Posted May 2, 2017 by Andrew Cathie in Feature

Quake Champions Closed Beta Impressions

When Bethesda announced that they would be holding their own E3 press conference in 2016, nobody was sure what announcements we would see. With the successful reboot of Wolfenstein and DOOM on the horizon, people were hopeful that we might see Quake re-emerge. It certainly did, in the form of free-to-play hero-shooter Quake Champions. I had the chance to go hands on with the latest closed beta for Quake Champions and while it may not be what people originally hoped for, it’s shaping up to be a brutally engaging free-to-play shooter.

Those familiar with Quake may remember it for its excellent gunplay, memorable map designs, and most importantly, its rocket jumps. All of these came to the fore as I played through the three game modes that were available during this closed beta. Controls were fast, fluid and incredibly responsive as I downed my foes with the rocket launchers, shotguns, railguns and other weapons I found around the game’s maps. This is where Quake Champions is different to many other first-person shooters, especially of the free-to-play variety. While the game does allow for persistent weapon unlocks, you still have to find these weapons on the map to use them, other than the one starting weapon you can pick. This means that the game is kept balanced out of the gate and places great importance on learning the maps and their weapon places. The maps included in the beta included a great mix of verticality, open-spaces, corridors and jump pads/portals, allowing for a variety of combat mixes and strategies.

The closed beta included three different modes to try out, with the first two being the ever-present Death Match and Team Death Match. These played out exactly as you’d expect, with Death Match becoming a chaotic maelstrom of destruction as all-comers attempted to wipe out everyone they could find, while Team Death Match has two teams facing off to get the highest number of kills. The third mode, Duel, was the most interesting. In Duel you need to have three Champions unlocked to compete, necessitating purchasing or renting two Champions (more on that later). Once you have the requisite number of Champions, you’re able to take part in the 1v1 action that is Duel. Duel is effectively Death Match with 3 lives, except that each ‘life’ is one of your Champions. Selecting your Champions pre-Duel is played out like a draft, allowing you and your opponent to strategically select Champions that can counter each other. If you kill your opponent’s three Champions you win that round and it’s on to the next in the best-of-three mode. It’s an interesting mode that allows for strategic choice and some intense 1v1 combat.

As mentioned, Quake Champions is a free-to-play game, which means that there is monetisation somewhere in the game’s core. In Quake Champions, this monetisation mainly comes in the form of the game’s Champions. In the closed beta, other than your beginning Champion, any further Champions had to be unlocked with in-game currency. The only way to permanently own further Champions seems to be by buying them with real-money, with in-game currency only allowing you to ‘rent’ them for a 24 hour period. This meant that the only way to try out different Champions without buying them was by using that in-game currency, which is also what you use to open loot boxes to unlock new skins, equipment and weapons. Even after only a short time with the closed beta I began to see how this constant push-pull of choosing between more gear and trying characters, especially with modes locked behind having a certain number of Champions, could quickly become off-putting and frustrating. Being a closed beta this could easily change before the game’s full release, and I personally hope it does because the game’s Champions are the most interesting part.

Those looking for Overwatch or Team Fortress-esque heroes should leave now, as the Champions of Quake Champions do not fit those roles. Every Champion feels slightly different and each has a unique special ability, but they certainly don’t feel as uniquely different to each other as those games heroes do. The main reason for this is in the weapons, as locking away specific weapons to different Champions wouldn’t fit thematically in Quake like it does in a new IP like Overwatch. Instead, each Champion has a unique ability that differentiates them, as well as slightly different stats. These abilities range from different passive abilities, like the Quake Soldier’s damage reduction from his own weapons (allowing for easier rocket jumping), to Visor’s action ability that allows him to see through walls. These abilities, combined with different combinations of health, shield and speed stats make for characters that feel and control differently, but never feel too alien when you switch.

Overall, Quake Champions isn’t the free-to-play hero shooter that you’re used to, forgoing the individual character gimmicks to focus on a more hardcore experience. The gunplay is fantastic and the maps are interesting to explore and fight in. The early taste of the game’s monetisation scheme isn’t endearing, but there is plenty of time before the game launches for that to be worked on and for all we know the actual costs could be quite low. If you’re interested in a fast and responsive shooter that you can easily jump into and play, then you should keep an eye on Quake Champions as its development continues.

Andrew Cathie

Rocket Chainsaw's premier Fantasy-loving Editor. I basically play anything and everything that looks like it could be fun or interesting.


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