Well, that was a surprise. Prior to last weekend I was thinking of Uncharted 4, [No Man's Sky](tag:2684052) and Dishonored 2 in terms of my most highly anticipated video games of 2016. Apparently that's no longer the case.
Blizzard have been hosting an open beta for their upcoming team-based multiplayer FPS Overwatch across three platforms, PS4, XBOX One and PC, since May 5 — it's now been extended to May 10 — and having spent over 20 hours with two of these versions (PS4 & PC) I can confirm that Blizzard have once again pulled me into a previously unexplored genre.
Overwatch Could Be One Of 2016's Best Games
I don't play MMOs; I played World of Warcraft. I don't play real-time strategy games; I played a ton of Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty and its expansions. I don't play games like Diablo III; I played the absolute shit out of it.
While I've certainly played a ton of shooters in the past from Call Of Duty to Killzone and dabbled with online multiplayer, I've never been engaged by team-based FPS' like Team Fortress 2, for example. I assumed I'd harbor the same apathy towards Overwatch as I do for TF2. I should have known better.
Blizzard are famous for taking a video game genre, putting their own spin on it and, while still catering to pros and esports, attempting to make it as accessible as possible to a wider audience. They recently achieved that with the collectible card game genre with Hearthstone. This is a staple of Blizzard's design and that has very much been their aim with Overwatch.
What's Playing Overwatch Like?
Overwatch is an online multiplayer first-person shooter that pitches 6 players against another team of 6. There are three game modes: Escort, Control and Assault. Escort involves the attacking team transporting a vehicle from one side of the map to the other while the enemy team attempts to stall their progress. Assault involves the Attacking and Defending teams attempting to take or defend capture points across the map. And Control sees two teams fighting over a series of objective areas in a best-of-three format.
Overwatch has 12 maps, 21 characters and each mode is 6v6. What you see in the beta is what you get. This is how Blizzard will unleash the team-based FPS on the world, though the've stated that there's more to come in the future. This might not sound like a lot of surface content, but Blizzard's latest game conceals a great deal of depth beneath its glossy, chaotic and accessible exterior.
Does Overwatch Have A "Best" Character?
The answer? Absolutely not. You are nothing without your team in this game. Before you jump into the action, you'll be presented with a menu that features all of Overwatch's 21 eclectic characters. They come in all shapes and sizes and are sorted into 4 different categories: Assault, Defense, Tank and Support. If you don't have at least one player on your team taking control of a Tank or Support character during a match, it's likely that you'll be at a serious disadvantage that may cost you the game. Therefore, you need to familiarize yourself with various characters in order to fill roles that your team lacks. Find your favorite Support or Tank character so that you can easily switch things up half way through a match and comfortably adjust to the situation. There is no "best" character in Overwatch, there are only well rounded teams.
Coming from other shooters where kill-death ratios are important and match modes like Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch almost exclude the possibility of team play, Overwatch can be difficult to adjust to. You simply must engage with your team. Every character has their own abilities and supers, like Tracer above who can zip around the match at top speed and even briefly rewind time to recover her health, and all of them contribute to the match in different ways. This where the fun comes in.
Once You Get Used To This Game, Oh Boy!
Once you have a firm grasp of Overwatch's characters the game opens itself up to you. You'll see Reinhardt coming bounding towards you and suddenly realize how to adapt your approach, or you'll notice that Mercy is following and healing Tracer and that you'll be dead in no time if you don't prepare some defenses. You'll also be able to analyze your opposing team's strengths and swap in and out of character roles in order to capitalize on their weaknesses.
The game can be insanely chaotic, but once you can make sense of this chaos, learn to identify certain moves, supers and the layout of maps, Overwatch becomes one of the most satisfying shooter experiences out there. I cannot wait for this title to release on May 24 and I hope that you've taken the opportunity to examine the game up close in its beta.