Platform: PC / PS4 / Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Release date: Out now
Price: £55 / $60 / €70
Family Focus: Click here for more information.
Despite being one of the long-running powerhouses of the games industry, the
Enter Blizzard’s fourth franchise (and return to home consoles): Overwatch.
Unlike Blizzard’s other games, Overwatch is set in familiar locations around our good ol’ home we call Earth. Sometime in the near future, the Overwatch group of mercenaries were recruited by the UN to sort out shenanigans that the rogue Omnic AI. Once defeated, Overwatch stuck around as a peacekeeping force, however they were hit with suspicion over criminal wrongdoing and accusations of corruption. After an ‘accident’, Overwatch’s base was destroyed and the group disbanded.
Of course, there is still a cause out there to fight for, and it is up to these former heroes across the world to secure victory. In short, it’s a showdown of heroes vs heroes. Despite this plot, you’ll boot up Overwatch to discover that there’s no story mode to go through. All the action plays out on the online battlefields, where you’ll assume the role of an Overwatch hero to pew-pew/hack-slash/fist-bump/heal/block your way to victory. You won’t find anything by way of story during your gameplay though. That’ll require a good bit of lore-digging on your part if that was your cup of tea.
That variety of action is where Overwatch really starts to shine in an otherwise familiar shoot-em-up. There are twenty one different heroes to choose from when entering a game. Each of these heroes have their own unique ability set with castable actions that recharge over time.
Take for example one of my earlier favourites, Reaper. His abilities allow him to teleport across the map and even float for a few seconds at speed whilst being completely immune to damage. These are useful, as his shotguns are most effective at close range. He also has a supercharged ultimate ability that attacks anyone and everyone nearby for a few seconds. The carnage can be strong if implemented correctly.
These abilities may make you stop for a minute. “Hey Steven, they sound like they’re from a MOBA game!” You’d be bang on correct there. From a sniper that can equip a visor that shows everyone on a map, to a mecha-samurai that can slash everyone to bits, it’s all straight out of what would be familiar to fans of Heroes of the Storm and League of Legends.
I think it’s this healthy dash of MOBA that has helped to make playing matches in Overwatch extremely fun. The range of abilities creates all manners of possibilities for strategies to develop, which creates the opportunity for practice to yield all kinds of rewards in improved play. To that end, it doesn’t surprise me that eSports teams are already forming to compete in Overwatch professionally.
There’s one particularly interesting aspect of Overwatch which has become a bit of a mini-mission for me. At the end of each match, a short highlight is replayed to everyone to show off how totally awesome that play was. It’s called “Play of the Game,” and it’s quickly become a hotly desired acclaim. Being featured as the top player has a certain buzz to it that also happens to be rather heavily shareable. Sadly, I don’t have one of my own to share… yet.
When looking to summarise my opinion on Overwatch, I can’t help but think back to when it was first announced at Blizzcon 2014. The internet’s first reaction was along the lines of “OMG it’s a Team Fortress 2 rip-off”. But here’s the thing; Blizzard are extremely good at Blizzard-ing a genre. By that, I mean taking well established conventions in a genre and simply making it more fun. In combining the FPS formula with a dash of MOBA and adding in colourful heroes with oodles of personality, Blizzard has created a shooter that’s fantastic fun to play, whilst creating another potentially successful platform for tons of eSports entertainment.
Just make sure to be playing on the same format as your friends. It’s a lot of fun grabbing those killstreaks and nailing perfect ultimates, but it’s a lot more fun when doing these amazing things as a team.
- Amazingly addictive and fun multiplayer
- Colourful maps and characters
- Gotta be chasing the “Play of the Game”.
- Little value here for those who enjoy story games, given its multiplayer-only setup and lack of campaign.
- Loot Boxes can be bought for cash. Hmmm…
Overwatch is rated 12 for mild violence. It is a shooter game of course, but it is not as graphic as other games out there. The usual warning comes to the very nature of it being an online game. Just because the game is 12-rated, doesn’t mean that the other players on voice chat will be operating to that same rating.
Aside from that, it’s a decent game for a teen to enjoy.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by Xbox UK.]