Overwatch Open Beta Preview

I was intrigued by Overwatch as soon as Blizzard announced it as their first new IP for 17 years at Blizzcon 2014. It’s a 6v6 hero-based shooter – something you’ve probably heard a lot recently – with enough variety in its heroes to keep it interesting. It’s also a *expletive* ton of fun.

It’s a joy to finally be able to play Overwatch, even if it is just in Beta mode at the moment. It’s also a joy to play a beta that actually contains everything that’ll be in the final release, and not small pieces of the final product; how betas are basically glorified demos is a whole other story. Judging from the time I’ve spent with the beta so far, this could be the game I’ve been waiting for; it’s safe to say this is a game I’ll put an extortionate number of hours into.

This open beta comes with everything the release will have to offer: all the heroes, all the maps, all the modes. While on the face of it there seems to be a lack of content modes wise, after about 11 hours it still hasn’t felt like it. Considering that each map has attack and defend, each of which play so differently, I don’t think many players will grow tired of Overwatch over this beta period. Equipped with 21 heroes who are all fun in their own right, Overwatch could become one of the most played games of the year.

Those 21 heroes are split into four different categories: Offense, Defense, Tank and Support. They’re pretty self-explanatory and are used as a means of telling players what may be needed in their team’s current comp. Most players tend to choose whoever they want, so it’s very rare you’ll have a match without a Widowmaker. All 21 heroes feel unique and they all have character, from their one-liners to their emotes. I feel that everyone will have a favourite and those favourites will be spread across the 21 characters; my friends who’ve tried it have different favourites from me and each other. Some do more damage than others, but some are harder to play with greater rewards for playing them well.

Overwatch 2 min

Overwatch‘s gameplay is extremely fast-paced and smooth; pair that with the abilities of some of the heroes and the game can at times be hectic. However, once you get used to each character’s individual skills, you begin to know what’s going on, what to avoid and how to avoid it. On console the pacing of the game is a lot slower as turning isn’t as quick or pinpoint as it is on PC; it’s kind of a shame as the fast-paced nature of the game is one of its glowing aspects, but is something that Blizzard could be looking into as this is the first time it’s properly playable on consoles. Overwatch appears manically crazy at first, but once you get a few games under your belt, you start noticing tactical changes your enemies and you could make to progress. The most integral part behind Overwatch is how you can switch Hero pretty much whenever you want – if you’re dead or at your spawn. The heroes are set up in a way where each of them has another hero that can powerfully counter them, so once you get to grips with the roster, you could change hero to have a bigger effect on the match.

There are technically four modes in Overwatch, but one of them is effectively two others combined. I imagine over time that perhaps these modes will become stale for some players, but there’s always hope for new modes in the future. Currently though we have Escort, Assault, Hybrid and Control. As the attacking team on Escort your goal is to move a payload from one end of the map to the other; much like Team Fortress 2’s payload mode – a game Overwatch will be compared to a lot. Attacking on Assault your goal is to gain control of two objective areas A-B, and defending you must stop them taking both. Hybrid is a combination of Escort and Assault; you start off as you would Assault, then once you take the first objective it switches to Escort until the end of the map. Control is your basic king of the hill best of three.

The modes are split across the 12 maps in Overwatch which are futuristic locations across the globe. The 12 maps are evenly split with each of the four modes having three maps each. For example, King’s Row, which is London, only has Hybrid as a mode. The map locations span around the globe, including London, Russia, Greece,  Mexico and  Japan; all maps have their own look and feel and some are better or worse for certain characters, ergo promoting diversity in your hero choices. In the beta there have been a lot of times where the attacking team can’t get past a choke point, but that’s where hero switching comes in.

Overwatch 1 min

So far in the beta I am having way too much fun. Overwatch doesn’t seem to be shying away from its over-the-top silly nature. There are a few bugs that still need ironing out, but like many Blizzard games, it’s currently quite solid and runs flawlessly right now on PC. They may decide to look into the slower pace that consoles have but it’s not too much of an issue for console players. It’s just so refreshing to have a beta be the full game as it is with a feeling of “this is the game, the full game and nothing but“. All future maps and heroes will be free for owners of the game and will inject life into Overwatch whenever they come along in the future. All I can tell you so far is just to play it; it’s free right now to play until Monday 9 May so why not give it a bash? It might surprise you. I for one, am having a ball.

Overwatch is currently in Open Beta until 9 May. It’s scheduled to release on PC, PS4 and Xbox One on 24 May.