Video Games Impressions: Quake Champions (PC, 2016) feels like a welcome home

Quake Champions is id Software’s return to the 90’s multiplayer shooter genre that has traditionally been one of their strongest suits. Now in early access, it is both a throwback to the kind of multiplayer shooter that id invented and a clarion call to everyone else with a game in this suddenly resurgent genre — there’ll be no more of this cartoony shit. Daddy’s home and in this house, gibs are how we show affection.

As it stands right now, there isn’t a whole lot to Quake Champions but, given that it’s using the legendary Quake III Arena as its blueprint, I suppose there doesn’t have to be. There are four modes currently available — Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Duel and Sacrifice, which is a kind  Capture the Flag mode where players must bring a soul to an obelisk for a sacrifice.

Where the game is a tremendous success is in the way it captures the look and feel of Quake III in every sense — the level design, the jump pads, the teleports, the weapons and their power creep as you get further up the list — id have even gone to the trouble of replicating Quake III‘s insanely wide field of view, distorting as it does at the edges to allow players a truly crazed degree of peripheral vision.

It’s actually a little disorienting at first, it’s been years since I’ve played Quake III and I felt for sure my skills would have dulled to the point where I was useless at the game. I’m pleased to report that not only do I still possess those particular muscles, they hadn’t atrophied as much as I thought they might have. Before long, I was rocket jumping from platform-to-platform, racking up multikills and bathing in the gibs of my enemies like I’d never hung up my Quake III hat at all.

All of this means that if you, like me, were in high school during the reign of Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament, if you remember hours spent ensuring the game was shareable on the school network so that students in other computer rooms could copy the folder and run it on their own machines, if you successfully turned your entire school into a highly unlawful, ad-hoc LAN party like we did, then Quake Champions will feel like a welcome home.

In terms of how it looks and runs, the game feels as though it was has been extremely well optimised. I’m running an Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 from a few years ago now, one that can just barely run Overwatch at 60fps on Ultra. Not only does my ageing graphics card not have a problem with Quake Champions, I never saw the game dip below its 60fps threshold even once. Startlingly well optimised even at this early stage. Another pleasant reveal? Australian servers! Bless you, Bethesda. Bless you.

What may surprise returning Q3 players will be the amount of character customisation on offer in Quake ChampionsOverwatch style loot boxes are earned in-game (or can be purchased with real world money) in exchange for cosmetics. These might just be armour pieces, colour changes or they might be whole skins. The character designs at this point are still very “id” but they do evoke the 90’s era multiplayer shooter vibe the game is going for.

As it stands right now, Quake Champions has everything it needs to succeed, even in early access. It hits the nostalgia button in just the right way but includes enough refinements and changes to make it feel like a more modern take. For those who don’t care for Overwatch‘s objective-based, stylised modus operandi and just want to get into some good old fashioned deathmatch, this is the game you’ve been waiting for.

Quake Champions is available now on Steam Early Access.