Quake Champions Beta: A Full Clip of FPS Madness

The Quake Champions Beta unloads a full magazine of manic FPS mayhem for a new generation, delivering highs, lows, and everything in between.

There's a smoldering bit of shrapnel I've got to get off my chest: As much as I want it to be, Quake Champions isn't perfect. Currently in closed beta, this FPS frag-fest has its issues. Some would even go so far as to say these issues are game-breaking. But let's face the facts: if you like Quake, you're pretty much going to love Quake Champions, blemishes and all. 

An unabashed throwback to arena shooters of the 1990s and quintessential Quake gunplay, Champions wastes no time putting you back in the boots of your favorite space marine -- or the other bits of QC's cannon fodder, such as interdimensional space lizards, galactic centurions, mech warriors, and more. 

After spending about 30 hours with the beta over the past three weeks, I've basked in the glow of glory, cowered in the corner of defeat, and learned that Bethesda and id Software have remade Quake in its own chaotic image. But at its core, Quake is meant to be a lawless free-for-all. 

You (typically) won't be camping or finding a sniper's nest in QC. If I learned anything in my time with the beta, it's that movement is paramount to winning. That means you won't be crawling through the map or traipsing through it on a needle. Instead, you'll be running full bore to join or escape the fray. 

In Blood Covenant, you'll be running through tight corridors and using verticality to frag your enemies, running into intense firefights around every twist and turn of the map. In the Ruins of Sarnath, you'll find that more traditional FPS tactics will get you through the level's relatively open ruins. And in Burial Chamber, you'll find that combat is more methodical on the perimeter, but only because the edges of the map are veritable death traps that venture only into oblivion. 

Overall, the speed at which the action plays out in the QC beta stays true to the traditional Quake mold -- but for a culture that's grown used to the plodding tempo of modern first-person shooters, it can take a little getting used to. The caveat to this is that in the game's traditional All v. All deathmatch, the pacing of QC can be a bit discombobulating and irksome with a full lobby, especially when your gameplay consists of spawn, death, spawn. 

This pattern is exacerbated by the fact that some of the weapons in Quake Champions' current build are overpowered AF, while others feel nerfed from the start.

For example, a well-placed shot from the incredibly powerful Rail Gun can decapitate your Champion instantaneously. In theory, this is OK and plays into Champions' skill-based gameplay -- but in the deft hands of a master marksman, a single player can decimate an entire squad in Team Deathmatch or singlehandedly hold position in Sacrifice. It's even more pronounced (and worse) in QC's Duel Mode, where two players choose a set of three Champions and go head-to-head. Here, players can easily camp in the game's moderately-sized maps, making play a complete nightmare depending on your opponent. 

Other weapons, such as the Nail Gun and woefully underpowered starting assault rifle, feel great when not used against a Rail Gun, Super Shotgun, or Rocket Launcher. When up against foes wielding these guns, every other weapon in the arsenal feels subpar at best. 

On the flip side, there's no denying that the arsenal at hand, alongside melee gauntlets and Champion-specific special abilities (which add nice wrinkles to core gameplay mechanics), make for gloriously gory kills. Stack all that with each map's coveted Quad Damage modifier, and QC's matches get nasty quick. 

And while some decry Champions' matchmaking and "long load times", I rarely entered a match thinking I didn't stand a chance -- and rarely was that ever the case. Even in the early moments of my time with the beta, where I was a noobish level 3, I was easily fragging opponents at levels 10 and higher. And as for the long loading times before and between matches, they're not really any longer than those found in MOBAs like SMITE or shooters like Destiny

At the end of the day, this is beta -- a stage of development meant to single out and highlight these macro and micro balancing issues. From the early stages of the closed beta to now, Bethesda and id have been diligently working to tweak the beta experience with patches, buffs, nerfs, and the whole nine. 

On the majority, Quake Champions is engaging and fun, especially for fans of the franchise. It's a shooter you're going to want to keep your eye on -- and it's shaping up to be a solid ride. Only time will tell if the final game lives up to fans' expectations. 

Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more news on Quake Champions as we get closer to launch.

Published May. 18th 2017

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