Head Shots

Why BJ Blazkowicz has no business being in Quake Champions

Bethesda
Wolfenstein's BJ Blazkowicz Bethesda
Wolfenstein's BJ Blazkowicz

BJ Blazkowicz's presence in Quake Champions is a cross-promotion stunt, no doubt about it. This says a great deal about the way ZeniMax and Bethesda treat the various IPs under their corporate umbrella. Why not add a Vault Tech themed deck to Elder Scrolls Legends while you are at it?

Very few people enjoy seeing product placement in movies. When I say very few, I actually mean marketing experts, and barely anyone else. Cross-promotions are quite similar to product placement in many ways and games have a huge potential for such manoeuvres.

It is no accident that Wolfenstein's BJ Blazkowicz was announced as a playable champion for the latest Quake game around the same time a Wolfenstein sequel - The New Colossus, was confirmed by Bethesda. Both Quake and Wolfenstein belong to to the same publisher, so they can cross-breed the two IPs as much as they want.

There is a slight problem with this however, and it can be broken down into two parts - aesthetic or tonal consistency in terms of visual design, and the mechanical implications of adding a playable character with marketing as the chief motivator.

BethesdaAnimated gif of lady faking a nerdgasm at some quake footage on her screen.Quake Champions - Oh yeah, baby! Gasp at me all promo like!

I've played about an hour's worth of Quake Champions before I decided that my framerate wasn't good enough, fiddled with some settings, and failed to start the game after that. I decided not to bother with it anymore until the game is out of beta, but one thing did strike me as particularly odd during that hour.

The new champions added in the attempt to make Quake a more marketable and profitable affair, in line with competing shooters like Overwatch, just don't look or feel like Quake characters from the Arena game. This isn't just me not liking something because it's new, especially since I don't think that the current design team has managed to nail Sorlag's look either, and he is from the old roster.

But have a look for yourself, and let me know if and why you think these new models fit with the general Quake aesthetic.

BethesdaQuake Champions - Anarki (left) and Nyx (right) Quake Champions - Anarki (left) and Nyx (right)

If I had to describe what is actually wrong with the new additions, I can only vaguely say that they look as if they jumped in from another game. They lack the worn and gritty feel of the original designs, the lines are to clear and clean. It's not Quake, it's just wrong.

BethesdaQuake Champions - Visor (left) and Scalebearer (right)Quake Champions - Visor (left) and Scalebearer (right)

I do fully understand that grater visual variety is necessary, since the new champions not only look but also play differently, as opposed to Q3, and also represent different opponents within the arenas based on the newly added skill system, but still - they don't look like Quake characters and functionality considerations in design should not be an excuse. Especially when it's id Software doing the designing.

BethesdaQuake Champions - Visor (left) and Scalebearer (right)Quake Champions - Mr. BJ

Blazkowicz suffers from the same problem, and he will just look like an out of place milkfaced joke, especially once the 90's cigar smoking badass testosterone factory that is Sarge inevitably joins the roster. Unless he gets a watering down similar to the one that Sorlag received.

The other thing that is troublesome are the mechanical implications of adding a champion for marketing reasons. First off, you have to make sure the new character will be actually appealing to play, especially when he looks totally out of place in the game and the novelty of his presence will wear of rapidly. Since you can't make him look appealing, because if you could, you would have already done it with your newly invented additions, you will just have to make sure players have good cause to play him for mechanical reasons.

So, regenerating health and dual-wielding, really? That's the best you could come up with?

Adding dual-wield to a game that was so competitive it drove players to abuse the movement mechanics so much that they replaced running with bunny-hopping entirely just to get an edge, doesn't seem like a smart move. Unless you want n00blets to use him the most, since dual-wielding seems like a no-brainer from that perspective. But wouldn't that make BJ look like total wuss in most matches, because new players would flock to the champion en masse? Only to get fragged to hell and back by a more experienced or skilled competition.

BethesdaDoom Guy - Hey folks, my multiplayer was crap. Mind if I squat here for a bit? Alright, GG.Doom Guy - Hey folks, my multiplayer was crap. Mind if I squat here for a bit? Alright, GG.

What about balance, when Doom Guy, The Brotherhood of Steel, Sebastian Castellanosa, and Pete forbid The Dragonborn enter the arena - should Bethesda choose to pursue this marketing logic all the way to its extreme?

I know all of this might seem terribly nitpicky, but it's supposed to be. This is Quake we are talking about here. If I wanted a committee approved, designed by numbers multiplayer arena shooter - I would go play Overwatch. If Doom is the Heavy Metal of first-person shooters, then Quake 3: Arena is Punk at its purest expression in FPS form. It's fast, colourful, gritty, crazy and unapologetic in its youthful vitality.

twistedwellQuake 3: Arena - Slash fan artQuake 3: Arena - Slash fan art

The moment you start bending it over a fence in preparation to serve some corporate agenda, the experience is diminished, the tone broken and the magic lost. Or maybe I'm just getting too old for what passes for a mosh pit in today's FPS arenas.