‘Overwatch’: The Hero Shooter You’ve Been Waiting For
Overwatch doesn’t feel like a company’s first attempt at making a shooter. The game is exceptional in a lot of obvious ways, from the incredible character designs to the enormous variety of its heroes. Then again, an excellent game from the makers of Diablo, Starcraft, Hearthstone, and World of Warcraft isn’t exactly surprising. And based on our experience with the open beta, if you play video games, Overwatch should be on your radar.
Overwatch is a hero shooter coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on May 24. This relatively new genre takes the idea of “heroes” from MOBAs — basically, characters with unique abilities — and drops them into an online shooter. The result is a game that doesn’t quite feel like anything you’ve played before.
We could be heroes
The 21 heroes launching with Overwatch are marvelous creations. This is somewhat to be expected, as Blizzard’s character designers are second-to-none, but it’s still an impressive achievement. From the fast-dashing Tracer with her dual pistols, to the sword-swinging ninja Genji, the roster is stacked with memorable heroes. I tried out a dozen of them and was pleasantly surprised by how distinct each one feels.
The heroes fall into four classes: offense, defense, tank, and support. Making each one distinct are the five or six unique abilities each character has. In the support class, for instance, Mercy is a winged healer who can fly to any ally in sight and boost their health or attack power. Reaper is a shotgun-wielding attacker who can turn invisible and invincible for short periods of time.
Each character also has a powerful Ultimate ability you can use once you fill up a meter. The Ultimate ability of the attacker Soldier: 76 temporarily locks his aim on enemies so he can’t miss. The tank character Zarya launches a gravity bomb that sucks in enemies and holds them in place while causing damage. These are power moves that give your team a leg up when you do them at just the right time.
A balanced team
A strong team is a well-balanced one. If your team has too many defensive heroes, for instance, you can head back to your base to change into an offensive hero. While it takes a while to learn how to use the different characters, it’s a good idea to become competent with few of them so you can adapt to the needs of your team.
The game will launch with 12 maps and a handful of modes, each of which pits two teams of six against each other. There’s not a ton of variety in terms of modes, but since the heroes play very differently from each other, that might not be a problem. Here are the modes available in the game at launch.
- Quick Play: Play with and against other players of your skill level
- Play Vs. AI: You and other players fight against a computer-controlled team
- Custom Game: You can customize the rules to play with friends or computer-controlled characters
- Mystery Heroes: A weekly brawl mode consisting of special matches with rules that vary week to week
Blizzard on consoles
Blizzard started as a PC-only company, but in recent years it’s been bringing its games to other platforms several months after coming to PC. With Overwatch, it’s going the full multi-platform route by launching it simultaneously on all three major gaming platforms.
It feels right at home on both PS4 and Xbox, but we were also pretty floored by how smoothly it ran on a relatively low-end laptop. The graphics suffered from the underpowered hardware, but the gameplay was still twitchy-fast.
More content ahead
Blizzard promises much more content will be coming in the future, with all of the additional heroes and maps completely free to download. The specifics of how and when this will play out remains to be seen.
Based on the beta, Overwatch seems primed to deliver a shooter like none other when it releases on May 24. It’s a stylish, fun, and incredibly designed game that shows every sign of being a surefire hit. If you’ve been interested in seeing what the hero shooter genre has to offer, Overwatch looks like the perfect entry point.