Nothing quite cemented my experience in the Overwatch beta more than teleporting clean into the middle of the entire enemy team as Reaper while they hid behind the Payload. As I unleashed my ultimate and watched the body count rise while Reaper growled “Die..Die…Die..Die!” I knew I had the play of the game, and where many hours would be spent in the near future.
Overwatch is the new big thing from our friendly gaming monolith Blizzard, taking their first steps into the world of first person shooters. The release has taken the gaming community by storm as it’s all people are talking about between new Game of Thrones spoilers, and deciding whether or not McCree’s “It’s high noon” is the next big meme, and boy do people love it. With a long history of beloved franchises, deeply engaging narratives and above all, great games, Blizzard hasn’t stepped far from their comfort zones in recent years as they continue to work on already well established titles from the Warcraft, Diablo and StarCraft universes. Breaking from the mould is one of the smartest moves they could have made, and you can tell the teams really put their hearts into crafting a world full of so much care and attention that people are even begging for a story mode. Hell I’d love to see that, or even just more of the universe for sure.
That care and attention to detail can be felt in all aspects, and with twenty-one characters, five game modes and twelve different maps it’s hard to find many faults with the experience. Every one of the different characters carries a very deliberate sense of balance to them. I’m not expressly saying the game is perfectly balanced, but every character feels like they were made to be exactly what they are, and to contribute exactly what it is they bring to the table. From McCree, the quintessential cowboy gunslinger to Genji’s anime level ninja skills, or even a giant gorilla called Winston leaping across the battlefield with an electric cannon, Overwatch has a large cast of varied play styles and skill sets, and all of them feel great. I’ve never played another game with such a vast class variety where every character is not only a joy to play, but feels perfectly at home in their existence. You’ll need each of them too, as Overwatch encourages players to swap often to adapt to the situation, with honestly many of the balance issues cries being a result of people not adapting to fit the fight. Bastion is the most openly hated character for his powerful skills and defensive ability, yet nothing makes me smile more than deflecting that stream of death straight back into their face with Genji’s ninja skills. Every character has a counter or tactic for defeat and finding it is part of the game.
While there isn’t a vast quantity of maps, there isn’t a single one I dislike. Usually there’s several that make you sigh as it pops up and say “ugh, this map again”, but honestly, I like each of them pretty equally with a variety of themes and designs to change up the playstyles and the ambience. Many of the characters even make map traversal fun, with Widowmakers grapple, Hanzo’s wall scaling and hell, even Lucio’s wall run. Just moving around feels like its own experience with the hero’s at hand. Coupled with a beautiful art style I constantly hear being called “Pixar-like”, it’s colourful and soft approach to this detailed world makes it feel cohesively unique, carrying its own style to stand out from Blizzard’s other works without seeming alien to similar experiences on the market.
Mechanically Overwatch feels very slick. With tight controls and a crazy amount of customization, the game runs great with little to no lag, and this is coming from an Australian. It also has no glitches or bugs in my personal experience, which is today’s market is… sadly impressive. Along with character specific control options and a wide spread of personal tweaks and settings, you really can change it up to suit whatever your personal preference may be. Speaking of customization, Overwatch has an extensive system of unlockable skins, animations, sprays and more tied to a level up system. While all entirely optional vanity items, it does contain a micro transaction system, but one that’s perfectly optional with no “pay to win” involved. I’m sure some people will gripe about this, but with four unlocks per level and a credit system to buy what you like, I don’t see any issue with it being there. I just hope to doesn’t became what hats did to Team Fortress 2.
It’s hard to find anything to pick at honestly, frustratingly so. Blizzard delivered a game with so little to gripe about I’m sitting here staring deep in the cynical depths of my soul as if there’s a trick to the whole thing. Everything has been polished to a blinding sheen from UI options that cater for the colour blind to brilliant audio design and character feedback that makes you understand exactly what’s going on at all times. Simply put Overwatch is a rare treat in today’s landscape, it’s a solid, unbroken and complete package. It works well, suspiciously well. All of this said, it works to such an extend because it knows exactly what it wants to be, and if you don’t want an online shooter, obviously it’s probably not your game. Hell maybe give it a try anyway; it may win you over.
If I did have any gripes at a stretch, it would be that the game modes themselves don’t have a great deal of variety. You have the standard escort and territory controls with some minor variations, but after many hours of play it does make you want some more variety than what’s on hand. Other than the game modes, I do wonder if there should be a character limit enforced. It’s only ever been an issue once for me personally, but my team did get completely stomped by a team of five Soldier76’s and a Lucio. It’s the only game that actually felt cheap to lose, and it lingers in my mind as one of the bigger exploits people could use.
In short Overwatch is simply a great game. It’s fun, slick and polished to a mesmerising shine. With more content promised for the future, a wonderful expanded universe and some of the most fun I’ve had in a shooter in years, Blizzard has crafted something wonderful, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Overwatch.
Overwatch released May 24th on PS4, Xbox One & PC. This review was completed on PC with a copy supplied by the publisher.