Also On: Xbox One, PC
Here’s my tl;dr version of this Overwatch review: Overwatch is absolutely fantastic.
While I’ve generally enjoyed Blizzard’s output for quite some time, like most, I wasn’t entirely sure of what to expect with Overwatch. While Blizzard has certainly made a name for themselves in RTS / RPG circles over their many, many years of existence, a team-based shooter didn’t exactly seem like a perfect match to me. That said, as more and more of Overwatch came to light during the development process, and as various closed/open betas rolled around, it became clear we had little to worry about. And now that the finished product is here? Well, Overwatch has put most multiplayer shooters to shame much in the way that DOOM did for shooter campaigns just a couple weeks ago.
On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to Overwatch. It’s certainly not a mode heavy sort of shooter, with no single player campaign to speak of, and a single rotating special mode that rolls around weekly in addition to the standard rotation of maps. There’s 12 maps at the onset, and a solid roster of characters to play, but when looking at the features on paper, Overwatch does seem a bit bare. Thankfully that’s offset by how much fun it is to play, and how utterly addicting the game can be. I’ve had a hard time tearing myself away from playing it this week, and will likely devote dozens if not hundreds of hours to the game going forward. That addictive nature is certainly one thing that Blizzard knows how to capitalize on, and they’ve done a solid job with it in Overwatch. It’s not just the carrot on the stick element of loot boxes and random unlocks, but it’s the easy to pick-up and play nature of Overwatch that keeps drawing you back in.
The learning curve with Overwatch is hardly severe. There’s a small tutorial, but that seems more geared towards those that have never touched a shooter before. Assuming you have some knowledge of how these games work, you’ll likely be able to pick any random character, jump in, and start having fun. Honestly, I think that’s the best way to start out, don’t get too hung up on class roles and skills, instead just work your way through the roster and see what ends up fitting your preferred playstyle. Despite characters filling similar roles, like tanks, support, attack and so on, they all feel pretty unique. And it doesn’t take long to figure what character works well on any given map, or gravitates towards defense or offense. By and large, most characters work well with just about anyone, meaning you can generally pair up with another character and perform effectively, even if they don’t seem particularly compatible at first.
That’s not to say high-level play doesn’t exist in Overwatch. I’ve certainly been bodied a number of times by teams that are clearly familiar with one another, and have dedicated themselves to a set role on the team. There’s a lot of room for improvement with any player, but again, you’ll be able to get a whole lot of enjoyment out of Overwatch early on. This in turn will lead to better strategies, more familiarity with the maps and characters, and helps make the journey from scrub to pro (or as close as you can get to pro) enjoyable throughout.
I also love the overall look of Overwatch. It’s a bright, vibrant take on first-person shooters that we still don’t see all that often. The character designs are fun and cartoony, and lend themselves well to fan-scripted backstories and theories. And it’s not just the character design, but also the map design, skins, music, and voiceover work that manages to blend Overwatch into a cohesive, fun, all-ages work of art. While we’ve become used to Blizzard’s ability to capitalize and even revitalize their decade-plus old properties like Diablo, StarCraft, and Warcraft, it’s nice to see that they still have the chops to bust out something wholly unique like Overwatch.
Finally, Overwatch controls and plays like a dream. Even on consoles, which is my only experience with the game so far, the performance is generally buttery smooth. The various abilities that each character possesses are generally fun to perform and pull off, and the ability to access ultimate powers over time means that everyone typically has a moment to shine in any given match. Also, since there’s a healthy roster of characters present at the start of the game, it means that most matches will feel like something unique, even if the overall objective isn’t. Team composition can also be changed after every respawn, allowing every match to evolve the longer it continues. All in all, Overwatch continues to feel unique regardless of how much time you spend with it, and despite the low number of available modes to participate in. I’m genuinely impressed by what Blizzard has managed to do here, and I think you will be too.