Overwatch Review

Blizzard has finally released their long-awaited online first-person shooter, Overwatch. It looks like a highly-stylized cross between a FPS and a MOBA (think Dota 2 or Heroes of the Storm).

We’ve been teased with screenshots and videos for what seems like ages.

So it’s finally here. Is it worth the $40?

Well, it’s Blizzard, so…

Of course.

Overwatch is a fast-paced action FPS set in a futuristic sci-fi/fantasy world. It is as slick and polished as any game I can remember, yet unlike most overly-polished games, it’s actually incredible amounts of fun.

The basic mechanics aren’t anything revolutionary. It’s essentially, capture a point, hold it (or follow it, some move), kill some enemies, repeat. Yet each round is different from the last thanks to one big difference overwatch has over other, similar games: the characters.

There are 21 different characters in Overwatch, each with unique abilities, weapons, and overall playstyle. They’re flat-out brilliantly designed. They break down into four basic categories: Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support. As you can imagine, offense does a lot of damage, but can’t take much. Tank is the opposite. Support helps your teammates, and Defense has abilities that work best on, well, defense (like being able to build walls and automatic turrets).

You’d think with this many characters there’d be overlap, or real duds/winners, except… that’s just not the case. Each character’s distinct playstyle means that if you play to their strengths and are wary of their weaknesses, you’ll be successful.

For example, take a hypothetical match up between Reinhardt and Tracer. Reinhardt is a massive robot with a powerful sledgehammer, lots of health, and a portable shield that deflects a tremendous amount of damage. He’s a tank if there ever was one.

Tracer is a small, fast running offense character armed with two pistols. If these two were to stand in front of each other and face off, Reinhardt would deflect Tracer’s meager damage, and then pummel her with his sledge.

Except, that never happens. Tracer’s high speed, and ability to instantly transport herself a few yards ahead of where she’s running, make her difficult to hit. She can literally run circles around Reinhardt and his shield, shooting him from behind while he lumbers around. So they’re essentially evenly matched.

Because it’s Blizzard, every character also has their own character. Elaborate backstories with different nationalities, voices, and overall aesthetic.

And then there’s the god-like superpowers. As you inflict/block/repair damage, or complete objectives, you will up points that let you use a character's massively powerful special ability. These are gloriously overpowered, but infrequent. At my level of skill (i.e. formerly-skilled-FPS-gamer-now-horribly-out-of-practice) I get to use these only a handful of times each round.

A good example would be Hanzo’s Dragonstrike. Hanzo is an archer from Japan. Dragonstrike is a huge area-of-effect attack (ostensibly shot from an arrow) that launches two swirling dragons that damage everyone in front of him. Or on the other end of the gameplay spectrum, Symmetra’s Teleporter ability, which lets you place a teleporter anywhere on the map that links to respawn area (which is huge).

I think most of all though, above all else, is just how fun it all is. I don’t spend the time playing FPS as much as I used to (I do other things now), and for a while now when I play most online FPS, I get bored. Mostly because I spend most of the time dead. Part of this, I swear, is the high input lag on my projector (or at least, that’s what I tell myself). Playing Overwatch though, I don’t get bored. If I’m tired of dying quickly trying to attack, I can play as support, which is somehow just as fun. Or I can play as Torbjörn and build turrets that lay waste to, and annoy the crap out of, the enemy.

Then there’s art design. And the voice acting. And the sound… it’s all brilliant.

Bottom Line

If you’re a fan of first-person shooters, go buy this game. Today.

And, also because it’s Blizzard, there are a bunch of animated shorts to watch (Blizzard always did know how to do a good cutscene, and I guess this is how you do that with an online FPS…).