Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: 5/24/2016
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First-person shooters have hit an all-time slump in the past 10 years. With Call of Duty and Battlefield every year, they have kind of polluted the genre. FPS games are the laughing stock of the gaming community and it needs to stop. Even worse, FPS multiplayer has taken an all-time low as well. I have not enjoyed online multiplayer since Team Fortress 2 and that was a long time ago. Overwatch finally fixes this problem. Yes, Overwatch is the best multiplayer game I have played in nearly 10 years. That’s not an overstatement, that’s not an exaggeration, that’s a true hard fact.
What makes Overwatch so great? First off, the characters. Overwatch has some of the best characters gaming has seen in ages with every single one being memorable, unique, and fun. Not once did I find myself hating a character or preferring not to play as one. But you’re also probably asking, “What is Overwatch?” A team-based shooter with 6-vs-6 with various maps, objectives, and downright amazing fun.
Overwatch does not have a story, so let’s make that clear. It doesn’t need one either and that’s a damn miracle on its own. You boot up the game, play the tutorial, and go, that’s all you need. This is very refreshing as I’m tired of shooters shoehorning crappy stories into games. There isn’t even a backstory on the characters which is also not needed as it just works. I can’t express this enough, the game just works and it’s a masterpiece.
Let’s talk about gameplay. The game is perfectly set up for this type of game and strays away from leveling up weapons and getting new gear like in other FPS games. Each character has two abilities, and two modes on their weapons. Characters are divided up into class types which are Tank, Offense, Defense, and Support. Each class has about 5 characters so there is plenty to choose from. Not a single character plays the same and this is key to balancing out matches. One feature I absolutely love is the match hints when selecting characters. It lets everyone know when there are too many offensive characters, too many snipers, not enough tanks, etc. This allows you to balance out the match and works wonders. Rarely did I play a match in which players did not follow these guidelines.
Having each character play completely different forces, everyone, to either pick a few favorites or experiment. I still haven’t played all characters yet, but I stuck with Mercy (a healer) through most of my time. She doesn’t have any defense or offense abilities outside of a small pistol that does minimal damage. It’s up to other players to protect you and use your abilities to their full extent. She can fly towards another player from a good distance and this was a great defense. If you’re out in the open you can fly to a character and they will usually protect you. Her secondary fire ability is increased damage dealt so I would use this on a player until their health dropped. Every character also has a special ability that needs to be charged. Once charged these can change the game around to get an edge for your team. Mercy can resurrect a dead player which I have actually won matches doing.
Another character I played a lot was Pharrah. She’s a rocket launcher offense character that can fly. Her gameplay is designed for vertical play and it’s so much fun. Her rockets are fairly balanced and bring me back to days of Unreal Tournament. Her abilities are a rocket pack that allows her to glide, a super jump, and her special ability is a rocket barrage which is best used in the air as she’s immobile during this ability.
As you can see the game is perfectly balanced. Not one single character is overpowered causing players to use only one character. There is melee only characters like Reinhardt who uses a giant shield that players can take cover behind, but he also wields a giant hammer. He’s deadly up close, but he can’t do much to players far away. Then there’re characters like Widowmaker and Hanzo who are snipers and do great damage from far away but can hold their ground in close combat if it’s one on one. I just love how well each character plays and each one is unique, and I haven’t had that feeling since Team Fortress 2.
Once a match is over there’s an awesome Play of the Game that is picked from the winning team. You get a cool character intro screen as well as great adrenaline-fueled music along with the 10-second replay clip. Right now there’re issues with computers spitting outplays via numbers, so a lot of support characters get overlooked, but Blizzard is currently working on this. The whole time I played Mercy I was only Play of the Game once and that was because a player I was healing killed a lot of people and then I resurrected someone making my numbers slightly better. It’s unfair as characters who do quick high damage get the most plays such as Reaper, Hanzo, McCree, Bastion, Reinhardt, and D.Va. Most of the characters have huge AoE’s which the computer considers the coolest.
Once the play is over, players can rate the match, commend the players with the best numbers, and then you go to your XP bar. Every time you level up you get a Loot Box which contains four items ranging from new skins, sprays, icons, and voice lines. These are nice perks to make your character stand out a bit, but I would have loved something more robust. Maybe being able to customize the character fully would have been nice, but any weapon or ability upgrades would break the entire game. It’s perfectly balanced as it is.
The map design is also fantastic. I didn’t find a single map I disliked or didn’t want to play. There are about a dozen or so maps right now from around the world ranging from Russia, the USA, China, and Mexico. They are laid out just right so every character can take advantage of something whether it’s a sniper spot, large open area, or corridor.
Now let’s talk visuals. Overwatch is not so much technically impressive as it is artistic. The game looks fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but this isn’t going to make the latest GPU sweat. There’re some low-res texture issues here and there and you can tell it was optimized for consoles. The lighting effects are fantastic and everything is highly detailed, but don’t expect The Witcher 3 status graphics.
With all that said, Overwatch is one of the best shooters in the past ten years. I recommend every shooter fan to pick this up, especially if you loved Team Fortress 2. The game is perfectly balanced, has memorable characters, and is a blast to play as it forces players to work in teams even without communicating.