E3 2017: Quake Champions preview feels like a proper Quake game

Bethesda /

Despite the eSports trailer and its subsequent competitive marketing, getting hands-on gameplay for Quake Champions at E3 2017 eased my worried mind.

Bethesda is put in a bit of an odd place. They have an excellent property in Quake that has gone virtually untouched for years. The competitive roots they helped planted from the 1990s have finally taken shape, yet they’ve grown into an eSports tree that branches far beyond what id Software originally thought. The worry now is that Quake Champions might be caught between a rock and a hard place.

Thankfully, after getting some hands-on gameplay with Quake Champions before Bethesda’s E3 press conference, my worries were laid to rest. This game features classic arena shoot mechanics and supersedes any contemporary upgrades to the formula. Frankly, this game might split the difference between the generational gap as well as possible.

Of course, those who are extremely 100 percent dedicated to the oldest of old school Quake sensibilities might be upset over the damage input numbers or hero-based systems. When rolling into a 4v4 Team Deathmatch game, however, what I noticed most was the fluidity of combat. Your heroes move very quickly and have a more open FOV than contemporary players are used to.

Doom has done a good job of getting people used to the quicker run-and-gun, twitch-shooting action of the past, and Quake Champions moves players closer to that frame of PC FPS mindset. You will need to pick up better weapons to maximize your potential. You will need to pop back behind cover to pick up health pips to get back into the action safely.

You will need to boost yourself higher with a well-timed rocket jump.

Quake Champions Blood Run screenshot
Bethesda /

If anything, Quake Champions feels as if it caters visual information feedback to newer FPS players while forcing them to play a classic arena action speed. Damage counters and rolling kill counter notifications are infused with the armor, weapon and health pickups throughout the environment.

It’s a compromise worth fighting for, but what some classic Quake fans might find too contemporary are the classes and their unique abilities in Quake Champions. I played as Visor, who offered up an x-ray blast that sees through walls for a couple of seconds (before a 45-second cooldown). Every character has an active and passive skill, and his ability to strafe jump meant propelling himself quicker through the stage.

The feel of the shotgun blasting an opponent in the face or nailing a player in mid-air with a rocket remains just as amazing as ever.

I wasn’t too dismayed about this move, as it fits well into the theme of effective compromise. The abilities of these characters dynamically change the tactics behind what players will do in the heat of the moment, but they’re still running and gunning very much on the fly. Nobody is standing still to take a shot for that long, as Quake Champions begs for constant movement.

Furthermore, level design begets that style of gameplay, too. Despite stunning visuals and crisp environmental design, the antiquated placements of pillars, staircases, hallways and secret passages or warps forces the player to work around their environment. Rocket users will find themselves poking in front, then behind, pillars in order to give splash damage and find cover at the same time. Laser snipers will want to peer their heads and take a shot quickly before backing out and setting up somewhere else.

The ability to select your heroes and loadouts after a death in Quake Champions allows you to change things up, giving a quality of life improvement that is much appreciated. Furthermore, with a free-to-play character service that offers up a few select characters for free that rotate after a while, players will be able to find who they like before paying up for full roster availability.

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Finally, I can’t end a Quake Champions preview without talking about the guns. While a classic gameplay mindset doesn’t make characters that unique or modernized in more socially, RPG-dynamic FPS titles, what feels truly guttural and gritty are the lasers, rocket launchers and basic weapons.

There’s a distinct familiarity that classic Quake players will enjoy when playing Quake Champions. The feel of the shotgun blasting an opponent in the face or nailing a player in mid-air with a rocket remains just as amazing as ever. Even with countering abilities, you will need to be skilled enough to master the gameplay, paying off for the player in both the satisfaction of a supreme round or the intense action at an intermediate or beginner level.

There’s a little something for every FPS player in Quake Champions, but if you can put aside some of the contemporary trappings, there’s a classic arena shooter baked into the core.