After years of public indifference about the first-person shooter genre, the release of new Blizzard game Overwatch has not only breathed a new lease of life into the genre, but may have revived it altogether. But what exactly has Overwatch done to hit the right chord with players who had been disinterested in the likes of the Call of Duty and Halo series for so long?
To start off, Overwatch doesn’t give anybody the façade that they should play it for the campaign alone, as it doesn’t have one. Other series have this big long build up to a storyline, and while Halo is generally better than the same stuff CoD puts out year after year, most people are there for the multiplayer experience. So Blizzard have focused all their energies into that and have come up with something new, refreshing, and genuinely enjoyable for all ages. However, while Overwatch doesn’t have a story mode, there are many cinematic features that have been uploaded to YouTube to help create more of a connection with the characters.
The characters are fantastically well thought out as well, as depending on who the opposition team has in their squad, you can change out your heroes to suit who you’re facing. The fact that there are 21 unique characters in the game gives the player a different experience each time as well. Sure, in CoD, you can customise your guns and gain new unlockables for that, but each time you level up in Overwatch, you gain new skins, voice clips and sprays for each of your characters.
So Overwatch gives the player that sense of accomplishment, and for those people seeking full completion out there, each characters has 54 things to unlock, and each level up gives you four items, spread across the 21 of them, so it might take a while.
When playing FPS games online, it’s rare to be able to know who you’re coming up against and what they’re capable of. In Overwatch, because you can see each individual character, you’re aware of what threat they might pose to you. You see somebody standing off in the distance? Chances are that’s a Widowmaker or Hanzo, so you want to get out of their line of sight as soon as possible. You see a Bastion? Too late, you’re already dead.
The biggest thing about Overwatch is that it’s more than a multiplayer experience – it’s a team building experience. That’s something that not everybody playing the game understands yet. Sometimes you’ll jump into a game and have an affinity with your team members; everybody will choose the right characters in order to build a successful team for the map you’re on. Other times, you’ll pick a character first, look back after your first death and see that there are three of the same type in your squad, so naturally you would change up to try and give a nice spread.
There are Offense, Defence, Tank and Support classes, and you would never find anybody in another first person shooter who would enjoy not actually shooting things, but giving buffs to your team’s stats like Mercy does. Typically, it’s good to have a lay of the land, so one character from each class, and then a sniper and a Torbjörn to build robots, but it depends on the map as sometimes it’s best to double up with characters.
Each character is so distinctive from any of the others. Tracer is unabashedly British and can essentially teleport at the click of her fingers. Reinhardt is an absolute behemoth, swinging his hammer of death and holding up his shield to block your bullets. There’s a woman who murdered her husband and modelled her personality around that; another who was so good at StarCraft that the Korean government gave her the opportunity to pilot a mech. Two brothers at each other’s throats for their legacy. The depth is what truly gives Overwatch an amazing feel to it, and even though there’s no story mode, you feel like you’ve seen some things and know why each character is motivated for battle.
One of the bigger things that has made Overwatch so successful – it hit seven million players within just one week – is that even for a shooting game, it’s pretty family friendly. The character animation is of a cartoonish design, reminiscent of Disney films, the action isn’t gory, and there’s no blood shown. Of course, there are some parents out there that will happily buy their children Grand Theft Auto and CoD, but for the ones who don’t condone that type of imagery with their children, this is a good go-between.
There are twelve maps in the game, all with very different vantage points and play styles. Some you will need to think tactically about, whereas others you might just have to charge in and hope for the best. Each map brings the choices that will mould your game – Route 66 is a payload transport with high ledges around each side, so tanks like Winston or Reinhardt are invaluable for shielding yourself from potential threats if you’re on the attacking side. If you’re playing on Volskaya Industries, use Symmetra’s turrets at the first point of entry to deal a large amount of damage, while tactically placing Widowmaker and Bastion in case people do get through.
The synergy between characters is an important thing to follow. Team up Mercy and Zarya, you’ll basically have an unstoppable tank capable of shielding lots of damage and then destroying your opponents. Need a payload escorting? Place one of Torbjörn’s turrets on top, or a Bastion, use Reinhardt as a shield and watch your easy coast to victory. There are multiple opportunities to team characters up, but I’ll let you think about other potentially game-winning combinations.
Overall, Overwatch is an insanely fun multiplayer shooter. The lifespan of this game might not be as long as you’d hope, due to a limited amount of game modes and maps, but the ability to choose whether you want to play for five minutes or five hours leaves you endless excuses to break it out and play for even a little while.