Does Overwatch live up to its hype?
Since October, I have been patiently awaiting my invitation into the Overwatch beta. Unfortunately, that day never came, so I was forced to watch Twitch streams and YouTube videos of Blizzard’s latest game, as it gained popularity.
However, after months of spectating, and sulking, I was finally able to grab a hands-on experience with Overwatch, as Blizzard released on open beta between the 5-9th of May 2016.
It’s now been just over a week since the beta concluded and I’ve finally recovered from the void of sorrow that has subdued my body since Overwatch left my life. So, in an attempt to relive that wondrous week, I’ve decided to compile my own review on the upcoming first-person shooter.
To begin, let’s address the first and most common question. Does Overwatch live up to its hype?
Yes. Yes it does.
The best game that I can compare Overwatch to would be Team Fortress 2, a title that is still going strong since its launch nine years ago. Both Overwatch and Team Fortress 2 feature a variety of playable characters, different classes and multiple game modes, however, the main difference is Overwatch simply has more.
With twenty one characters to choose from, within four different roles, Overwatch will struggle to bore you, as no two games will ever play out the same way.
Firstly, you have your ‘Offense’ group, who deal a large amount of damage and travel across the battlefield, but are prone to being taken out in a single swift attack. As a result, this class set favours those who prefer the run and gun style.
The ‘Defence’ group can also issue high amounts of damage, but as opposed to attacking people in close quarter combat, they specialise in eliminating their opponents before they know what’s hit them. Attacking while their enemies are distracted, or preparing for an ambush is their key playstyle, as they excel in head-to-head combat.
The ‘Tanks’ are just what you would expect. Damage sponges. They come with shielding abilities, about three times the health of other characters and can serve as a great distraction. Their only down side is the fact that their damage is significantly lower than the first two groups and therefore they will often rely on teammates taking advantage of their positioning and using them as bait.
Finally, we have the ‘Support’ group, whose main priority is to apply healing, buffs and debuffs to those who need it. Although ‘Support’ players have little impact on direct combat, they play a significant part in the success of their team, as they can easily change the flow of a game with well-placed skills.
While the generalisation of each group may sound fairly straightforward, every character possesses their own unique set of skills, and this is where the real strategy comes into action. Ultimately, Overwatch rewards teamwork above everything else, and as a result, choosing the perfect combination of heroes is paramount to your success or failure as a team.
For example, Bastion's turret form is easily exposed as his movement is limited, however, paired with the defensive shield of Reinhardt, the two can cause devastating damage together. Add Mercy’s damage beam into the equation and you’ve got an unstoppable force.
Due to the vast differences in how each character plays, Overwatch is an extremely accessible game. Like building turrets? Torbjorn and Symmetra can fulfil your needs. Prefer to travel across the battlefield carefree? You’ll want to pick Tracer or Reaper. Always fancied yourself with a sniper? Widowmaker and Hanzo are calling your name.
From a graphics standpoint, the game is stunning. Even when set to the lowest settings on PC it runs incredibly smooth and, as with most of Blizzards games, it is much less taxing on your components and hardware than most modern games.
In addition to this, Overwatch’s style looks fantastic, with each of the twelve maps enjoying their own induvial theme and loading sequence. From the ruins of the Temple of Anubis in Egypt, to the sunny islands in Ilios, to the dreary King's Row in the UK, each map possesses their own unique feel, an issue other FPS titles struggle to overcome.
The levels themselves are split into four different types of game modes. There's Assault, where attacking and defending teams compete for control of capture points, Escort, which sees attackers protect a payload on its transit to a delivery point, while the defending team tries to prevent them until the timer expires, Control, where two teams fight to hold a single point; featuring a best-of-three format and finally a hybrid of the first two modes: Assault/Escort, in which attackers first capture the payload, then escort it to its destination.
Maps are also locked to specific game modes, so, for example, Hanamura is an assault map, whereas Nepal is a control map. While this may have some negative effects, as there will be a constant playstyle to win each objective, it does mean that each map is designed to aid both the offensive and defensive teams equally, while also making it easier to learn for new players.
Overall, Blizzard have added another top notch game to their already impressive résumé. Although the Overwatch beta did not feature a competitive game mode, given Blizzard’s track record, I wouldn’t be surprised if Overwatch joined their list of eSports staples.
If you are a first-person shooter enthusiast and you are searching for a new title to keep you occupied until the launch of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Battlefield 1, Overwatch is perfect for you. However, be warned, you may find yourself loosing complete interest in all other activities for the next few years.
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