Quake Champions Stays True To Its High-Octane Roots | PAX East Preview

Credit: Bethesda
Credit: Bethesda /

Quake is back! We got to demo Bethesda’s fast-paced competitive arena shooter Quake Champions at PAX East 2017.

One of Bethesda’s main events at PAX East this year was Quake Champions, the newest entry in the classic arena-style FPS series. It admittedly has been quite a while since I have played any Quake game. But I am well aware of the required skill it takes to play this fast-paced, high-adrenaline shooter. When it came time for my appointment to demo the game, I found myself anxious but also a bit apprehensive. Would the game stand up to its legendary history?

I sat down at a table filled with ten high-end PCs loaded with AMD hardware. Quake Champions is a PC-exclusive, and Bethesda has been quick to boast about their focus on the game’s performance. Quake set a precedent for pushing the envelope with its graphics and performant gameplay, and Quake Champions seems to be no exception. The game boasts unlocked frame rates and 120 Hz gameplay. I don’t know the exact specs of the machines we played on, but the game ran buttery smooth and looked tremendous.

For our fifteen minute demo, we were playing a round of 5v5 Team Deathmatch. Upon sitting down, we were greeted by the Champion selection screen. This is the primary differentiation between Champions and previous Quake titles. Each champion has their own unique stats and special “ultimate” ability, following the lines of “hero-shooters” such as Overwatch. You aren’t locked into your champion selection either: you can swap mid-match, which I did frequently throughout the demo.

Quake Champions PAX East Demo
Credit: Bethesda via Instagram /

The demo featured all eight of the currently announced Champions, which are a mix of both new and old characters. Ranger (a.k.a. Quake Guy), Visor, Anarki, and Sorlag are all from previous Quake titles. On the other hand Clutch, Nyx, Scalebearer, and Galena are all making their debut appearances in Quake Champions. Additionally, a new previously unannounced champion was playable at PAX East: the Roller Queen Slash from Quake III Arena.

Even though each of these nine champions are unique, I found the differences between them relatively subtle. It’s not like Overwatch, where each hero has numerous abilities specific to them. In Quake Champions, you only have one active special ability on a 30-40 second cooldown timer. You can’t immediately swap heroes and use their ability right away either. It’s also been confirmed there will be custom game modes that disable these abilities all together to provide a more “pure” Quake experience.

Quake Champions
Credit: Bethesda /

All of the Champions had a slightly different feel to them, but the differences were minor enough that I didn’t feel like it affected the gameplay all that much. It’s not like I was cursing out an opposing player for using their ability and wiping out the entire team like one might do in Overwatch. So while each Champion has their own strengths and weaknesses, these differences aren’t as widely noticeable as you might expect them to be. Quake Champions is more hardcore in that regard: the focus is still on players’ FPS skills more than strategic team composition.

When it comes to weapons, Quake Champions holds true to its predecessors. The demo featured numerous weapons, including the classic Rocket Launcher, Rail Gun, and Lightning Gun. There are no character load outs like Call of Duty: you expand your gun arsenal via item pickups, and you can carry each type of weapon all at once. While this is a call out to the original Quake games, I saw this confuse a few players during the demo. In Overwatch and other class-based shooters, each hero has their own set of unique weapons. But in Quake Champions, your choice of Champion bears no effect on your weapons whatsoever.

Our demo was played on the Blood Covenant map, a multilevel gothic arena that’s reminiscent of some sort of cult sanctuary or cathedral. The setup of the map felt like one you would expect from a fast-paced arena shooter: filled with little nooks and crannies that require precision movement to work around. You can escape to the bottom lair below to recover, or fight your way on the narrow walkways above. In terms of size, it made sense for the look and feel of the game: not too big, but not too small either. It was laid out just right to help emphasize the chaotic explosiveness of the game.

Quake Champions
Credit: Bethesda /

When it comes to gameplay, I forgot how fast-paced Quake truly is. I felt like I was flying through the map, and it took me a few minutes to get readjusted to the game’s speed. I’m no pro FPS player, but you can tell how important movement is in this game. Techniques like strafe jumping, bunny hopping, and rocket jumping are all still viable techniques in Quake Champions. The difference between people who could skillfully move and those who couldn’t became clear very quickly: just another way the game awards pure skill.

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The gameplay was intense, competitive, and bloody: everything you want to see in a Quake game. It’s clear that id Software and Bethesda are still keeping themselves grounded in their roots. I won’t deny that adding unique Champions to Quake is a huge divergence for the series. During the demo, I never felt like my success was tied to my Champion choice. But I’m not a professional player: maybe that won’t hold true at higher levels of play. Regardless, the game’s style, speed, and mechanics were classic Quake. My primary concern at this point is if we are going to get the badass announcer from Quake III Arena not.

Quake Champions does not currently have a set release date, but you can sign up for the closed beta now. And expect a lengthy beta period: id Software’s creative director Tim Willits has said “It’s going to come out after a really, really long closed beta. I’m telling people now, it’s going to be a long beta.”