There are days when I question why first-person shooters even bother with a storyline. For real, think about it: You’re given 10-12 levels of a playable movie, most of them setup where no matter how well you perform, the story always goes in the same direction. Maybe you’ll unlock a new map or character skin; perhaps you’ll get a special ending that only the most elite of the elite get to see. But ultimately, the gameplay is pretty straightforward, often ending in disappointment as you’re left to look at the 20+ minute cinematic at the end and question, “Was that it?” Why not just have the multiplayer aspect that many buy the game for?
And with that idea in mind, we present Overwatch
. The FPS game from the minds at Blizzard Entertainment premiered at BlizzCon 2014, showing off several characters and giving fans the company’s take on the genre after years of mastering the RPG and RTS worlds. At first, the footage looked pretty cool, well balanced in a variety of levels and character types, and provided a world that wasn't clinging to any other established franchise.
The story behind it is simplistic: A futuristic Earth-like world is invaded by robots, sparking the U.N. to grab every specialty fighter, roid-raged brawler and talking animal that can fire a gun into one giant task force called Overwatch to get them off our planet. After succeeding, the organization was met with criticism from odd circumstances, even labeled as criminals. And while they managed to keep the peace, their HQ was blown up with its co-founders inside, and Overwatch is completely disbanded. Now, with new threats rising, the crew make an effort to "get the band back together" through combat.
The game received its fair share of praise and negativity long before it was ever released. A series of closed betas were launched over the past seven months to test gameplay and server capacity before it was unleashed onto the public on May 23.
The big thing in Overwatch
that hooked me immediately was variety. Now sure, when you set up a standard FPS multiplayer game, you've usually got your own custom loadout with a nice array of weaponry and skills. But you're only given so many options to program your own material, and even the greatest shooter in the world can lose if they can't adjust to what's happening mid-game. In Overwatch
, you're given 21 options of different fighters that come with their own skills and weapons to fit any scenario. Wanna shoot as a sniper only? Or perhaps a quick swordsman? Maybe attacking head on isn't your strong suit, and you prefer defending. Or you're insane and want to play as a bomber. You have the option to choose whatever you'd like and run with it. And if your character isn't doing so hot or helping the team out, you have the option to switch mid-match to any of the others, and bring the fight back into your hands.
The two characters I got the most fun out of running around with surprised the hell out of me. I thought I'd be digging Widowmaker (as a sniper) and Mei (for the cutesy fun and ability to freeze people), but the characters weren't working out for me in the scenarios my team was being given. The two I actually had the most success with were Bastion and Mercy. Bastion is essentially a robot that can fix itself and turn into a heavy-powered machine gun or mobile tank when necessary. Mercy is almost the complete opposite, primarily running around as a healer and helper who can give your weaponry a boost. Eventually, I really got into Reaper and Winston, both for the attack and defensive play. Much like what happens in games like Street Fighter V
or Call of Duty
, a lot of players are going to end up playing every character a few times and then end up picking 2-3 favorites they can switch between for whatever the situation may present.
The gameplay in Overwatch
is as smooth is it could be. I didn't run into a single server error or matchup problem. Once you complete a match and are given your stats and XP, you're almost immediately thrown into a new match with a jumble of players to create an entirely different scenario. The community as it is right now is a mix of experienced hands and first timers, which I'm betting comes more from the hardcore Blizzard fans wanting to give every game they make a shot. In all the games I played I asked people how they were liking the game through wins and losses; in at least two matches I was paired with WoW
players who don't normally play FPS games, and they were digging it. And that's not just company loyalty; WoW
players (not all, but some, don't start screaming) can sometimes be nitpicky and hard to impress, so when you've got a game that's making them not just take a second look at a genre, but they're actually digging it, that's saying something.
The gaming is well-balanced, the timing between matches is awesome, the in-game perks are pretty cool, and having an online multiplayer that doesn't require me to go through a campaign to get bonuses is a great addition. I earn what I earn based off how well I do with my team, and that's how it should be. The only major thing left for Blizzard to do with Overwatch
at this point is to start cranking out the eSports tournaments and planning free additions to the game once players have completed everything there is to conquer and collect. The big criticism I have is the price, because asking $60 for just a multiplayer game is a tad obnoxious, not to mention the $130 price tag for the Collectors Edition. If I had the option as an average gamer, I would wait out the next few months to see if it drops in price. Still, it's a must own for FPS players looking for a new challenge at a game where even the most hardcore gunners haven't mastered it yet.