Multiplayer online first-person shooters have not held my interest since Halo 2 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Ever since the onslaught of annualized Call of Duty games, I have found it difficult to care about the genre. I spent hundreds of hours during the early days of Xbox Live playing online multiplayer because it felt so new and exciting. As time went on, I gradually fell back into single player mode and had little interest in competitive multiplayer. What once felt like endless replayability now felt frustrating and uninteresting. This year, multiplayer continued to be at the back of my mind until one game resparked my interest: Overwatch.
First, there are number of things have drawn me into this game. Perhaps what I found most appealing were the pre-release animated shorts, “Recall” and “Alive”. Of course, I knew about Overwatch before these were released, but I hadn’t really considered it a “must-play”. I never got into Team Fortress 2 nor was I crazy about the idea of a hero shooter. But something about these short films struck a chord with me and I found the two stories to be fascinating and emotional. Before their release, I would have never imagined that Overwatch would have this much lore. I look forward to more animated shorts, as well as potential comics.
Since I was so taken aback by the lore, the next step was of course to try the game itself. As a console user, I felt like I was at a disadvantage and that I would be playing the inferior version. That does prove to be true, especially considering the “team deathmatch” mindset that many console players fall into. I jumped into the PS4 open beta on May 5th and was absolutely blown away. Overwatch felt so fun and accessible, yet completely based on strategy and skill. This was, by far, the best beta I had ever played. It felt like a complete game and I poured over 10 hours into it over the course of the weekend.
It’s a refreshing change of pace from tactical online shooters, based more on speed and exploiting weaknesses. Each hero is unique with their own personality, weapons, and play style. It is with the heroes themselves that Overwatch finds most of its depth. For those looking to simply rack up kills, McCree, Widowmaker, and Soldier: 76 are the most basic gun-wielding characters. However, gameplay is objective-based so there are plenty of support roles for people who are not great at shooting. Healers such as Mercy and Zenyatta can be just as vital for success as any of the offensive characters. I did notice that many of the players were simply out to get kills, treating it more like team deathmatch than team objective.
With that being said, it is important to note that victory will be the result of understanding the objective and working together as a team. This can sometimes be lost in translation from PC to console. PC players are more used to objective-based games because of MOBAs like League of Legends and DotA 2, not to mention shooters like Counter Strike. This type of gameplay is part of the DNA of a PC game, while console users are typically more used to team deathmatch. I found this to be a bit of a problem during the PS4 beta as the majority of my team would select “kill-based” heroes rather than a fine balance of assault and support. The game even notifies you when your team is unbalanced.
Overwatch allows the player to switch heroes after every death, which makes it easy to adapt to changing situations within a game. There needs to be a balance of offense, defense, tank, and support classes. Being able to quickly switch allows for teams to easily fine-tune their tactics and be properly prepared for the ever-changing situations throughout a single game. Remember that the opposing team will be making changes to their lineup as well, so it’s important to be aware of what is happening on both sides.
Switching heroes so often requires a good knowledge of each one of their abilities. Every character in Overwatch feels unique, from their weapons and movesets to their personalities. As with an in-depth fighting game, mastering each character will take time. Though the fundamental mechanics are simple, they require a deep understanding to be effectively wielded. Knowing when to place Torbjörn’s turret and when to block entrances with Mei’s ice wall can determine the outcome of the game. More importantly, the other team needs to know how to counter these types of tactics.
The heroes are what makes Overwatch the unique and fun experience that it is. They have vastly different play styles and immense depth, but besides that they are just so cool. Their personalities light up the battlefield, with great character animations and quirky lines of dialogue. Tracer, the star and “mascot” of Overwatch, is quite possibly my favorite video game character in recent years. Her joyful demeanor and optimistic attitude make her one of the most enjoyable characters to play as. Not to mention, her quick time-bending abilities perfectly compliment her spunky personality.
Blizzard is a legendary company for good reason and console-only players will soon find out why. For those who are interested in MOBAs and like-minded games, this is a must-play on consoles. The team deathmatch mindset still exists on consoles, but Overwatch is a significant step towards breaking down that ideology.