Today's update for Id's twitchy online FPS Quake Champions holds a special place in my heart - much as I appreciate its Quake 3-inspired core, Quake 2 was the first competitive FPS I got into. On top of a new attack-and-defense playmode called Slipgate, new champion Athena feels like she's been lifted straight from Quake 2, laser-like grappling hook and quirky physics intact. Below, videos introducing Slipgate and Athena. The game is in early access and free-to-play, and the Slipgate update is out now. You can see the full patch notes here.
While my go-to character for Quake Champions has always been Quake 1's ranger, I'm retiring him in favour of Athena's even more offbeat style. Her active special ability is a grappling hook, although anyone who played Quake 2 online will know that it behaves more like a rope-coloured laser, pulling you immediately towards the point of impact. The rope has picked up a few new tricks, including doing damage on impact with enemies, and a second press of the hook button allowing Athena to swing from the rope, almost as if it had coherent physics but not quite.
Her 'passive' ability is what really impresses me, though. Quake 2 had some odd movement physics, and jumping while running up a slope or staircase or off a low ledge could give you a significant height boost. That's reflected here, and paired with the grappling hook, it makes Athena probably the most agile character in the game. While you can't spam her grappling hook quite as much as you could in Quake 2, three shots can be stocked, allowing you to chain grapples to get around the map fast. I have a feeling that Athena will be a favourite when Capture The Flag mode is added.
Slipgate is a mostly-straightforward attack and defense mode, but with a cool theme. One team are cultists, trying to summon a tentacled elder god. The other team are trying to close the portal. Both teams have only one life each per round, and start with maxed health, armour and all weapons. The attacking team have to close the portal to win a round, so even if the defenders get wiped out, there's still a chance of them squeaking in a victory. After each round, the two teams switch sides - first to five wins takes the match.
While Athena needs to be unlocked or bought if you don't own the Champions Pack, there's also a community event running. If a total of a million Slipgate matches are played between now and Halloween, Athena will be unlocked free for all, with existing owners getting an alternate skin for her.
Quake Champions is free-to-play and available on Steam and via Bethesda’s own launcher. The Champions Pack (which unlocks all characters current and future) costs £30/€40/$40. It is still, technically, in early access.