Hey everybody! I’m back with some video game goodness. The Overwatch open beta just concluded yesterday, and I gave it a shot on the PS4. Now, they say the beta has everything the full game will have on launch, which is really odd for a beta, but it sort of lets me review the full game for free, and a couple weeks early, so yay, I guess. So, how is Overwatch?
Overwatch is a class- and team-based online multiplayer First Person Shooter, not unlike Team Fortress 2, and as such has garnered quite a lot of comparisons to Valve’s hugely popular game. Only instead of nine “classes,” there are twenty-one “heroes.” Now, I don’t really think it would be a good idea to try and cover every single character in this review. That would eat up a lot of space, and probably drive some of you away. Besides, finding your own favorites is part of the fun in Overwatch.
The twenty-one heroes are divided up into four categories: Attack, Defense, Tank, and Support. There are six Attack, six Defense, five Tank, and four Support. Attack characters typically have high attack but low health. Defense characters are typically better suited to ambushes and trap-laying. Tanks typically have the most health but either limited range or low damage output. Support characters are more or less there to help out everyone else. One of the better parts of the game is that, as every player is selecting their characters, a handy tip icon will analyze your team and say what you need and what you may have too many of. Like, say, your team doesn’t have enough Defense heroes, or too many of one character, or what have you. It’s a really neat thing to have so you aren’t trying to figure it out on your own.
Each mode in Overwatch is 6-on-6, and the modes consist of Escort, Assault, Control, and Assault/Escort. Escort is like Payload in TF2, where the attackers have to escort a cart from the origin to the destination, while the defenders try to stop them. Assault is like Attack/Defend in TF2, where the attack team has to take control points and the defense has to stop them. Control is like King of the Hill in TF2, where there’s a single control point and both teams try to capture it, with the team holding it the longest time wins the round. First team to win two rounds wins the match. And Assault/Escort is a mix of the first two modes, where the attackers have to take control of a control point which houses the payload cart, and then escort the cart to the destination, all the while the defense try to stop them.
If I’m making a lot of Team Fortress 2 comparisons, it’s largely because TF2 is so well known and it’s easier to explain things using examples that people already know. When you come into an established genre, you’re going to be compared to the existing products. But while Overwatch is similar in some areas to TF2, it does a lot of things differently.
Not only does it have more characters than TF2, each character has special abilities. These abilities, for the most part, have cool-down timers. Meaning that once you use them, you have to wait a few seconds to use them again. All characters also have an Ultimate, which is an ability that charges during normal gameplay. Once it reaches 100%, it can be unleashed. Most characters only have one gun, and ammo is infinite. Even still, most weapons need to be reloaded, so it isn’t a constant stream of bullets. More often than not, there has to be a pause in the stream somewhere. There are one or two guns that don’t need reloaded, but I figure those might not be that effective to balance that out.
And that’s the key word in there: Balance. It seems like a difficult task to balance so many characters. So far, though, it doesn’t seem like there’s any one character that’s a complete powerhouse that can’t be overcome. My main Tank character, Reinhardt, has a huge shield as his secondary fire. It lets ally fire go through, but enemy fire gets blocked. The shield has limited “health,” which regenerates when you aren’t using it, and it only blocks in the direction you’re facing. You might see him and think that it’s cheap or overpowered, but once you get to the side or behind Reinhardt, he’s a sitting duck with the shield deployed. And his only offensive weapon is a huge hammer, which is a melee weapon, meaning he’s gotta get up close to whack you. He does have a special projectile attack, but as stated above, it has a cool-down timer. There’s also a dash attack that can pin enemies against a wall, dealing massive damage, but it’s somewhat easy to dodge.
So yeah, Reinhardt isn’t that hard to counter. But when used right he can be a powerful, yet vulnerable tool. My main Support character, Mercy, is able to use her staff to either heal allies or increase their damage output, but not both at the same time. She can also fly to an ally, as long as you can see them to target them, and is one of the few characters to have a second weapon, which is a small pistol to try and get out of sticky situations. Her Ultimate, however, lets you bring back allies from the dead. See, when a character dies, there’s a small amount of time where they can be revived, and only Mercy can do it, and it’s only with her Ultimate. Which makes her a valuable asset. I don’t really think the other Support characters can compare, but that’s just me.
My main Defense character is Bastion, who is a bipedal robot who can transform into a turret. The transformation counts as a special ability, and is one of the few that doesn’t have a cool-down. His normal gun while walking is okay, but his turret form is quite powerful. However, as a turret, he’s naturally immobile, meaning he’s an easy kill if you catch him off-guard. His Ultimate is a tank mode, which is fully mobile and fires rockets. But it’s a limited-time-only form, and isn’t invulnerable, so use it wisely.
I don’t have a main Offense character, though. I’ve used Reaper to limited success, and as Tracer I did even worse, so I tend to leave those characters to people better suited to them. As it stands, Reinhardt and Mercy are my two most-played characters, with Mercy being my most played. I’ve tried out Roadhog a couple times, and he’s okay, but as a Tank he seems a little too easily killed. Could just be me. There are a number of characters I haven’t tried outside of the Training area, mainly because I’m not comfortable enough with them. I wanted to go over my mains, at least, to give a brief example of the characters you’ll experience.
In terms of gameplay, it feels kind of like TF2, since the modes are similar, but it also seems a lot more fun in some aspects. Since there are twenty-one characters, and only six players per team, there’s a big chance you’ll fight against a brand new team configuration each time. Well, it’s a finite number of combinations, but it’s a large number, at the very least. In TF2, with only nine characters and the larger modes being 12-on-12, you’re bound to have at least one of every class. So Overwatch wins out in that aspect. Even if you only main a few characters, like I’ve been doing, there are tons of people who main other characters, so you’re bound to have a decent variety both on your team and on the opposing team.
After each match they have a “Play of the Game,” which is typically a highlight of the most kills by a single player in a few seconds time. It’s a pretty neat idea, though I tend to end up being killed in a lot of those plays. Kind of hurts my feelings a bit. Then you’re able to vote for one of four players based on their listed achievements for the match. Doesn’t seem to have any effect on experience points or anything.
There’s also a level system, and for every level you gain you get a Loot Box. Each loot box contains a random selection of unlockable items, or on rare occasion some in-game currency which you can use to buy more loot boxes or other unlockables. The levels themselves don’t seem to do much, other than possibly to match you with similarly-experienced players.
As far as sound goes, it’s your standard fare. Some voice clips, all well done, by the way, and a bunch of weapon sounds and some background music. It does its job. There doesn’t seem to be much of a story, other than what you read on the game’s official website. It is a multiplayer shooter, after all. These don’t really have much of a story.
All said, Overwatch is a lot of fun so far. The modes and maps might seem a little limited (four modes, three maps each), but Blizzard is promising a lot of post-launch support. Hopefully that includes new maps, maybe some new modes, and also hopefully the consoles aren’t left out cold. Valve abandoned the console versions of Team Fortress 2 shortly after they launched, so I’m hoping that Blizzard doesn’t do the same with Overwatch. Future support is key to keeping the game fresh, and with a full $60 price point, they definitely need to keep things fresh in order to make the game worth the investment.