Overwatch Review

Blizzard throws its hat into the FPS/MOBA ring with its new title, Overwatch. Pretty much everything Blizzard develops is met with critical acclaim, but does Overwatch do enough to separate itself from the likes of Battleborn and the upcoming Paragon?

Gameplay

As stated above, Overwatch is a FPS/MOBA hybrid. The game is played in multiplayer matches where each team is trying to attack and hold a point, escort or intercept a moving vehicle, or attacking or defending a series of checkpoints. Pretty straightforward, right? Blizzard has made it much less straightforward by making the maps extremely varied and elaborate. There are multiple pathways you can use to travel to your destination, many sniping perches, and even more choke points. How your team uses the game’s geography to your advantage is a huge part of winning.  When a choke point is right next to the final objective, mayhem ensues.

When selecting characters, the game will tell you on the right if you're missing something, like a tank, DPS, or support.
When selecting characters, the game will tell you on the right if you’re missing something, like a tank, DPS, or support.

The real gameplay intricacies, however, come with the individual characters. Each character is designed with specific strengths and weaknesses. D.Va, for example, is a highly mobile tank character, with a jetpack that allows her to fly in bursts around the battlefield and automatic shotguns in both of her mech’s arms. Once you start firing, though, her movement speed slows to a crawl, making her easy to outrun or flank. Tracer is the most mobile of all of the heroes, capable of using her Blink ability to jump around the map, and her Rewind ability to go back in time a few seconds, reversing any damage done to her. The downside? She is extremely squishy. One well timed Reaper blast to the face is enough to put her down. McCree is designed after a gunslinger from the Wild West, brandishing a six-shot revolver, which puts him at a disadvantage against characters like Soldier 76, who carries a large-capacity assault rifle. Once you get in the way of McCree’s Flashbang ability, which stuns the defending player, and watch as he uses Fan the Hammer to empty his entire revolver in about 1.5 seconds into your skull, and you’ll start to understand his appeal (this particular combo is so powerful it’s rumored that Blizzard is considering a major nerf).

Each character also has an ultimate ability that charges over time. You can increase the rate of charging by doing character-specific things, like killing enemies or providing healing or support. These ultimates are unique to each character, and they have their own special uses in combat. For example, Lucio’s ultimate supercharges the health of all of his nearby allies for a period of time. Reaper’s Death Blossom has him spin in circles, firing his shotguns, obliterating nearby enemies. Mercy’s ultimate is called Resurrect, and, not surprisingly, this ability will revive all nearby fallen allies.

Genji's Ultimate ability has him slicing and dicing through his enemies.
Genji’s Ultimate ability has him slicing and dicing through his enemies.

I could write an entire article just on the strengths and weaknesses of each character. This is a game that is almost perfectly balanced. Defending team set up a Bastion in sentry mode? Use Genji to reflect his shots right back to him. Is the enemy Symetra stymying your advance with well-placed turrets? Use Reaper to Shadow Step past them and take them out. It is all about the balance—measures and countermeasures. As of right now, there are 21 different characters available, and Blizzard plans on releasing more in the future.

Reaper's Shadow Step ability allows players to reach vantage points and flank the enemy.
Reaper’s Shadow Step ability allows players to reach vantage points and flank the enemy.

Currently, there are no official rankings for Overwatch, but the competitive season should be starting soon. If you can’t wait, check out Master Overwatch. This will give you unofficial rankings so you can see how you stack up against other characters. If you look up FeirlessLeider, you’ll notice I’m currently ranked around #311 in the entire world for Reaper. This pleases me.  Also, if you do something particularly cool in the game, you’re rewarded with the Play of the Game, which is a highlight shown at the end of the match.

The last interesting part of the game’s systems are the Loot Boxes and customization features. Each time you level up, you will be given a Loot Box. Upon opening one of these, you’re given four random objects of varying rarity and perhaps some credits. The objects are character skins, voicelines, poses, emotes, and spray tags. The credits can be used to directly purchase these optional items, just in case there is a specific skin or victory pose you’re been eyeing. While these are usually random, I do find a good amount of items dropping for my preferred characters, such as Reaper. It makes me wonder if the characters you play as the most somehow affect the Loot Box algorithm.

You can pick from a number of different victory screen poses for each character.
You can pick from a number of different victory screen poses for each character.

Graphics

Overwatch is a pretty game. Blizzard made characters that would almost look perfect in a Disney movie, with a nice cartoony motif. Care was taken in the design of each character, and it shows. Even though characters may play similarly, they look very different, each with his or her own unique personality and look. The same can be said for the game’s environments: each map takes place in a different country/location, so they are extremely varied.

Even though the maps are very large, you won’t be seeing any pop-in objects or textures, and the game also runs very smoothly. While it’s not on par with the constant 60FPS you’ll get on a PC, my PS4 version runs so well that I have no complaints.

The animated short "Alive" shows us that Tracer and Blackwidow aren't exactly best friends.
The animated short “Alive” shows us that Tracer and Blackwidow aren’t exactly best friends.

Story

If there is one place where Overwatch is lacking, it’s the story, which is so bare-bones as to be nonexistent. There are clues scattered around the different maps, such as dossiers that could be for characters that haven’t been revealed yet, and there is an excellent series of web shorts that are available on the Play Overwatch YouTube page, but that’s about it. There is something about an invasion of a robotic enemy in the game’s opening cutscene (before the titles), and Overwatch was apparently assembled to fight this enemy, but little more is mentioned thoughout the game. You can get some sense of history between characters by listening to their dialogue at the beginning of a match too—some of them don’t get along very well! Sometimes it doesn’t make much sense, either. For example, in the web short Recall, Reaper attempts to steal information from Winston. It’s obvious that they are not friends; however, they have no qualms with working together to escort a payload in a mission. There are other examples of this too, with Widowmaker and Tracer, and another with Genji and Hanzo (which is partially explained in the animated short, Dragons), but what happened to make these characters, who are obviously on different sides of a separate conflict, come together and fight some of their past allies? Also it would be nice to know why the jerk Hollywood agent in the nice car is important enough to require an escort by a team of heroes, and why another set of extremely talented fighters are trying to stop it.

Final Score: 9/10

To conclude, Overwatch is a really amazing FPS/MOBA. If you’re looking for a good time working as a team in frantic online battles, where strategy is just as important as twitch reflexes, this one is for you; however, if you’re in the mood for an intense, story-driven shooter, this is not the game you’re looking for.

+ Excellent, balanced combat

+ Large, intricate maps

+ 21 unique characters

+ When people play to their character, the experience is awesome

– Lack of story

Overwatch is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Andrew is a writer/editor for The Geekiverse, and he currently spends just about all of his free time playing Overwatch.  Sorry, family.

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