Overwatch wasn’t originally on my list of games I was looking forward to in 2016. After getting tired of playing Titanfall around a month after its release, not enjoying the beta for Star Wars: Battlefront and deciding to not to buy it, and my tendency to suck at first person shooters, were reason why I was surprised I enjoyed Overwatch some much. Overwatch is a multiplayer only, team based, first person shooter, with 22 characters, 12 maps, and 3 game modes. Compared to Halo 5: Guardians and any Call of Duty game, Overwatch’s content seems small and made me question if there is enough content in the game to justify spending 60 dollars on it. After spending hours playing the beta and retail version of the game on Xbox One, Overwatch is a game I would recommend to anyone that is a fan of first person shooters, fighting games, and role playing games.
What separates Overwatch from other first person shooters is the way its class system works. Offense, defense, tank, and support, are four different classes each of the 22 characters occupy. As someone that has never played a multiplayer online battle arena, or MOBA, I can only compare Overwatch’s class system to role playing games. While games like Battlefield have medics that can review teammates and engineers that fix allied vehicles and destroy enemy tanks with there class exclusive rocket launchers, any team could win without having a good amount of engineers or medics, if the individual players are good enough. That is not the case in Overwatch. After playing the game a few hours, I would usually want to see what characters my teammates selected before choosing my character. Since there is no team death match or capture the flag, teams are usually playing offense or defense, with the exception of Control matches, where both teams fight each other to control one area of the map. Assault, where the attacking team tries to take a base covered by the defending team, and Escort, where the attacking teams tries to take control of an AI controlled vehicle and escort it to a specific point on the map, while the defending team tries to stop them. In most cases, a team without a healer will struggle to win matches, especially on offense. Since the defending team will likely have turrets, snipers, and several other ways to stop your team’s advancement, it’s important to have a teammate that can heal you in the middle of a game, and how your character compliments your teammates’ characters can be the different between a win or a loss.
With this in mind, I usually wait see if any of my teammates are going to choose a healer, if no one chooses Mercy, Zenyatta, or Lucio before the match starts, I’ll play as Zenyatta. This is where the role playing game elements of Overwatch shines. Each character has two main abilities and one ultimate ability. Most characters’ two main abilities have a recharge time that can take anywhere from 6 to 12 seconds to recharge, but Zenyatta is an exception to this rule. Zenyatta’s first main power allows him to throw an orb that weakens one enemy by increasing damage done to him or her by 50 percent, and his second main power allows him to throw an orb that recharges the health of one teammate. While neither power ever has to recharge and can be use an unlimited amount of times, both powers require the intended target stays visible. If enemy runs and hides behind cover after hitting him with the first power or an ally runs out of out of sight, the power will stop working after a few seconds. Zenyatta is the easiest character to kill in the game due to his low health and mobility. I find it easier to play Zenyatta on defense, because good teammates should stay somewhat close to the area the team needs to defend, which allows me to heal teammates and attack enemies without having to worry too much about the enemy instantly killing me. Playing Zenyatta on offense can also work, but Zenyatta is extremely reliant on his teammates being good at attacking, because a few shots from a sniper kills him and it’s very rare he can stay alive long enough to capture an area without a teammate protecting him.
Me playing as my favorite support character when no one else on the team is playing that role is only one example of why Overwatch’s class system encourages players to work together instead of focusing on getting the most kills in the game. When someone else on my team has the support role covered, or my team needs might is struggling and I take advantage of the ability to change my character after I die to someone better at killing other players, I tend to play as tank class character D.Va. It’s spending time using this character that I noticed fighting game elements of Overwatch. Winning online matches in Street Fighter V and Mortal Kombat X involves understanding when and how to use your character’s special moves and powers to counter your opponent’s character special moves and powers. D.Va is a character that doesn’t work in a way most people would assume a character in the tank class would operate. Characters classified as tanks can usually take an extreme amount of punishment and are designed to be big targets intended to take pressure off teammates that have significantly less health. Reinhardt is Overwatch’s best example of a traditional tank, because his ability to make a shield that blocks all enemy projectile attacks while allowing teammates gun fire to pass through that same shield and attack enemies that can’t attack them.
What makes playing D.Va unique, and fun to play, is that her ability to take and block damage isn’t what makes her a good character. While one of her abilities allow her to make a shield that blocks damage attacking her from the front, it only last 6 seconds and takes 10 seconds to recharge. D.Va’s gun are weak and inaccurate from anywhere that isn’t close distance and she is the only character in the game that gets slower when her guns are firing. D.va has the unique advantage of getting a second life when her opponent kills her in mech form, which allows her to fight as a pilot and eventually summon another mech if she kills enough enemies or lives long enough, but she is extremely easy to kill in pilot form and players that know the weakness of her guns can easily beat her in shootouts using character that take less damage to kill, but have more powerful weapons with better range. I thought D.Va was terrible when I first started playing as her against real people, and saw that her huge amount of hit points that help me defeat the CPU controlled opponents didn’t do much against real people. It wasn’t until I used the character several of times did I realize that her ability to fly was her greatest strength. After realizing that crashing into opponents while flying causes the enemy to suffer minor damage without D.Va suffering any damage and you can combine her flying power with her shield power allowing her to fly directly into gun fire, I was able to takeout must other players in one-on-one situations. Once I got use to her flying ability, I was able to help my team by taking out snipers Hanzo and Widowmaker that tend to snipe in high areas that most characters cannot get to.
The last ability that made me a fan of D.Va was her ultimate. Ultimates are Overwatch’s version of Street Fighter V’s critical art and Mortal Kombat X’s x-ray, a very powerful attack that requires a bar, or circle in Overwatch’s case, to be full charged to perform. Like in a fighting game, players will usual have the chance to use their character’s ultimate at least once per game and can single handily win the game, if used at the right moment. When a player activates their character’s ultimate, they shout a unique catchphrase to tell allies, and especially enemies, that they’re about to perform a move that could instantly change the course of battle. D.Va shouts, “Nerf this!” before ejecting out of her mech as its self-destruct system is activated and the explosion it causes can wipeout the entire opposing team, if all six player are right next to each other. When attacking bases full of turrets and skilled shooters, D.Va’s ultimate has allowed me to steal victory from a much deserved defeat, by killing most of the other team with less than 30 seconds left in the game and allowing my teammates to easily capture the point. But D.Va’s ultimate isn’t powerfully enough to consistently nuke the other team, since all you have to do to survive it is hide behind something to avoid all damage. In order for D.Va’s ultimate to be effective, I need several members of the other team to be near each other and be in a situation were they couldn’t run behind cover to avoid the explosion. When and how you use your character’s ultimate makes all the difference, and that helps make Overwatch a unique online experience.
All of Overwatches maps are great. Since each map is designed for one specific gameplay mode, none of them suffer from poor design choices that makes you wish Overwatch had a Halo series like voting system that allows people to vote on what map they want to play. While I like every map from a design stand point, some characters work better on certain maps. A character like Symmetra with the ability to set up small laser shooting turrets, is good playing defense on assault maps that requires the offensive team to attack an area that Symmetra could easily surround with turrets, but is not good playing defense on escort where the constant moving of the objective can make it difficult setup turrets designed to defend one spot. Learning what maps increases a character’s strengths and what maps expose a character’s weaknesses are part of the reason I haven’t gotten tired of playing Overwatch after playing it for over 40 hours.
Another thing I loved about Overwatch is its unique presentation. Overwatch’s Pixar mixed with anime design helps it feel different than most first person shooters on the market. While there isn’t an announcer giving commentary about every kill, Overwatch does have a sports game feel to it. By including play of the game, instant replays after every death, and allowing every player to vote who they though had the best game from a group of three to four people with the highest amount of eliminations, healing, or time spent capturing the objective, Overwatch feels closer to playing a digital gladiator game instead of a simulated war game.
The biggest flaws of Overwatch is how it the game presents its story and how other people play the game. Overwatch’s only cutscene is Winston giving a short summary on what Overwatch is, but that doesn’t really explain much and there is no backstory for any of the characters in the game. While Overwatch the game has very little story, Overwatch’s website has plenty of story like this backstory of the character on the cover of Overwatch: Origins Edition’s case Tracer. There are also animated stories like the one below featuring Windowmaker and Tracer.
Reading or watching backstory from Overwatch related websites, comic books, and animated short stories, gives context to fun banter between characters during the one minute pregame before each match. Anyone that watched the video above will understand why Tracer responds to Windowmaker saying, “It looks like we will be working together” with, “Don’t think I’m happy about that.” This is a conversation that can randomly happen anytime there is a person playing as Tracer and another person playing as Windowmaker on the same team.
The biggest issues involving other players, is hero stacking or going against more than one person using the same character. This is an issue that is often bigger for the offensive team when the defensive team has several people playing as Torbjorn. Torbjorn has the ability to setup a turret that does a high amount of damage and has the best auto aim I’ve ever seen. His turrets are capable of killing people after Torbjorn is killed and Torbjorn can immediately replace a destroyed turret. Since Torbjorn has a gun that does a decent amount of damage, fighting against Torbjorn is basically fighting two enemies at once. If the defending team chooses to go with a team of six Torbjorns, the attacking team will be in an extreme disadvantage with six players against a team with a total of 12 players/turrets that can kill them. Matches like the one I just described are over before they start, are frustrating to play, and makes you feel like to other team only won by cheating. Luckily Overwatch developer Blizzard has recently fixed this issue by making recently added competitive mode have a one hero per team limit and reducing Torbjorn’s turret’s damage by 30 percent on PS4 and Xbox One – the Torbjorn issue isn’t as bad for people playing on PC.
Overwatch includes modes that allow players to fight against CPU opponents, make custom match that can be played privately with friends, and a mode that adds unique gameplay changes every week like forcing everyone to automatically can change to a random character every time they die.
Overwatch is one of the best multiplayer games I have ever played and one I would recommend to anyone with a PC, Xbox One, or PlayStation 4.