I know what you’re thinking: you’re probably thinking that this is yet another Blizzard game that should have been Free-to-Play but ended up charging the players instead. But while their are certainly some weird content issues present, the game feels too well designed to be a free-to-play game. And, despite some obvious content issues, Overwatch is still one of the better Multiplayer Shooters in this generation. A multiplayer shooter that rewards teamwork while actually remembering to be fun at the same time.
The best part about Overwatch are obviously the characters themselves. These avatars are filled with a level of personality that even Team Fortress 2 struggles to reach, and it’s fun just to see how each character behaves in their crazy battle scenarios. Winston’s personality is an entertaining blend of scientific logic and temper issues, while D.VA marches around the battlefield with an energetic “gamer girl” personality and a constant array of fourth-wall jokes and korean-language comments. While the Voice Acting and writing is inconsistent at best (Tracer, we’re mainly looking at you), they’re still good enough to give each character a unique personality. On the outset, it certainly seems like these characters are all style and no substance, given their level of personality and charm. But luckily, Blizzard gave each character their own different play style and strategy. Every single character and combat role in this game offer very different experiences, almost to the point where playing certain characters make it feel like you’re playing an entirely different game. Lucio requires the player to stick with their teammates and give them health regeneration and speed boosts in the appropriate scenario, Roadhog works best when he soaks up damage and draws in long-range opponents with his deadly hook, and Tracer’s focus is on getting to the enemy’s side as quick as possible and then chipping away at the opponents (forcing them to either go for health or run into the objective with low health). This variety of play-styles adds some much needed variety to the game, and some much needed lifetime.
Unfortunately there isn’t much in terms of variety when it comes to the modes themselves. Overwatch has four modes of play: Escort, which involves either defending or moving a Team-Fortress like payload; Assault, a mode that involves capturing or defending several capture zones; Hybrid, a mode that effectively blends Escort and Assault together into one chaotic battle; and Control, which works as a round-based variant of the Assault game type. That’s all the game has to offer in terms of game modes, sadly enough. To add insult to injury, two of these modes are just slightly different variants of Escort and Assault. So really, you’re only getting two true game modes in your $40 or $80 game. To make matters worst, all of these modes feel pretty similar. They all boil down to defending or capturing a point, with the only difference being that the control point can either move or stay in one place. It’s not the limited amount of modes that’s the biggest problem here, but it’s the lack of mode variety. Each game mode in a Shooter needs to be at least a bit different from the last, especially in a Multiplayer-only Shooter. Otherwise, what’s the point of even having different game modes?
The maps themselves, on the other hand, are considerably more interesting than the game modes that take place. Unlike most other multiplayer games which just slap on a bunch of objectives onto every map in the game, Overwatch ties in three maps with each game mode. Meaning that every map is well suited to the mode of play. For example, Control maps are generally smaller and more closed-in while Hybrid or Assault maps are considerably larger and more open. The best part is, no matter how big or small these maps are, every map feels suitable for every character. These maps include a lot of choke points and rooftop areas for snipers, open spaces with high vertical access for characters like Pharah, and lots of hallways and hiding spaces for close-range fighters.These levels somehow manage to feel open to each character while feeling different enough to keep the players interested. Kind of a miracle considering how many different characters there are in this game.
It’s also important to note that this is a Multiplayer Shooter that actually rewards teamwork and punishes selfish play styles. If you just focus on attacking enemy players and staying away from your objective, your team simply won’t do very well. But if you focus on staying together with at least one other player, and if you devote your team towards effectively taking over or defending the objective, then your team should win the match. This game is not for the Quake or Call of Duty crowd, it’s more for the Team Fortress and Counter Strike crowd who favors teamwork over showing off how many computers you can shoot at. This is also one of the few shooters that actually gives EXP and noteworthy accolades for completing your objective, reminding the player of how important it is to stay on task.
My least favorite part about this game would have to be the troublesome reward system. Let me put it to you this way, any game that involves a randomized loot system, let alone a loot system locked behind a level-up system, should be a system in an RPG if anything. Each level gives you a loot box, meaning that the best possible scenario for getting that cool new skin is grinding for a bunch of slot machines. In fact, leveling up isn’t much better than gambling in Vegas, and at least the real thing can give you a chance to explore an interesting city outside of your living room (this is coming from a gamer, so don’t take that too seriously). This system should have been a constant stream of credits or a scripted unlock system for each level. Yet, for some reason, Blizzard decided to go with the Vegas Spirit on this system. And then there’s the problem with the microtransaction system. Instead of actually earning these loot boxes, you can opt to pay a stupid amount of real money for a better chance of getting that cool new skin. On the bright side, at least the game doesn’t force these microtransactions down your throat (in fact, I didn’t actually know that this game had microtransactions until a friend told me so). And, to make things even better, all of these unlocks are purely cosmetic. There are no weapons or perks locked behind the tedious unlock system, meaning that even the low level players have a better chance of having a fair game with the higher-up gamers. Still, the fact that these microtransactions even exist is concerning for a pricey game, and the unlock system itself needs to be more than just one glorified slot machine.
The presentation of the game itself is obviously stellar. The graphics run at a sweet 60 FPS, meaning that most of your matches should run smoothly with a good host, but this game engine has more to offer than just a good frame rate. The characters themselves are filled with the most life and care. Not only do the colors and textures of each character look great and unique, but the animations look great as well. Each animations runs smoothly and looks very suitable to each character (so if a character has a peg-leg, they’ll actually move as if they have a peg-leg), bringing each character to life. The environments are also beautiful and colorful, lit to perfection with only a few poorly designed textures. Chances are you’ll be too busy fighting each other to care about these environments, but the game still respects those who want to take a few moments to embrace the colorful scenery (and that’s definitely rare in a Multiplayer Shooter). The sound design of this game is also great, thanks to the excellent soundtrack and helpful sound cues. These cues make it so you can hear for specific weapons, friendly comments, and even listen for ultimate abilities. Every time a character uses their ultimate ability, they let out a sound warning the enemy team about their upcoming attack. Hell, you could probably play each match with your eyes closed if you’re hearing is good enough.
Overwatch is like that awesome little kid who’s just too short to go on a Roller Coaster. The game itself is very charming and special, but it’s just too small to ride along with the bigger and better competition. So either or not you’ll like Overwatch will solely depend on how much you can tolerate limited content. But, if you value quality over quantity (like I do), then I would highly recommend this game (especially if you’re buying the $40 PC version). Just make sure to get some friends to play with you, not all of the random online teammates are reliable.
- Each character and combat role offer very different experiences
- Maps are well designed and well suited to each character
- A rare multiplayer shooter that actually rewards teamwork
- Game mechanics are easy to learn but tough to master
- Stellar presentation that puts equal effort into its Visuals and Sound Design
- Poor unlock system that rarely gives you the cosmetic items that you want
- Not enough modes or mode variety
- Some balance issues and other small gameplay quirks
- Definitely not worth the $80 version, and barely worth the $40 version