Serving as Blizzard Entertainment’s first original IP in almost 2 decades, Overwatch is the newest entry in the small genre of hero-based shooters, previously dominated by Team Fortress 2. In Overwatch, you choose from 21 different heroes and join a team of six for objective-based multiplayer mayhem. With matches lasting ten minutes or less and easy-to-learn but tough-to-master gameplay, Overwatch is a great game for veterans and newcomers to the genre. But, with a $60 price point, is this multiplayer-focused game worth the price of admission? Read our Overwatch Review to find out.
I’ll admit, there was no small amount of hesitation on my part when it came to deciding on purchasing this game. As a lifelong single player gamer, one who only rarely touches the multiplayer component of any game, it was going to take a small miracle for Overwatch developers to capture my interest. But capture it, they have.
Out of the ashes of Blizzard’s failed MMO Titan, Overwatch was born, and the company has done a good job including that in their marketing. From a sizable, 3-part documentary on Gamespot, to multiple story-based trailers providing details for the world and the characters, the team behind Overwatch has put in the effort to create a rich world. One that I was very much drawn into.
There is a disconnect to this hype train, however. While the characters all have unique personalities and goals, none of that comes through in the main game. There appear to be different factions at work in the game’s universe, but it is unclear where everyone fits, and most importantly, why they are fighting each other. This matters little, however, when it comes to picking your hero.
In Overwatch, team composition is important to completing match objectives. However, choosing one character does not mean that they are locked out for anyone else. Consequently, you run into many scenarios where teams have multiples of the same hero, or you end up fighting yourself on the opposite team. From a gameplay point of view, this is great; however, it makes very little sense for the lore of the story.
This can also create some uneven matches because, in Overwatch, there are always characters that can counter the strengths in others. Having two or more people on your team play as the same character can make for easy pickings, but you can also take advantage of this if the other team does it, provided you learn the hero’s strengths and weaknesses.
Many players won’t be bothered by this, instead focusing on the gameplay itself, and here, Overwatch is nearly flawless. Matches are made quickly, and the game helpfully suggests which class of character your team is missing without forcing the role on you, and you can even switch to any other hero mid-game, as often as you’d like. Once you’re in, objectives are clear and playing to the strength of your hero will go further than just running in guns blazing.
Overwatch provides 4 different classes of characters, although these are broken down even further depending on each hero’s abilities. Offensive characters are able to move fast and hit hard, but getting caught up in a prolonged fight will cause their small health pools to drop quickly. Opposite of these are the tank classes. These are large, slow moving characters who can take a beating and dish out punishment, but their size makes them easy targets, and their effectiveness drops as range increases.
This brings us to defense characters. Different from Tanks, their roles are called builders or snipers. These heroes can hold positions, either by building or becoming turrets or by taking up posts at long range and sniping. The final class is support. These characters don’t last long in a direct fight, but when paired up with their teammates, they become invaluable. Buffing allies, debuffing enemies, and healing your team is the name of the game and going into battle without a support class can often spell defeat.
There are 12 maps across 4 types of objectives. Capture and defend points, escort the payload, a combination where the first team to capture a point must then escort the payload, and a capture the hill style mode called Control. Each map is built around one of these objectives, leading to very tight pacing. No one is ever out of the action for long, and everyone has a role to play and a place to play it from.
Broken down further, the game allows you to choose between playing a Quick Match of a random type with random people, a player vs. AI mode that more suitable for practicing with a new character or racking up easy experience, custom matches to create and play games with friends, and the Weekly Brawl, which is a match with specific rules, chosen each week and which can be quite different. The first week, this game type allowed characters to get their ultimates even quicker but also provided each character more health, making rounds insane. The second week’s brawl was character specific, where you could only choose 1 of 2 different characters and play on one map. These change each week and are a fun distraction from the main mode.
One thing missing from all of this is a traditional deathmatch. Overwatch isn’t overly concerned with the players kill/death ratio, which may come as a bit of a shock to the Call of Duty crowd. Camping at spawn points isn’t going to do much good, when the objective is being lost halfway across the map. Taking down enemies is absolutely important to victory in Overwatch, but by not placing the emphasis on that one aspect, Blizzard has opened the door to many more players who may not be as interested in a “kill everything that moves” play style.
Instead, each player gets to contribute in a meaningful way by effectively playing their selected hero and the game will often reward that. During the end of the match, you can vote for the player of the game, and every match you’re just as likely to see someone recognized for healing over 40% of the total team damage taken or holding an objective for several minutes as you are for a high kill streak.
With all of the ramp up to the game’s release, you may have noticed the graphics. The fandom certainly has, with people filling social media with fan art and cosplay since the game was first announced. While taking place in the near future, Overwatch has a specific stylization to it. It’s not an ultra realistic looking game, nor is it ugly or deformed. Instead, the characters and setting all have an excellent and timeless feel, similar to the best animated films. You can tell which hero is coming at you from far off based on their design, and the world, while full, never feels cluttered or confusing. All paths eventually lead to the objectives and it is difficult to get lost, even when you spend time looking at the little details.
And these little details are everywhere. Overwatch doesn’t tell you any story through its gameplay. Rather, the world is filled with little hints about who these characters are, their various pasts, and how they interact with each other. From posters to photographs to in-game dialogue, all of the Overwatch members are actually fleshed out, for those that take the time to notice.
In the music department, everything is par for the course. The main Overwatch theme is great, but the music throughout the game is never anything much to admire. It’s not bad by any means; in fact, it’s well done, there’s just nothing particularly special about it. I actually found myself turning the music volume down in order to hear the sound effects.
That’s because, in Overwatch, the sound effects matter. A good player must always be listening for clues in order to figure out what’s about to happen. If a Junkrat’s Ultimate, Rip-tire, is heard screeching around, you know to get away from your teammates to minimize the damage. When Mcree exclaims that “It’s High Noon,” that means it’s high time to get to cover, or you’ll be taken out in one shot. The sound of explosives heading your way is an indication that Pharah is about to descend from the sky to blast your team away from the objective with her rockets. The sounds effects are all well done and clear, and with good reason. Each character sounds unique as they move through the level, and an alert player can tell, just by listening, what sort of enemies are trying to outflank them.
Even the best games aren’t perfect, and Overwatch is no exception. Some tend to equate value with quantity and to them, 12 maps and 4 game modes might seem underwhelming. For a full-priced release, that argument could be made, but I’m not going to make it here. Overwatch has provided me hours of enjoyment so far, and I will be putting in many hours more. On top of that, Blizzard has already announced that all additional content, including maps, heroes, and game modes will all be made available free of charge. Therefore, the initial purchase can be seen as an investment for those who intend to play it for a long period of time.
Overwatch does offer the dreaded microtransaction. These, however, only allow you to purchase cosmetic options like skins and victory poses for characters and have absolutely no affect on gameplay. Anything that can be purchased can also be unlocked during normal gameplay, so the option does not detract from the game in any significant way.
Loot drops are possibly Overwatch’s greatest weakness. Every level, you gain a loot box and these loot boxes contain 4 items. Ranging from spray paints to new character skins, it is often the case that opening one is more of a disappointment, rather than a joy. Getting these less interesting cosmetic upgrades is a bit of a letdown, but with so many different items to collect for each character, it’s certainly a system that makes you want to push for that next level.
There are other minor issues that pepper the game. Playing with friends can be great fun, but it can also be an absolute chore. If the group leader backs out of a round, it can disband the team with little warning, leaving you to have to resend invites. Also, Overwatch does include an in-game social page similar to Destiny, but all invites are sent through PSN rather than in-game. Finally, the issue people tend to complain most about is Play of the Game. After every round, a short video shows the “best” play of the game. The system, however, can have a very strange sense of what constitutes “best.” But Blizzard has promised they are working on that.
As a brand new IP, Overwatch is excellent. In an era where banking on existing properties is the more financially safe option, Blizzard decided to not skimp on this game. They promised a multiplayer shooter and delivered, along with an expanded universe that will open up to other types of media for those interested in delving deeper. With the promise of competitive play in the near future and free additional support, fans of the genre will absolutely enjoy Overwatch. Blizzard has also made it accessible to gamers less familiar with this niche genre through smart gameplay decisions. The world and characters are a joy to look at and even more fun to play, while the game is easy to pick up and rewards players for tackling the objectives in their own way.
Overwatch is a game that your friends will be playing and posting game clips to social media for quite some time, and I would strongly recommend joining them in the fray.
Score: 9.5 / 10
Overwatch was reviewed on the PlayStation 4. It is also available for PC and Xbox One.