Blizzard has released its first new IP in over 15 years in Overwatch. From the ashes of its cancelled MMO Titan, Overwatch was born and it’s no surprise that Blizzard has once again succeeded in creating an exceptional game. It’s addicting, colorful, and constantly evolving. The unique cast of heroes and their different playstyles let me appreciate how special Blizzard is when it comes to making one-of-a-kind games. Overwatch is the best shooter I’ve played in years.
The game is beautiful. Each character looks distinct and their attacks are bright and flashy. Seeing Hanzo use his ultimate skill is terrifying because you could be fighting an opponent and out of nowhere a massive dragon flies through the battlefield. You either cower in fear or scream in excitement as you realize it’s your teammate’s dragon. The battle locales are very different from one another, such as the peaceful looking Hanamura or the Grand Canyon inspired Route 66. Each map is a treat and I never grew tired of the clever designs.
The best thing about Overwatch’s 21 heroes is that every single one is viable. Each one has their strengths and weaknesses and it’s up to you to either expose an enemy’s vulnerability, or complement your own hero’s weakness with another’s strength. For example, Bastion, the machine gunned robot deals immense damage when he mounts himself to a position and unloads his massive 200 round clip. It becomes difficult for opposing players to capture an objective or advance a position and after dying a few times you’ll learn to change your tactics against him. He may seem noticeably stronger than the other heroes but by taking a different path in the map and challenging him up close, his blind spot nulls his effectiveness. As a consequence of using his mounted position, Bastion becomes immobile and it becomes more difficult for him to escape an ambush.
I believe why Overwatch works well as a shooter is because it’s accessible and as a whole feels very distinct. When I say that all 21 heroes are viable, it’s a huge credit to Blizzard for striking the right balance of strengths and weaknesses. Each hero can be learned quickly and they feel significantly different from one another, including characters within the same categorized role. It fills that first person shooter craving with playful heroes, fun objectives and fast gameplay. You’re always on the move and trying to rack up kills to secure the win. In the ecosystem of Call of Duty, Battlefield, etc., it’s refreshing to see a game that feels just as tight yet so significantly different from those AAA shooters.
The heroes cater to all different types of playstyles and it’s beneficial to play with new heroes each round to see who you enjoy the most. In the beta, I used McCree, the western gunslinger, and Hanzo, the bow wielding marksman. I still use them frequently, but since then I’ve learn to use a myriad of other heroes I previously had no interest in. Playing each hero teaches you where and how they’re most effective and how they fit into the team build. Tracer, the unofficial mascot of Overwatch, is tremendously fun to use and can easily sneak up behind the enemy team with her abilities to quickly dash throughout the map and being able to retrace her steps by reversing her movement. The downside, though, is that Tracer is one of the weakest heroes in terms of health and defense. The same can be said for Genji, a ninja who is most effective when hopping in and out of fights. I’ve had trouble grasping his style of play, but he’s loads of fun especially when you deflect enemy fire back at the opposition.
Before hearing other people talk about how to effectively use Zarya, the Siberian tank, I never would have used her. But now, she’s my most often used tank because of how powerful she becomes. Zarya is able to shield an ally and herself to temporarily block damage, but more importantly, this powers her primary weapon and as the number on her reticle increases, so does the damage output. If you use her shield effectively, she becomes one of the strongest characters on the battlefield. Don’t be afraid to try out new heroes for a few rounds in Overwatch. You’ll learn how they’re meant to be played and it’s encouraging to have a good match with a character who you’re less experienced with. Though the ice wielding Mei is adorable, she’s a huge nuisance when used correctly. But if you tinker with Mei, you’ll become just as much of a pest.
My biggest complaint, and one that’s understandable for anyone who may not be as into Overwatch is that it’s light on game modes. There’s Quick Play which is the standard mode for the game, but there are different objectives within Quick Play. Some maps will have you controlling different areas throughout map like control in Destiny or a King of the Hill game mode, while others see you capturing a spot and then escorting a payload to its destination. And lastly, there are objectives in which you have to capture two areas as opposed to one. There’s a strategy involved for all of these game modes and it can become quite intense when contesting a zone. Each mode is fun and matches often become hectic as you’re trying to push the opposing team back to secure an objective. Some of the most satisfying matches have involved fending off the other team for what feels like an endless three minutes. With Blizzard claiming they’re adding free content to the game, I look forward to potentially more maps in the future to keep players interested.
There’s an arcade mode which is much more hectic than the standard mode where heroes have more health and a rapid recharge rate for skills and their ultimate. It’s a fun mode that’s different from Quick Play but I hope Blizzard eventually adds a competitive mode. It would be huge amongst the PC crowd for sure, and hopefully it would catch on to consoles too. I think adding more game modes in general, competitive or not, would be beneficial if Blizzard wants this game to have the legs Diablo, Starcraft and their other titles have seen.
Overwatch is Blizzard at its finest, making an addictive shooter that is wildly creative and brimming with life. The character roster is exceptional and the best part is that they’re all balanced, with different attacking and defensive strategies. The map design is great and despite the lack of game modes, I love playing a new or unfamiliar hero and learning how each one is meant to be played. I haven’t been this into a shooter since Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and it’s only fitting that Blizzard is the next company to hook me back into the shooter genre.
+Bright and fun heroes
+Excellent, cartoony shooter
-Lack of game modes
Brett Woodmansee is an editor for The Game Bolt and he loves RPGs, Chipotle and his beard. For tweets about video games, sports and more, follow him on Twitter.