OVERWATCH has finally arrived, and with it, a reason to care about Blizzard again. After tanking WOW subscriptions and mixed responses to DIABLO III, the gaming giant is launching their first new IP in a number of years greater than many online players have even been alive. In addition to being a wildly different universe for Blizzard, the first person shooter marks a complete departure in gameplay and design from what is typical of the company. But was the gamble worth it? Or is this just another TEAM FORTRESS 2 clone?
Well, if you’re going to compare OVERWATCH to Valve’s multiplayer giant, you wouldn’t be that far off at all. The game seems set on replacing TF2 as the dominant team-based multiplayer shooter by emulating it as much as possible. OVERWATCH’s cartoony aesthetic, its selection of varied player types, and its reliance on a limited supply of content all hearken back to TF2. The two game modes, payload and control points, are ripped directly from that game, and many of the characters are reminiscent of their Valve counterparts. But it would be misguided to label OVERWATCH as a copycat.
After all, this is clearly a DARK SOULS rip-off
OVERWATCH boasts 21 heroes at launch, compared to TF2’s nine classes. Some heroes, like Junkrat and Mercy, are close counterparts to TF2 classes like the Demoman and Medic, mimicking their roles with slight alterations. Others trade key functions while retaining the same capacity, such as Pharah’s jet pack in place of the Soldier’s rocket jump, or Tracer’s ability to warp rather than the Scout’s double jump. Still, more assume mantles not even seen in TF2. D.Va, for example, is most reminiscent of Samus from SUPER SMASH BROS, starting as a powerful robot and turning into a weak but nimble pilot upon destruction. Roadhog, meanwhile, is closest to DOTA 2’s Pudge with his high health and long-reaching hook. Despite being mostly unique in execution, OVERWATCH’s cast is largely lifted from outside sources conceptually. While this is a mark against OVERWATCH in terms of originality, it ultimately means that each character is very easy to pick up and play, even for those who aren’t necessarily fans of shooters.
OVERWATCH is also extremely forgiving on rewarding players for their performance. Points are doled out for just about everything, and kills are credited for even the slightest amount of contribution. “Starter” characters like Soldier: 76 and Reaper have abilities that compensate for those accustomed to mechanics of modern shooters like regenerating health and aim-assist, and the fact that all weapons have infinite ammo means that players never have to feel stingy with their bullets.
Or bombs, or lasers, or shuriken…
While OVERWATCH is easily one of the most accessible shooters I’ve ever played, that doesn’t mean that the appeal is limited to casuals. Pros will be happy to know that there is an in-game “fire” meter which tracks your performance and lets you know how effective you are at your role. And although characters like Mei, Hanzo, and Bastion may feel incredibly overpowered to newcomers, experienced players will eventually discover even greater potential within more tricky heroes like Zarya, Genji, and McCree. Because all heroes are available at the onset and the only unlockables are cosmetics, OVERWATCH’s true progression lies in the mastery of its roster. For example, anyone can do well with Widowmaker’s assault rifle/sniper combo, but only after hours of practice with her can one pull off a scoped headshot in the midst of a grappling hook swing. Learning and perfecting the tricks behind each character is the true draw of OVERWATCH.
But is all this enough to warrant a purchase? RAINBOW SIX: SIEGE had a comparably light set of maps and gametypes on launch, but the 20 operators required unlocking, as did the attachments for each of their weapons. Added to this, the staggering amount of destructible features in each set piece ensured that no two matches were alike. The $60 price tag was justified in how wide the array of experiences there were. OVERWATCH’s content is entirely available at the get go, and for the $40 price seems reasonable. Console owners, however, are forced to shell out $60 for the Origins edition, and this is where things become debatable. For many gamers, I would argue that there isn’t quite a full, premium game’s worth of content here. If you’re the type that is likely to stick to the same few favorite heroes, OVERWATCH might wear out its welcome very quickly. While the PC version is an easy recommend, I would say that the console versions of the game are only worth their value in their current state to those who are willing to experiment with all of the options provided to them.
Or for those who just like the cute anime girls and robots
Is OVERWATCH the new killer app in FPSs? Far from it, but it is the most approachable entry I’ve seen in the genre in a great while, and it is more than a worthy successor to TF2’s formula. Though the Origins edition is of dubious worth, the game at launch provides a great launchpad for an extended franchise, and if there is one thing Blizzard does well, it’s expansions. I love the world that OVERWATCH has created, and I’m excited to see what happens next with the property. Whether it’s now or a few years down the line, OVERWATCH merits at least a portion of your attention.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4, also available on Xbox One and PC.