So, it’s been a week since the much-hyped Overwatch’s release, so I thought I would write a little something about my experience with it so far. It’s safe to say that it’s nothing short of amazing, and I’ve played so much of it that it’s hard to think about doing anything else. I hear a little voice in my head saying “Hey, you. You could be playing Overwatch right now, you stupid idiot” every time I find myself doing anything which isn’t playing Overwatch.
I was a little apprehensive before playing the beta having initially got the game confused with games of a similar genre with similarly vague names, such as Battleborn and Paragon. Add this trepidation to the fact that a competitive multiplayer shooter rarely holds my attention beyond the first week of release and I had formed an idea in my head that Blizzard’s first ever shooter wouldn’t be for me. I’m happy to say that apprehension was swept aside when I got my hands on the game.
The first thing you notice is just how bright and vivid the game is; the environments are awash with colour and each character fits perfectly within said environment due to their eccentric art style and outlandish cartoon aesthetic. The character design reminds me of the importance of silhouette design in animation, and specifically the clarity of the silhouette and the role they play in order to tell a story. Blizzard’s character design is phenomal, not just from a narrative standpoint but from a game design perspective also. When you see the hulking frame of a Roadhog charging towards you, prepping to chain hook you, reel you in and shotgun you to oblivion, it strikes fear into you and makes you take evasive action. The same goes for practically every character in the game, all complete with a visual style which informs the player at a base gameplay level. The aesthetic design choices lend themselves perfectly to the gameplay with visual clues which act as indictors of specific attacks and specials, for example when you see Pharah launch in the air and prep her rocket barrage, you know you’re going to want to get out of there. The same can be said for the sound design, for example when you hear McCree say “It’s high noon” as he prepares his Deadeye ultimate, or when you hear the roar of the engine when Junkrat launches his rip-tire, you know that trouble is ahead. Good game design takes these all so often seperate components of a game and incorporates them into an overarching, uniform design philosophy, with every aspect of design informing and working together to create something great.
From a gameplay perspective, what there is on offer may initally seem slim, but on further inspection, the amount of variety is incredible. For players who are used to the shoot – reload – shoot – reload gameplay loop of run of the mill FPS’s such as Call of Duty, then they would feel right at home with Soldier: 76. Players that are more accustomed to the pixel perfect intircacy of twitch shooters such as Counter Strike may find joy with the sniper characters such as Widowmaker or Hanzo. Players that are regular players of MOBA’s such as DOTA or LoL will find the support and tank classes very familar and will be able to utilise them to their fullest. Although these are all good starting places for players depending on their usual genres of preference, the ability to switch up your character – even in-game – provides a huge amount of gameplay depth and has given me some of the funnest moments with the game to date.
Matches are often close and intense, with momentum swings happening on a regular basis. These swings happen due to key plays which are highlighted with a very cool ‘Play Of The Game’ feature which accompanies every post-game. The best part about this is the fact that support plays feature just as regularly as offensive. Moments where a player provided an incredible amount of support during an objective push mean just as much as when a player elimates the whole enemy team in one move. This puts the emphasis on the team as a unit, and encourages people to play and experiment with the support classes which aren’t always the most glamorous of roles.
So, all in all, Blizzard have done it again. They’ve taken a back seat, studied a genre, and innovated and built upon it to a level that others will have trouble touching. I can see this being my shooter of choice for the forseeable future, which is a refreshing feeling when it comes to a genre which I consistently struggles to hold my attention. Anyway, enough talking – I need to play Overwatch.