It’s rare that games come along and get so much right it’s hard to find fault at all. Blizzard seems to have a higher hit rate than most, with Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and now Overwatch showing that they really are masters of their craft.
From the very first reveal, Overwatch struck us as a Team Fortress 2 clone, and not much has changed. This is a team-based competitive objective shooter with a cast of incredibly distinctive characters with their own playstyles and character. Blizzard have already shown in Heroes of the Storm (and strangely not really in World of Warcraft) that they are experts at making a large cast of characters that all feel distinctive, and Overwatch is no exception. From the cowboy with a powerful single-shot weapon and close-range stuns but limited mobility McCree to the constantly moving and damage reflecting Genji, all the way to a character that is literally just a turret, there’s a huge amount of variety in Overwatch.
Thankfully, that variety is used well in the game. Unlike Heroes of the Storm, in Overwatch changing your character is more than just encouraged, it’s almost a necessity. Sometimes you’ll be trying to capture a point and find yourself hitting up against a brick wall because the enemy have you figured out and locked down. A quick change to some shield-bearing Reinharts and machine-gun toting Soldier 76s can quickly sort that out. Maybe the enemy is entrenched at a choke point? How about you all switch to Tracer and teleport past them before they can even turn around, capturing objectives as they struggle to work out where you’ve gone.
As expected Blizzard have got much of the context for the game as right as the gameplay itself. Everything is unlocked from the start as this isn’t a free-to-play game. Everyone can switch to any character at any time. There is a progression system but it is simply to get a higher number, and a loot box with each level. In the loot boxes you can find skins, emotes, sprays, and more, and while the game feels a little stingey handing them out (it’s probably not a coincidence that you can buy them separately) everything you can get is purel cosmetic and serve as a nice little reward for playing for a while.
The levels are full of detail and lore-based features such as newspapers, posters and video screens that contain a mixture of easter eggs and some interesting insights into the world of Overwatch. Because this really is a world, all of the characters have a backstory, and beyond the few that have been fleshed out in the animated shorts, you need to search about a bit to find hits of who the others are. The worlds themselves look as gorgeous as the characters with plenty of bright colours and solid colours enabling the game to run at high settings on even quite basic PCs, letting the strong art style make up for the lack of technical tricks you might expect from modern AAA games. There aren’t weather effects and reflections and interesting fluid simulation, instead there’s just a well built world with just enough interactivity to make everything seem believable without being distracting from the action.
If we had to criticise anything about Overwatch it’d be the lack of content. There are plenty of characters and no duds amongst the whole roster, but there’s previous few levels and only one objective on each one. We’re assuming this will be expanded as time goes on but it’s already a little grating to be playing the same maps over and over again. Blizzard haven’t released the ranked mode yet so all you have is Quick Match, Practice, Custom Match, and the Tavern-Brawl equivalent where the rules are mixed up a little for some interesting game modes (this week’s in particular is a lot of fun with everyone being forced to be Hanzo or Genji with some much-reduced cooldowns). Of course ranked play will come soon but it would have been nice to be able to get that sense of progression and real competition from the beginning.
Of course that is a minor complaint and overall Overwatch is an almost flawless game. As far as team-based shooters go you’re unlikely to find another with so much depth, character, and polish outside of perhaps Team Fortress 2. This is another in Blizzard’s long run of hits and successes and we can’t wait to see what they do with this new IP next.