When Blizzard announced in 2014 that there were bringing a new game out, speculation was rife. Would it be another Diablo type, perhaps some card based creation but then again all these have been done, it would need to be something special. Perhaps they were going to bring World of Warcraft (WoW), now having been a fan of this game for many (too many, I have to admit) years this would be really awesome but again no, what came was Overwatch.
So where do we start, Blizzard has poured all its talent from both its gaming and graphical expertise to bring us what I have to say is one of the most stunning FPS I have seen in a while. Now don’t get me wrong we’re not going for realism here etc but if we are looking at cartoon effect games then this has to be one of the leaders in its category. Overwatch is a 6 v 6 objective-based shooter where you are either tasked to attack, defend or escort set objectives for a set time limit, through a specified route or until your points counter reaches 100. No different to some of the existing games on the market I hear you cry but what does make this game stand out above the rest is its characters.
The characters in Overwatch are the heart and soul of this game and because of this you are presented with all 21 straight from the beginning and this is where the fun starts. Like previous games from Blizzard the main characters are broken down into 4 main classes, Tank, Offence, Support and Defence. Each one has its own attack, primary and secondary skills and then a special ability which when activated can deliver untold amounts of death and destruction on the opposition. Now I could go on and on about who does what and which skills they have but I think this is part of the beauty of this game and therefore I will let you discover this for yourself. These skills and abilities though differ from character to character and makes the choosing and mastering of these heroes a challenge in itself. However even though all the characters may have their strengths they also come with weaknesses which can be exposed and exploited by others. The variation or choice caters for all types of players, so if you prefer to play Healer in a game then there is Mercy, where as if you want the fun of a fast assault then you have Tracer but whatever your role and whatever your tactic there is always someone for you but also someone who can counter you. The trick is learning which ones.
As said before the playable characters in this game are the life and soul and this is easily seen as you enter the main menu. When the screen appears you are presented with one of the main characters showing the fine detail and textures that blizzard have spent many months perfecting. From here you have access to the Hero Gallery where you learn and customise your heroes to your liking. You can change their appearance and clothing, Hero finishing team pose, winning cut scene animations and these are to name just a few. This ability to tweak and shape your character really brings the game to life in such a way that they feel personal to you. These however are not readily available to you from the start and each item can be unlocked via coins that you earn or unlockables that you can get via loot crates during the game.
Once you have a feel of the characters and which one appeals to your play style you can select play from the main menu, this presents you with a choice of quick play, Vs AI, Custom Match or the Weekly Brawl. All self explanatory but whatever you choose you will soon be thrown into a match with randoms, unless you have set up a team with friends before the game. The character choice screen presents itself to you showing all your team and who is playing what character. Blizzard has offered some help here as on the right hand side a useful prompt tells you in you have too many or too few of one character. Just from this choice screen you will be able to tell if your team is going to work together well. This game focuses around teamwork and seeing players rapidly changing selections if they have doubled up to cover missing classes is a good sign even though having six Tracer’s has led to some really funny and great games. The game then kicks off and you find yourself jumping, flying or bashing your way through the map until you either win or lose. It doesn’t end there though. Once the smoke and dust settles you are presented with the winning team posing for the camera and the player of the match cut scene, showing them killing in all their glory. You then have the option to vote for your best player of the match, a nice little touch that also brings extra XP to the player getting the most votes. No sooner have you finished all that you are plunged back into character selection for the next round until you decide to quit.
As you play the game your earn XP for winning or completing objectives, kills and various other little gems that you will uncover. Every time you reach the required amount of XP you level up, and get presented with a loot crate. This loot crate contains game customisations for you in the form of profile tags, characters skins, voices, graffiti images, Heroic poses etc. This allows you to customise your characters as mentioned above to give them that unique look and feel, allowing you to stand out in the crowd.
The maps feel fresh and clean and even though there isn’t many to play and can be learned quickly, they still bring challenges for both the skilled and creative player. On the defending team the key is to learn the choke points within the maps. You can then co-ordinate your attacks to force the opposition down these where your teammate Bastion, in his sentry mode, is waiting to mow them down. On the flip side when faced with attacking using skilled characters like Pharah or Genji to navigate across high sections of the maps and get in behind the opposition allows you to create distractions, buying time for your teammates to break through.
Once you have learned the maps, game modes and picked a few favourite characters the fun really begins. The more you play the more you learn how to use your Hero and the environment to the best of your ability. You will discover routes around maps only accessible to some characters and sequences of ability and specials that bring advantage to you and disadvantage to the opposition. You will also find that if one tactic is not working in a game and you can’t break through, another can be deployed by switching characters during the game. This can bring an edge to your team and confusion to your competitors, but to do this you need teamwork. At present there is a lot of people playing this game and not a lot of talking and to make this game really work, Blizzard, just like its other games, wants you to communicate and play as a team. Even though I’ve had some great games playing with randoms, the most enjoyable time is when I’m teamed up with friends in coordinating attacks and our Hero selections.
There may be no single player mode available, and the tutorial is done and dusted in 5 minutes flat but the game modes and characters are intuitive, fairly easy to play but not to master. For Blizzard’s attempt at a FPS I have to say they have done amazing well and with the potential scope for new maps and Heroes on the horizon I have to take my hat off to them on a creative, simple, but really in-depth character driven shooter. It’s simple, but so much fun and even though the maps are limited every game feels so different to the last, I have to say, this is one of my favourite games of the year and will always have a place on my Xbox.