Announced in 2014 Blizzard’s first new IP in years Overwatch finally arrives to take on what is a glut of multiplayer online first person shooters. So does Blizzard bring their PC pedigree to bare on consoles and stake their claim for the mantle of best shooter or is this just another also ran coming close but falling short. Here is our Overwatch Review.
Despite an announcement in 2014 it feels like we have been waiting an eternity for Overwatch to grace us with its presence. However in many ways we have had Overwatch gameplay and action available to us for quite some time through its Beta programs on PC. So as a result we have known what the game is all about for some time. What we didn’t know is really what the full game version would entail.
Running up to this launch I was caught in somewhat of the Hype train. I had played the beta, loved it and after only an hour’s playtime knew this was a day one purchase for me. So I put the controller down cracked on with another title in my backlog and spent my waiting time until our review copy arrived on watching the excellently produced movie shorts which really bring the Pixar like aesthetic to life. The shorts play their part in showcasing each characters traits behaviours and place in the Overwatch Universe. It’s a diverse and intriguing Lore. Essentially the characters you play in Overwatch, well a selection of them were once part of a unique task force armed with protecting the universe. The initial cinematic when the game launches even builds on this further as the titles showcase character Winston looks to get the gang back together again.
Unfortunately this is all that Overwatch does to explore the lore of the game and is a bit of a disappointment considering how well the designers of the game done marketing each character and growing a level of attachment. Overwatch has no instance of a single player campaign or any story mode insight. This for me is a huge oversight and something that could have been put in to beef up the full release. If you look at Battleborn although muddled in its concept it’s at least got something for players that want to scratch that single player itch.
Now without completely contradicting myself there is a form of single player available but it’s not something you could class as a campaign or narrative driven experience. It’s you vs AI bots. Go for training and its simply you vs AI but go for the match play vs AI and it’s a multiplayer built team your joining up with against the AI opponents.
Multiplayer modes are available in a variety of formats with quick play offering what it says on the tin a quick matchup into a 5v5 multiplayer PVP matchup. There is the vs AI mode mentioned above and in addition there’s the weekly brawl that is a randomly selected game mode with modifiers. Beyond that Overwatch showcases that simplicity in shooters is key. The modes are few and far between and the match types are selected at random. I like this approach and it’s a great way to stop players simply camping in Team Death match. If you look at Call of Duty for example there is about 20 game modes within multiplayer to select and it has a habit of fracturing the community. Its clear Overwatch have taken great steps to avoid such instances.
Interestingly the random match ups do dampen a bit of the team tactics you may employ, not knowing the map or mode your about to come up against may mean you select the wrong character for the job and your teams make up isn’t quite what it needs to be in order to win. Again the great minds at Blizzard have addressed this in a number of ways which is refreshing to see. Like most MOBA type game modes team balance is usually key to winning. What Overwatch does really well is indicate on the character select screen where your team needs focus. Got too many tanks then perhaps a builder will be suggested. Go with too many defence characters and you’ll be persuaded to switch it up to balance it up. Never forced but always guided in the right direction. In saying that there has been a few instances where some opponents think it wise to select 5 reapers as their team makeup. It may work in some instances but Overwatch is about being smart and playing to each of your characters strengths. Come up against a team that can tactical out think an opponent and the game rewards you in abundance.
If all else fails and you want to play copycat then the game also allows you to switch character at each death. Even better it then collates post game stats based on each character. It’s such a simple idea but it’s never been implemented this well. It keeps you playing motivated and wanting to succeed whilst giving you more than enough excuses to try out new characters. In discovering each character in the game you will get new abilities and powers that can be unleashed throughout a match. Perform well and grab some eliminations then you will charge up your ultimate, an ability that offers a time burst super power dependant on your character. Go McCree and start your own high noon shoot out or pick Mei and unleash a cool blast on your enemies.
“Blizzard have got the balancing pretty much spot on in every regard”
In my initial play through I began to feel some characters were clearly overpowered, Bastian was chewing up enemies, tracer was really frustrating to shoot at and Reaper seemed to have some heavy over powered handguns. However fast forward a few more hours in and I realised something quite startling, everyone thinks someone is overpowered. In essence Blizzard have got the balancing pretty much spot on in every regard. The game is about mastering the character you control, know their abilities and understand how to position them to come out on top in a fight. Despite all of Overwatch’s perceived simplicity and charming looks the game really does require you to learn and become skilled, there’s very few lucky players finishing top in one of these matches. There are characters you will become attached to and will suit your playstyle and there will be others that just aren’t your jam and your performance will suffer.
Playing as a team is absolutely key to win in the competitive match ups in Overwatch. Getting by with random via Quick Play is all good for some run and gun gameplay but if you are in this to win you need to get a squad together and get talking, it’s a bit like Evolve but with a lot better execution. There’s some great post-match mechanics that really took me by surprise. The typical XP totaliser is on show but above it a focus on a medal system for each character you played with allows you to be immersed in a world of stats. Perform really well in a match and you may see an aspect of your gameplay post up as a gamecard for players to cast votes on. It offers not a lot more than some simple smugness when you realise everyone votes you as the badass.
Overwatch ticks all the boxes in gameplay through its balanced and well-designed maps which even included destructible elements. There aren’t a lot of maps to play through and although you don’t get choice it would be good to see more maps made available in DLC something I’m sure will happen. Keeping my focus on the game is something I think Overwatch is going to struggle with long term with many players. What is on the table for me sticking with the game isn’t a lot. In terms of trophies and Achievements they look incredibly hard to get as they all require specific instances and events to occur to unlock and multiplayer isn’t great for grabbing those. Within the game the XP totaliser provides a levelling system but beyond progression there doesn’t feel like there’s a valuable reward to work towards.
All characters are available from the get go which is cool but again there was opportunity here to make them unlock-able upon reaching a level requirement and this for me would have kept me focused and motivated to play towards something. Overwatch does have a great addictive component to it in the form of Loot Boxes. A loot box is received each time you level up and upon unlocking it you get a number of random goods. None of the goods will give you an upper hand in a match but this is all about looking good with Loot boxes providing new character skins, sprays, player icons and voice lines amongst others. Customisation is king in Overwatch but will this be enough to keep the player base.
If you want to grab a loot box without the need to level up you can but it comes at the expense of a micro transaction ranging in price you essentially pay per box you open. It will see a craze on YouTube for sure but for the average player I don’t think customisation options are truly worth parting with your cash for. In fact for the money I really don’t think Overwatch represents great value I’ve sunk about 20 hours into Overwatch during review and I’ve seen it all, playing for another 20 is only going to give me more of the same gameplay and some loot boxes with cosmetic items to show off.
Overwatch: Origins Edition was provided for the purpose of this review by Xbox.
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