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Overwatch review

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Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Inventive and varied action that’s always fun
  • A diverse cast of characters and abilities
  • Constantly surprising

Cons

  • Sometimes the walk back into battle can feel overly long
  • If you’re in a bad team it can make you want to cry

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Key Features

  • Available on PS4, Xbox One and PC
  • 21 characters, 12 maps available at launch
  • Multiplayer-focussed
  • Manufacturer: Blizzard
  • Review Price: to be confirmed

In a genre occupied predominantly by YouTube montage videos highlighting twitch shooting skills of pre-pubescents, Overwatch delivers a more considered, tactical affair.

A game about assessing and reacting, never before have I made as many moment-to-moment decisions in a shooter: on positioning, map layout, abilities, character selection, enemy position, everything.

As an example: in a game of Payload – a mode where attackers must escort a loaded flatbed while defenders try to stop them – I opted for Reinhardt; a big, hulking metal mass armed with a hammer and deployable energy shield.

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In this mode, the payload moves only when your team is near, so I pushed out of the starting gate when the round kicked off, keeping the rest of my team behind my shield. It was taking a lot of punishment and started to crack, so I released the controller’s trigger and put it away, using the payload as cover for a few seconds while the shield recharged.

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This tactic continued up the map, as we kept pushing the enemy team back. Every now and then I'd fire a projectile at an enemy who looked too comfortable; sometimes I’d use Reinhardt’s rush ability to surprise them, cornering them in a room off the payload's path, finishing them with devastating hammer swings. A team-mate had chosen Mercy, a healer, and was using my shield to advance, keeping me topped up with health – I didn’t even die. The match was over in around five minutes. We won.

We were successful not only as a result of the small decisions we made as a team – knowing when to press, who to pick off and when to hang back – but it was also because of the bad choices our opponents made. There’s a reason Overwatch has a large cast of 21 unique characters with varied abilities: they’re all built with a specific purpose and there’s a counter for every play.

Someone in the opposition could have easily switched the Reaper, Widowmaker or Genji, using their powers to teleport, grapple or dash to my exposed flank. Overwatch allows you to switch between anyone in its large roster every time you die, so every death is an opportunity to change tack, your desire for revenge burning as you trudge back into the skirmish.

It is the fluidity, along with all the variables, that really makes Overwatch great. The characters and their abilities make the shooter feel completely different to your usual classes of engineers, medics, snipers and support characters. Overwatch’s heroes are still defined by classes – attackers, defenders, tanks and support – but each personality inside that class has a feel of their own, with distinct sets of strengths and weaknesses.

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Take the attackers. Tracer is a zippy character who can speed around the battlefield in a series of dashes. She can rewind time and reset her position to a few seconds before, reverting her health and undoing mistakes – seeing her being played well is like witnessing weaponised lag.

Related: Overwatch beginner's guide

My personal favourite, Genji, can deflect any projectile with his katana, mirroring the damage back at his enemies. He's especially useful against Bastion, a defensive robot hero who can turn into a relentlessly-firing turret – and can also scurry up vertical walls to get to high ground. Then there’s Pharah, a rocket-powered damage-dealer who uses a jetpack to rain down explosives from the sky.

Every class houses as much variety, and the only reason they’re really split into classes at all is so that the game can gently nudge you to build a well-composed team of heroes – you’ll want a tank to soak up and deal damage; you’ll need someone buffing or healing; and you’ll definitely want at least one turret if you’re playing defence. The game never forces you to build a diverse team – hell, you can all be the same character if you want – but warning messages about what you’re missing guide you towards doing the right thing.

Then, in the heat of battle, you’ll be changing your characters to counter the enemy’s own roster tweaks. It’s a clever system, and even without headsets it forces team play in an organic way that most team shooters can only dream of.

This inventive diversity extends to the 12 launch maps, too. They’re all created in a way so that the action is funnelled to a specific point in the map – which is another way teamplay is enforced. However, there are also optional routes that are accessible by only certain characters: be it Pharah’s boost, Genji’s dashing slash, Widowmaker’s grappling hook, Lucio’s wall-running, Reaper’s teleport, or any other of the creative ways you can manoeuvre through these arenas.

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There’s a lot to discover in both the maps and the heroes themselves. Almost every skill in the game can be used in a way you might not originally anticipate, giving the shooter an extra layer to uncover that’s pure joy.

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Some people have bemoaned the lack of a single-player mode, pointing to what they see as a bare bones launch – more characters and maps are to be added for free later – but extended time with Blizzard’s FPS proves it has legs in its current form. Whether it’s a quirk of a map or a new way to combine or use a character’s skills, Overwatch is constantly surprising, fresh and a load of frenetic fun. If you buy one game to get your online fix this year, make it this one.

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Verdict

Overwatch is a first-person shooter that oozes personality and charm, but beyond that surface layer lies a deep, tactical game where your most powerful weapon is your brain. If, like me, you’ve recently fallen out of love with online first-person shooters, play Overwatch long enough for it to deliver one of its many standout moments and you’ll be renewing your vows in no time.

Overall Score

9

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Pg

November 10, 2014, 2:15 pm

Maybe it's just me but having "...a rich
and deep backstory to ground players in its world" is close to pointless for such a genre. You have an objective, go carry it out. A back story does not help.

Realtalk

November 11, 2014, 2:13 am

Which is why Blizzard has decided to make the storyline mostly separate from the gameplay. Best of both worlds.

Bruce

May 6, 2016, 1:07 pm

I gave it a couple of hours, I'm already bored with it. 6 vs 6, seriously? This is not as exciting, or graphically competent as "Evolve" which only required 5 people to be playing, and that game is dead, remember. Graphically it reminds me of borderlands, but devoid of the humour. The empty walking from the spawn point to the objective is extremely tedious, and causes your team to become hopelessly attenuated, as the fast characters leave the tanks behind, run off and get killed. Nope. They should make this free to play as soon as possible. It might be fun if you have a team of 6 friends playing.... but how often will that happen?

Securitass

May 7, 2016, 7:04 am

Played the closed beta, I enjoyed it more than I thought it would, though I kept getting the feeling of "been here before" because of how similar it feels to Team Fortress 2. That and some of the characters have abilities identical to League of Legends champions.

Maxandre Lanthier

May 9, 2016, 4:43 pm

I played the beta and was really disappointed the fact this game has zero progression when you don't count the cosmetic is a no-go for me. The gameplay is really great, but far from being a 80$ game, there's literally nothing to do there few game modes few heroes already unlock and that's it.

Supergamesniper9

May 9, 2016, 5:44 pm

I definitely got the Team Fortress 2 vibe. It is a bit nostalgic, but you're right, it's a "been there, done that" sentiment.

Supergamesniper9

May 9, 2016, 5:47 pm

I disagree with you on the humor bit. I felt that Zenyatta (Budist-like monk robot) was hilarious with his one-liner of "Death is whimsical today." I also like McCree's line of "Hmm...you look familiar. Ain't I killed you before?" So there is some prime comedic moments available.

The downside for me is the repetitiveness. Objective based gameplay is one thing, but over time, it becomes monotonous. replay value is important. I'd like a story mode in all honesty...

Rich Garriques

May 10, 2016, 3:09 am

lol you havnt played for long and there is a progression system it shows up at the end of matches. listen bro just because you don't understand the game does not mean its disappointing.

Rich Garriques

May 10, 2016, 3:10 am

nothing like team fortress 2 it is better and yes I did get that league of legends Warcraft kind of vibe from it.

Rich Garriques

May 10, 2016, 3:12 am

you are thinking to far ahead the game isn't even out yet and this is what you got out of beta. that is quite the assumption you have without waiting for a full release since more modes will be available then. blizzard usually supports their games I am hoping for a Warcraft starcraft horde mode.

Securitass

May 10, 2016, 4:22 am

Not sure how you can say its nothing like Team Fortress 2, the whole moving the payload game mode is one of the main game modes in Team Fortress 2. Both games are team objective based shooters. Even some of the classes are very similar, Junkrat is very similar to the Demo, Mercy is very very similar to the Doctor, Torbjorn is very much like the Engineer, Tracer has a slight similarity to the Scout, Widowmaker and Hanzo's primary weapons are very similar to the Sniper's sniperifles and his Huntsman bow. Loads of similarities. And while I know those types of classes (sniper, healer, demolitions, engineer) are common for this type of game, the similarities go beyond just the class, even the weapons are the same or similar.

Virginia Grasso-Sensenig

May 10, 2016, 12:55 pm

No, Blizzard already stated the full game was available in the demo so no new maps or game modes until future dlc. Only 6v6? Boooo! And no skill progressions? Boooo! What a tiny tiny game...

Jshadow

May 10, 2016, 7:54 pm

It's 60, not 80. This isn't CoD.

Paul Norman

May 10, 2016, 11:12 pm

There is no progression system noob it's just a graphic that says your progressing with no actual progress if you dont know the difference then f off.

Everlast

May 10, 2016, 11:57 pm

I think they have to make it free-to-play ASAP. Its mechanics are similar to Heroes of the Storm in many ways.
You are in a team, pick your class between tank/damage/support and clash with another team on a limited set of maps.

The available content is:
- explore the skills of all heroes,
- explore ways to combine them in a team
- explore and strategize the use of map features.

Should have been free-to-play like HotS, with options to buy heroes and other benefits with real cash. I don't know why they decided on a different monetizing model.
If Blizzard insist on a one-time-payment, maybe £10 or 15 euro would be a fair price.

Jimmy

May 11, 2016, 7:08 am

Not worth $60 dollars at all! Don't get me wrong its a fun match of shooting mayhem that will give you a few thrills; team component and variation of heroes and abilities is nice however, there is no depth to the game at all. It simply doesn't offer enough. I will buy it when the price drops. It has the depth of Battlefront and a very light hint of MOBA elements tied into a fps. It doesn't have enough sheen to it to make me want to call it an effective team shooter, or a MOBA. It simply doesn't do either that well. Also graphically it could have been close to achieved on a 360; overall it gets a rating of MEH.

Ramon Carroll

May 11, 2016, 1:21 pm

I had an absolute ball playing this. But one thing that keeps nagging me is the question of it's longevity. What's to keep me playing? How soon do additional maps/hero DLCs drop? I mean, it's an amazingly fun and polished game. Very well though out, but I need to see what there is to keep it alive a few months from now.

Phil Smart

May 11, 2016, 7:17 pm

That's exactly what I'm thinking. There's no real objective, and I'm worried that it will get boring after a week or two, and I just don't have the funds to purchase a brand new $60 game every two weeks. What would be really cool to see with this game is a general market place where you can upgrade individual characters, chat with other people, buy new character-specific equipment, or even a solo portion. I realize that these ideas are moving away from the idea behind MOBAs, but it would make me more likely to purchase it. On a different note, it isn't the greatest time to release this game considering Battleborn literally just came out last week. Two highly visible MOBAs coming out in the same month does not seem like a great idea from a purely economic standpoint.

Phil Smart

May 11, 2016, 8:52 pm

Well that escalated quickly

Maxandre Lanthier

May 12, 2016, 5:40 am

Listen bro, overall statistic and progression is tow different things. Like I said if you don't count the cosmetic there is zero progression in this game and how could you assume I never played for a long time when it seem you don't know anything about this game nor video games in general?

Maxandre Lanthier

May 12, 2016, 5:42 am

I'm from Canada so its 80

Jimmy

May 13, 2016, 10:04 am

THE LACK OF PROGRESSION WITH REAL ITEMS EITHER IN MATCH OR OUT IS A SERIOUS DOWNFALL. This game will die quickly.

Ramon Carroll

May 21, 2016, 3:21 pm

Well, it's not necessarily a MOBA. The closest comparison you'll find is Team Fortress. Battleborn and Overwatch play very differently from one another, and it's not easy to tell this until you actually see the two games in full action.

I still admit that I had a wonderful time playing this game, and if it can at least hold me for a few months, then that's $60 well spent. They are also going to release new maps and heroes too, so that will definitely increase the longevity for those who are committed. Also, I haven't played a game as well polished as this one in quite a while, and I hold a huge amount of respect for the Blizzard dev team.

I'm going to give it a chance.

AJF

May 28, 2016, 9:44 pm

I'm so glad it costs money. It makes it a much better game. You don't get scrubs on there to just mess with you, and cheat there balls off. If the price tag scares you away, then I say good, it's probably better that you don't play. I found the team to be much more helpful and informative when they have to pay. Be sides that, the game is awesome. 21 classes, countless ways to beat maps. Every class has a counter, and it's just a blast. Well balanced.

Christopher Kerwick

June 3, 2016, 5:08 pm

I feel the opposite. I felt like I got ripped off. I think this game is worth $30 at the absolute most. Yes its fun but boring at the same time. You can't level the characters, limited maps, only one type of game play, and no story mode. And the animation reminds me of "Sonic" on the Sega Dreamcast, lol. I'm very surprised this game got such high reviews for the lack of content it provided.

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