilities, passive perks, stats, and hitboxes which confer exclusive options in terms of gameplay. These characteristics range from subtle and balanced, to overt and clearly advantageous, and struggle to find consistency therein. Some abilities like Nyx’s wall jump, Anarki’s mid-air movement, and Slash’s crouch slide present nuanced yet impactful differences that feel in line with the skill-first identity of classic Quake. On the other hand, Nyx’s active Ghostwalk ability or Clutch’s Barrier, for better or worse, are deliberate inequities that push Quake Champions squarely into Hero Shooter territory.
Unlike Overwatch, Quake’s champions don’t embody strict archetypes, but rather serve as a means for personal expression and mechanical variance. Team composition in general takes a backseat to personal skill, especially in the team deathmatch mode. Success here is achieved by brutally-fast reaction time, precise aim, and managing pick-up timers rather than comboing together abilities. This presents a curious setting for a cast of differing heroes. Since filling out a team’s shortcomings or countering an enemy champion is much less of a concern, there’s no real reason to choose anything other than the champion you’re most comfortable with.
Interacting with enemy champions’ abilities doesn’t feel particularly good either. Landing a perfectly-placed railgun shot on Clutch’s shield is straight up awful, while Nyx disappearing the middle of a duel leaves a bad taste as well. Some active abilities find the sweet spot though. Slash’s plasma trail leaves well… a trail of plasma that can contest pickups and be detonated at any time. The distinction here is that Slash’s ability offers strategic options without impeding the execution of Quake’s core fantasy: shooting people in the face.
Happily though, Quake Champions ends up being much more “Quake” than it does “Champions.” Which is doubly exciting in the context of its rich suite of online amenities. First and foremost, Quake Champions will be free to play as Ranger, with the ability to rent or acquire other champions down the line. For those without the patience to engage in such an endeavor, a conventionally-priced version will convey full access to all of Quake’s champions. Furthermore, an absurd smattering of in-depth aesthetic customization options from loot boxes looks to sate even the most obsessive player’s lust for progression, while fully supported ranked matchmaking ensures a proper setting for Quake Champions’ competitive community.
For much more on Quake Champions including a full review, keep it right here on IGN.