Despite the obvious growth of the eSports industry, it’s debatable that the first-person shooter genre is one that’s oversaturated. Fortunately, Blizzard’s Overwatch is a welcome jolt and is set to become a pioneer in the shooter genre for years to come depending on what they want to do with it.
What Is It?
On the surface, Overwatch is a six-on-six team-based first-person shooter, but players that look more deeply will find a colorful, diverse, and incredibly satisfying experience throughout every round.
As far as the story goes, unfortunately, there isn’t one—at least not here. There’s no single player campaign to be found, which is a real shame because the Overwatch universe is a beautiful one, and each one of the roster’s 21 heroes has about as much personality as heroes from a DC or Marvel comic book. But while there is no single player story mode, Blizzard has made an effort to release short webisodes over the year detailing a handful of the game’s heroes, and there will also be a comic book series along the way, so hardcore fans should have enough on their plate when it comes to Overwatch‘s seemingly deep lore.
Overwatch‘s initial release has four main online multiplayer modes: assault mode, escort mode, assault/escort mode, and control mode.
Assault mode tasks the attacking team with claiming two points on a map, while the defense tries to stop them. Escort mode tasks the attacking team to escort a payload to a certain delivery point before time runs out. If the attacking team pulls it off, they win. If not, they lose. Assault/escort mode requires the teams to capture the payload and escort it, while the other team tries to prevent that from happening, and control mode is sort of a king of the hill, best two-out-of-three, game where teams have to capture and maintain control of a point until the capture percentage reaches 100 percent.
While the fact that most of the modes are capture the flag-style games, it’s worth noting that Overwatch is all about teamwork, so the team deathmatch-type games made popular by Call of Duty and the like won’t work. This is what truly sets Overwatch apart.
Why Should I Care?
As the spiritual successor to Team Fortress, Overwatch‘s main draw is its extensive roster of 21 characters to choose from, each with distinct abilities that make them all unique. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill online FPS where you can buy your way to the top through rank while getting bigger and better guns. You can’t go all Rambo and expect to win either. You have to know which characters your opponents are using and what exactly they’re trying to do, then adapt by choosing the right heroes for your own squad.
This is what makes Overwatch such an approachable shooter, while also being impossible to master all at once. While the game’s training mode does a fine job in instructing people how to play, it only tells you how to use one character, and the character used is a standard infantry guy not too different from a stormtrooper (minus the whole missing every shot thing).
That said, there are four roles to choose from when it comes to your hero selection.
There are offensive characters like Genji and the series mascot Tracer who are known to be able to cover a lot of ground and have powerful attacks, but they also have low HP. So while they can undoubtedly pack some heat, they’re also likely to be the first to die in a match.
Defensive characters like the mech Bastion, the sniper Widowmaker, or the eskimo Mei are ideally suited to defend capture points and are best used at a distance as most of their attacks take a while to charge, leaving them vulnerable to heroes that specialize in close quarters combat.
Tank characters are a different juggernaut. Tank heroes such as Reinhardt and Winston are big targets, but they also have a lot of health and are extremely useful as a shield allies can use.
Lastly, support heroes are as their role says. They support allies whether it’s to buff or debuff various attributes as well as heal. Of course, they’re also among the weakest and most vulnerable heroes in the game.
The characters you want to choose really depend on the situation you’re in. I hardly consider myself an FPS enthusiast (in fact, I tend to avoid them), but I’ve had a fantastic time simply trying all the characters out and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface when it comes to the different strategies you employ.
For example, in escort missions with friends, we always have one guy immediately starting as Reinhardt so he can use his shield ability to defend the onslaught that usually starts as soon as the action begins. With that, I typically use Junkrat and take the long way to where all our enemies are and throw my grenades all over the place from there (because I suck at aiming) when I’m not using a stationary sniper.
When you actually finish a match, the player with the best highlight has a “play of the game” reel shown, showcasing what kind of havoc they’ve wreaked on their opponents. Not to be outdone, the game also has a way for its participants to show some love for others accomplishments in the match as well. After the “play of the game,” players with significantly key stats can be voted up, so that’s a good opportunity get some ego-stroking going on as well in the hopes of leveling up after a round.
Leveling up in Overwatch doesn’t mean much depending on how you look at it. While some players will have different frames and have significantly higher levels than others, nothing actually affects gameplay, so beginners don’t have to worry about more experienced players having access to superior weapons and stats. It doesn’t work that way, and this is what makes Overwatch so appealing.
Instead of those buffers, players earn a Loot Box with each level up, which unlocks anything from victory poses to new skins and sprays for each of your heroes. The skins are especially awesome because as great as the character art in Overwatch is, there’s even more pride when your version of whichever hero you choose looks different than that of others.
Should you choose, Loot Boxes can be purchased with real money as for now it’s the game’s only form of microtransactions, and in all honesty — this is how microtransactions should work. You can’t buy skill, so we can’t stress enough how well thought out this was.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
As someone who believes the shooter genre has run incredibly dry, especially over the last couple of years, I’m happy to say that Overwatch is worth every bit of hype that it gets. That said, whether it’s worth the full $60 (or $40 on PC) really depends on what your plans are with the game.
While Overwatch is a fantastic experience definitely catered to bring in gamers both old and new, if you don’t plan on playing competitively or, at the very least, have friends willing to play with you regularly, there isn’t much of a reason to own the game. The lack of a single player campaign does bring down the value, and while there’s some enjoyment in participating in a few matches alone with strangers, nothing really compares to winning and losing with people that you actually know.
Now if you do have a set of buddies to play with or plan to get competitive, there’s no doubt that this game will make its mark in eSports. Through the first week of the game’s release, we’ve seen absolutely no problem with the Battle.net servers as far as lag goes, but it’s also worth noting I also played on a higher end internet connection.
There’s no telling what the future is for Overwatch yet, but when E3 rolls around and Blizzard announces all the new things to expect with the game, we’ll be all ears. Overwatch is a tremendous joy to play and it shows that Blizzard just gets it.
|Platform:||PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC|
|Release Date:||May 23, 2015|
|Editor's Note:||The PS4 version of the game was purchased by the reviewer.|