Blizzard takes aim at the team-based FPS crown.
Overwatch officially launched May 23 across PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One platforms. And as the nearly 10 million people who played the beta and the loads of people who have picked up a copy of the game can attest, it’s really good.
But it’s probably important to point out what Overwatch isn’t. It isn’t a game based around a story, though there is a significant amount of lore surrounding the world and characters. It isn’t a game focused on attaining the highest Kill/Death Ratio, though it definitely helps if the former is better than the latter. And it isn’t a game everyone, but is certainly accessible.
What Overwatch is: A highly tactical, objective based, character focused, team-designed shooter that challenges players to coordinate their efforts to achieve victory. If you want to run-and-gun, heal and revive teammates, soak up bullets, or a host of other options there’s probably a character for you to play as. And that’s what makes Overwatch so appealing. While elite players clearly do better, roles are defined and everyone who plays can get the same feeling of accomplishment for winning a match even if they aren’t taking out the most enemies. Just being a nuisance is handy.
Overwatch’s success and joy is different from many other shooters because it doesn’t focus on the best guns or having the most kills. There’s real value in just sitting back and supporting other players. It’s more akin to Monday Night Combat or Team Fortress 2 than to Call of Duty. And as the shooter market can often get rather crowded, Overwatch is a refreshing divergence from the normal array of FPS games.
However, Overwatch is an excellent FPS and knows exactly makes playing, what would usually be considered a limited number of match types, exciting game after game. The controls are excellent, level designs funnel the action to a few key points of conflict, characters have distinct abilities and classes while offering enough variation within the class to not feel like you’re just swapping character models, and each character has over 50 pieces of unlockable items to change the model color, model variations and character voice. That last piece is important because unlockables won’t change the game, but are a nice bonus to show a little variance.
But the real question is where does the game go from here? Blizzard has already announced when expansions for new characters and maps are available they will be completely free. That definitely aids with the longevity of the game and if traction for the game is similar to what happened during the beta when teams and tournaments were instantly organized, it’s not a stretch to see it adopted into the esports community.
There’s a lot to like in Overwatch, but it won’t be for everyone. Yet it strikes a delicate balance between pick-up-and-play and difficult to master. It’s a game best played with friends, but flying solo and joining up with a few people online is certainly entertaining as well. Blizzard once again has a distinctive winner.