Even if you don’t know what Overwatch is, you’ve likely been exposed to its rather massive marketing campaign. With TV ads, YouTube ads, short films, and even giant figurines in certain cities, much of the game’s cast is fairly recognizable to even the most out-of-the-loop individual. What none of these short films or cinematic cutscene-ads seem to explain though, is just what Overwatch is.
Well, to get the comparison out of the way immediately, Overwatch is, on the surface, similar to Team Fortress 2, or any other such objective-based shooter. If you’re looking for a rousing game of “win by killing the highest number of generic army men”, you won’t be finding that here. Rather, you’ll be controlling a group of greatly varied and unique “Heroes”, each armed with their own strength, weaknesses, abilities, and often an overwhelmingly silly quirk, such as one character’s tendency to just throw away his guns upon running out of ammo, simply pulling out new ones and abandoning that archaic practice that the old-timers refer to as “reloading”. Unlike Call of Duty or Counter Strike, you can’t expect to just carry your team by being a XxXSniperGod420XxX, instead you’ll have to rely on a concept known as teamwork, where planning, communication, and team composition lead you to victory, not unlike DotA 2, League of Legends or…
Wait, you may be wondering. Is this a MOBA?
That’s not exactly a weird question to ask, because yes, Blizzard’s entry into the FPS genre DOES contain many elements of MOBA games, from the roles characters are assigned in-game (Tank, Support, etc.), to the presence of “ultimate” abilities, to the team-oriented gameplay and teamcomp focus. Hell, the characters are even referred to as “Heroes”. Regardless of the genre though, what Overwatch does, it does mostly pretty well. The characters do a fine job of feeling unique and fun, and even the few that come off as extremely un-fun to play against do have their own counters and weaknesses, and when you have a good team filled with quick thinkers, Overwatch is a blast.
Much like a MOBA though, and unfortunately unlike most other shooters, the teamwork focus can also be rather discouraging for skilled newcomers. As of recently, once you hit Level 25, you can enter the competitive mode, which is all well and good, but until then you’re stuck in Quick Play, where, unless you bring your friends along, you could potentially be in for a world of despair, as all five of your teammates pick Hanzo, the long-range sniper bowman on a relatively flat map, where you’re on the offensive, trying to push a mobile cart to the goal. Indeed, Overwatch attracts the same type of players you see in League of Legends or DotA, who reply to your kindly-worded suggestions that they play a more helpful character with an offhanded remark like “eat my ass”, before picking an even worse character just to spite you. Someone exceedingly great at Overwatch can somewhat attempt to carry a game, but it’s certainly harder than it would be in almost any other type of game, and attempting to take on an entire team alone is akin to straight up suicide.
Thankfully, Overwatch is merciful in making these type of games short, and making the enjoyable games last quite a bit longer. At the end of each match, regardless of how you played, you’ll get a decent amount of “exp”, which doesn’t do much beyond giving you a loot box upon level up, which you can open to get (solely cosmetic) items. You have the option to buy them for money too, which while seedy in a pay to play game, is mostly pointless considering how many you get normally. There’s also a feature reminiscent of sports highlights, the Play of the Game, which shows a selected clip of gameplay that the game deemed particularly cool, something that would be awesome if it wasn’t so bizarrely selected. You’ll get games where someone does something AWESOME and solos the entire enemy team, but the PoTG goes to a Hanzo who shot Junkrat once and then fell off a cliff. The system as it is often acts more as an end of game comedy show than an actual highlight display, which I guess works just as well.
The game has an alright series of maps, each of which is great fun and pretty well designed, with a good amount of ways to get around, and there are 3 different types of objectives in total, each map focusing around one of the four, and some even combining them, giving each match a decent amount of variety. You get a king of the hill type of game, where your team has to spend the most time on the objective point, you get a point capture map, which works like Team Fortress 2, where one team attempts to capture, and one team attempts to defend, and you get a payload-style objective, where one team has to push it to the end while the other attempts to defend. Often times, these are well-balanced too, with neither team having too much of an advantage over each other, besides a select few maps. One of the only real flaws here is that maps are randomly selected every game, with players completely unable to choose, or even vote to play their own favorite map. This can be an advantage in some cases, but can sometimes lead to playing on the same map five times in a row, which is generally pretty lame. This is compounded by the fact that there aren’t really all that many maps in general, and you can quickly tire of them if you play a lot. This should be less and less of an issue as the game matures and Blizzard adds more maps, but for now it can get fairly tedious.
Graphically, Overwatch runs and looks like a dream on even low-end PCs. Blizzard, taking a lesson from the Wind Waker School of Timeless Graphics, has decided to actually stylize their cartoonish cast in a way that even at low resolutions with low texture quality, they all look great, colorful, and distinct, same with the maps. The game’s soundtrack is nice too, for the brief times you get to hear it. There’s not a whole lot in the way of music in Overwatch, or at least not much that’s noticeable over the wacky antics and voice lines of the characters onscreen. Mostly you’ll hear it during loading screens, where each area has its own “loading theme” that’s actually fairly memorable as far as brief snippets go. The voice direction is great though, and many characters have special lines and interactions for when they’re standing around each other, which really does help give the game a lot of personality, and can help spice up the time spent waiting in the spawn area for the game to start.
Ultimately though, should you buy Overwatch? Yes, if you’re a fan of either MOBAs, shooters, or both, but ONLY on PC. I can’t in good faith recommend the console ports. The PC version is $39.99 USD, a good price to pay for the multiplayer-only game, with the option to upgrade to the Origins edition for another twenty bucks, which includes a bunch of skins for Overwatch characters, and a metric ton of Overwatch related content for other Blizzard games. Now, consoles ONLY have the Origins edition, at full $60 price, without any of the other special Blizzard content that comes with it. It’s not worth that, plus it lacks mouse and keyboard support, which makes sense, so it doesn’t give those players an advantage against people with a controller, but I’m not a fan of controller shooting in general. To each their own though, I guess.