When I have to spend as long as I did debating whether to give a game a perfect score, you know that said game is something special – and Overwatch certainly is. Blizzard has made the 17-year wait for a new IP worth it.
Within this world was once a band of heroes known as Overwatch. They were tasked with ending a global crisis known as the Omnic Crisis, and upon ending the global crisis this band of heroes inspired decades of advancement in all fields across the globe. However, Overwatch has since disbanded having lost its influence on the planet. Now, conflict once again rises across the globe; Overwatch is needed once again to quell the crisis. It’s never quite explained why this means these 21 heroes must continuously kill each other, but Overwatch doesn’t stand tall on its story because it doesn’t need to; instead, it takes you back to the days when a game’s number one priority was to be fun – and Overwatch is the most fun I’ve had in a video game for years. If you want story it’s plastered everywhere on the website with bios for all 21 heroes.
Overwatch has such a wonderful playful personality about it, primarily thanks to its colourful cast of 21 heroes; they’re all different in their own way with interesting backstories that tend to weave into each other. The 21 heroes are integral to the overall experience of Overwatch and Blizzard know that as that’s where all the marketing is focused on – Tracer is literally everywhere. Everyone I know has their own favourite hero, and each hero seems to be creating their own fan bases. You know you’ve got a successful game on your hands when the characters alone make such an impression on the player base.
For a hero shooter like Overwatch the balancing has to be spot on. The way the game is balanced in this case stems mostly from the way each hero has a specific counter-hero. Blizzard kept joking about the response they knew they’d get to Bastion on release and they got exactly that; many players believe that he is overpowered, but really they’re just not playing his counters. In other more traditional shooters, it’s rare you’d have to change tactic or gun because of what your opposition is doing unless it’s in the extreme like a full team of snipers. If you’re doing poorly in a match of Overwatch you look at the six opponents you’re up against and pick a suitable counter character to switch to. I’ve done this a number of times resulting in a complete shift during the match and that’s extremely impressive; it gives players a sense that as an individual they’re having a real impact on the match to help the team overall no matter who they’re playing.
It’s refreshing to play a first-person shooter which doesn’t have a radar, and you certainly don’t need one thanks to Overwatch‘s fantastic sound design. Continuously in the background, Overwatch is prioritising certain information to give the player through sound. With a set of headphones on and Dolby Atmos enabled, you can work out exactly what is happening, what to avoid, and who is nearby simply through the clever use of audio. You can hear a Genji above or below you swishing about, and ultimate abilities carried out by enemy characters are instantly prioritised and made extremely clear, drawing your entire team’s attention to it. Sound design is at it’s best when you don’t really notice it, you just absorb it – and that’s exactly the case with Overwatch; I’d go as far to say that its sound design is revolutionary.
The design of the 21 heroes in Overwatch allow for quick fast-paced gameplay that is a real joy to play. No matter which hero you choose, as soon as it gets heated the pacing of the game picks up tenfold. It can be tough when you first start playing to get to grips with the pacing, but in Overwatch there’s a real learning curve with every match. After playing a few matches, the pacing is no longer the problem and you start focusing on what you can do to be better; whether that be switching to other heroes or just mastering the skills of your chosen hero. It’s worth noting however that there seems to a tangible difference in pacing between console and PC; on console the pacing is a lot slower given Overwatch is played on a controller.
However, with how Overwatch plays, it’s hard to imagine how new modes could be added, and that’s a worry considering right now there’s only four; one of which is a mix of two others. Don’t get me wrong, the modes that are there are fun, and since Overwatch does an outstanding job in making attacking and defending feel so different, it almost feels like there are twice as many modes than there actually is. The maps are what makes the modes; they too are full of character with so many small details dotted around the 12 of them. You can tell they’ve been designed with love and care. The maps are dotted across the globe and each have stories to tell that relate to a few of the heroes. On top of that, you’ve probably seen a few of those details in the maps in the very impressive Pixar quality shorts that Blizzard have been doing. What Blizzard have created is a world with plenty of intrigue, and I hope for a proper story in the future.
Some people have complained about Overwatch‘s full price (£39.99 on console, starting at £29.99 on PC) considering its current lack of content, but you have to laud the fact that all future content will be free: modes, maps, and heroes, all free. When you consider that Overwatch‘s competitors are full priced and have additional season passes and paid DLC, it’s refreshing to see a AAA title ask for one payment only with a promise of all future content added to the game.
I’ve got to be honest, I was slightly disappointed to see Overwatch had microtransactions even if they are just for cosmetics. It diminishes the impact of seeing someone with a legendary skin or a really good voice line. The cosmetics are part of what keeps the user base playing. Every time you level up you get a loot box which can contain skins, voicelines, sprays, and highlight intros. There’s a slight thrill in opening one once you level up, though I know it’ll be a while before I get a legendary skin from a loot box and I refuse to pay money for any. Every level up is taking a lot longer for me now and I imagine it’s the impatience of waiting that will cause a lot of players to spend money on loot boxes.
Overwatch may but not 100% perfect, but I haven’t had this much fun in a multiplayer shooter in about a decade. It’s my new go-to game when I’m not doing anything else; I imagine I’ll soon be hitting hundreds of hours on it, and I haven’t sunk that much time into a multiplayer shooter since Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. It’s already a fantastic package, with plenty more upgrades to look forward to such as the incoming ranked mode, and I’m eagerly awaiting more heroes as that is where the game really shines paired with its gameplay. There has been an FPS-shaped hole in my gaming over the past few years; Overwatch has come along and filled it quite nicely, and I think it could be there for a long time.