Impressions out of 10: Overwatch
Is the newest Blizzard IP in 17 years worth the hype? Yes. Yes it is.
3 weeks ago, I had no clue what Overwatch was. A friend of mine showed me a Pixar-esque trailer of a gorilla and a ghost fighting over hacked data. My interest was piqued. The open beta was in a week and I thought it was worth a shot. I booted up the game, and was hooked. In fact, I hadn’t had this much excitement over a game since I first played Guitar Hero’s plastic Axe in a Walmart Electronics Department.
Within the game, you take control of one of 21 different heroes and put into a squad of 6, where you play objective based matches against another team. These modes vary from escorting a payload through various checkpoints, fighting to gain control of a capture point, or one team defending a capture point while the other tries to take it. With 12 maps, 4 game modes, and sparse story, Overwatch isn’t packed to the brim with content, but the gameplay is so good that you’ll never notice.
The game mechanics and design are where Overwatch truly shines. All of the little features that Blizzard has added to the game form together to make the game a technical marvel. Whether it is the characters chatting idly about exchanging autographs before going into a match, to the breadth of tactics one character’s ability provides, the game is constantly revealing just how deep the designers really thought about modern shooters, which to me, is why I can’t stop playing it.
More impressively however is the sound design of the game. You may have read the article about Overwatch’s use of beer to create a satisfying “hit” sound, but the rest of the sound design is some of the best I’ve seen in multiplayer shooters in a long time. Enemies have different calls for ultimate moves than if they were performed by your teammates, allowing you to know whether you should charge or retreat. Characters have contextual calling systems that will let you know if there is a sniper on the field, or if you are about to get flanked, allowing players who may not want to wear a mic, still get the important information they would get from team speak. Finally, and by far my favorite sound design choice, is the volume of enemies, specifically, they’re footsteps. Enemies make much louder noise than your team, and Blizzard made sure to make the footsteps really feel like you are being rushed by a giant hammer wielding tank, or a light as a feather fighter pilot.
As a game designer, Overwatch is a marvel of hero based shooters. The game sorts it’s 21 characters into 4 basic classes, but they are nothing alike. With their own personalities and playstyles, every character is an incredible study in character design. For example, let’s talk about Soldier 76, the war hardened character Overwatch assigns you in the tutorial. Soldier 76 is an incredible example of creating a balanced First Order Optimal Strategy, or rather, creating a character that has a low effort to high power output. Extra Creditz did a great video about it here!
Soldier 76 is the generic Call of Duty/Halo-esque grunt we have all played at one time. He is familiar to those who may not be used to playing more tactical shooters. He has a decent Assualt Rifle, a healing pack, a run button, and a grenade launcher that helps players learn the feel of the game. Even his Ultimate ability is an “Aimbot” that allows the player to aim in a general direction of the enemy and never miss a shot. However, Soldier 76 is easily countered by plenty of other characters in the game, making him not so powerful that people will never try anyone else.
That’s what makes Overwatch the beauty that I believe it to be. It is a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, constantly encouraging you to change your playstyle and characters mid game, to help you turn the tide of the fight and make that one last push to victory. Maybe the enemy has a really good sniper? Sending a D.Va in a massive jetpack fueled mech into their face will stop them quick. Bastions rapid fire turret tearing your team apart? The Cybernetic ninja Genji can send bullets flying back into Bastions face. This constant change has been exactly what I have been looking for in a multiplayer shooter, and I don’t see Overwatch leaving my library any time soon.
Overall I give Overwatch a Just One More Round / 10
Even with its lean map choice and game modes, Overwatch more than makes up for it with stellar Game Design and mechanics.
Play it if:
- You’re Ready for a new FPS to consume your life
- Love games like Team Fortress, Quake, or Counter Strike
- Multiplayer isn’t your thing
- Need a variety of locales and maps
- Only play Team Deathmatch
For more information, visit playoverwatch.com.