Overwatch is both something we have seen before, and something new at the same time. The inaugural effort at a first person shooter by World of Warcraft developers, Blizzard, has been well received by its fan base. Team oriented games have been around for years, but Overwatch does seem to be pulling their audience from a specific niche in the gaming community. Games like Team Fortress 2 and Unreal Tournament may have paved the way for this game, but how does Overwatch compare to its predecessors?
Well, to start, the game has an amazing art style. Playing the game almost feels like watching either a Pixar movie or similar cartoon made into a game. Characters are based on pop culture concepts such as a Clint Eastwood type cowboy, a Metal Gear ninja, and even the Dwarves from World of Warcraft. These original player models show the appropriate attributes to their overall character: everything from dirt and grime to their height, while also showing smooth animation while being blown to pieces by the enemy team. Overwatch still shows a little blood and gore that will make fans of such types of art happy, but it is really only used as a hit indicator (showing that a shot from a gun or weapon has hit its target).
Gameplay is where Overwatch shines. Focusing on a team oriented game modes similar to defensive games like Control Point (Team Fortress 2), teams fight to take control of two control points with the various characters in the game. Called Heroes, players can choose from four types of characters: Offensive, Defensive, Tank, and Support. All character are classified by their dominant traits; Offensive characters are Heroes with high attack, Defensive are Heroes with high defensive capabilities, Tanks have a massive amount of health, and Support is Heroes with the ability to heal and boost attack or defensive abilities. The game tells players in the Hero selection screen what makes a balanced team. For example, if players have too many defensive Heroes, the screen will tell the team that more attacking Heroes are needed. This is a great hint when playing with total strangers, and is not mandatory. Playing the Heroes can be a little daunting at first, but after some practice, each Hero can be mastered and played with skill.
The Heroes all have different strength, some use guns, some use mechs, some use ninja stars and swords. This gives the game a different and fresh feel than compared to team games that only use guns. On top of that, every Hero has an ultimate ability that requires a certain amount of time to be used. Killing other players and attacking/defending the point can help build the Hero’s ultimate up faster. The ultimates usually are specific to the Heroes type, Support Heroes have ultimates that revive dead players, Offensive Heroes have ultimates that destroy enemy players around them and et cetera.
While the gameplay is fun and memorable, there are some cons to the game. Naturally, some Heroes are stronger than others. One specific Hero, Bastion, is a robot that can turn into a controlled sentry turret when the player presses shift. Although the sentry mode stops the player from moving, the turret is immensely powerful at very opportune points around the map. Another problem is that there is no regulation of how many of a specific hero you can have on your team. Using the character Bastion again as an example, the whole team could choose to be Bastion. In fact, this has actually happened several times to me while playing. This creates an environment of certain death and anger for an opposing team of random players.
The game is also a multiplayer only game. Personally, this is not a big concern, but buying a game for $60 that has only multiplayer often leaves me wondering what else I could spend my money on. The Heroes are very well developed characters, though, mostly because of the promotional videos created by Blizzard prior to the release of the game. These videos showcase the history of the Heroes, in a similar fashion to “Meet the ___” videos that Valve produced for Team Fortress 2.
Finally, the game is very limited in what the player can actually play. Assault is the only multiplayer game mode, and the only other options other than regular matchmaking is playing AI’s instead of actual players, create a custom game, or a weekly changing game mode.
Buy it, Rent it, or Skip it?
Buy it. The game is great for the average gamer who doesn’t want to spend countless nights trying to unlock new weapons or other features. Although it may lose its appeal a few weeks from now, the gameplay is sure to get you to spend hours trying to master any of the fifteen unlocked Heroes. The regular version of the game is only $40, compared to other new releases that are usually $60. The $60 version of the game will give you extra skins to change your character’s appearances, but other skins are available for purchase or even able to be achieved in game.
Overwatch may not be as groundbreaking as everyone thought, but it is sure to keep players occupied while waiting for the other bigger releases of the year.