Blizzard Entertainment released early access to the Overwatch beta on May 3, 2016 for those who preordered Overwatch Origins Edition. On May 5, 2016 the beta will be open for all players to experience up until May 9, 2016. This team-based first person shooter has up to 21 playable heroes, each with unique weapons and abilities. In Overwatch, you control one of the several heroes in competitive 6-person team shooting matches. Battle over objectives, take down the other team and achieve victory.
Gameplay: Team-based Hero Shooter
Overwatch is a 6-player team PVP shooter including a mode where you control and defend specific points on the map or a mode where you escort and deliver a slow moving payload to an objective point. These modes are directly tied to maps and there are some maps that are a combination of the two modes where there is an initial control and defend objective that unlocks the slow payload to be escorted and delivered. You simply jump into a match by selecting Quick Play in the main menu which drops you into one of many maps, leaving you no option to select your desired mode. There are kill cams and a “play of the game” clip at the end of each match. Four of twelve players get metals based on various measurements such as the most kills, most healing, assists, etc. All 12 players in the match get to vote for who they think is the MVP among the 4 metals, although most players will probably vote for themselves, their friend, or their teammate.
You will seldom win a match if your team does not have a balance between all four classes or if one or more teammates focus only on kills and not on the objective with the team. It is preferable to play with friends but you will occasionally get into a match with randoms who understand that victory is achieved through a balanced team and cooperation. Overwatch encourages this by giving you more xp for playing as a group. There is no end of the match scoreboard for the entire team and you only get to see your own statistics. This averts players from going on a solo killing spree and ignoring the team’s objective. Some players prefer to come out on top with the highest KDR but the inability to compare stats promotes cooperation in playing toward objectives. The game doesn’t force your team to pick one character per class, so you have to coordinate this via voice chat. A team full of all offensive heroes is less likely to succeed. Most characters cannot heal themselves, which is why having at least one support character is necessary. Otherwise you will have to rely on the scarce health pick ups around the map or retreat all the way to your spawn base.
From the main menu you can play the tutorial which starts you off with one of the most shooter-familiar characters, Soldier 76. This teaches you the basics of aiming, shooting, using your weapons, abilities, and ultimate move. While Soldier 76 might have the most familiar play style to traditional first-person shooters, not every character has such explicit attacks sets. Classes available include offense, support, tank and defense. Even within the same class, each character will feel incredibly different. For example, one support character can throw a healing orb your way and the other can revive you from death. If you want to try out other characters before jumping into a PVP match, there is the option to fight AI in Free Training. From the main menu there is also a Hero Gallery which shows skins, emotes, victory poses, voice lines, sprays to post around the battlefield, and in-game currency that you unlock from loot boxes. You earn these loot boxes from leveling up. These cosmetic items range from common to rare, up to legendary.
Not only does the Hero Gallery list cosmetic items you unlocked for every character, but it plays a video for each heroes ability so you can become familiar with every move selection. You can customize every characters controls, modify the sensitivity, and enable/disable aim assist. If you cannot commit to a character mid-match, you have the option to switch heroes between deaths or if you re-enter the spawn area. There is no hero that feels useless and there is no hero that feels overpowered. Some heroes will excel in certain maps and modes more so than others. For example, Widowmakers sniper will prevail in a larger map. Maybe you would prefer to control a cannon-wielding, genetically-engineered ape from the moon or you might prefer zipping around as a teleporting, time-traveling freedom fighter. I know I prefer a shadow stepping, Hellfire Twin Shotgun-wielding ghost. Who do you want to be?
Learn more about each hero here: https://playoverwatch.com/en-us/heroes/
Visuals: Cartoon World
In a time of global crisis an international task force of heroes banded together to restore peace to a war-torn world. Speaking of international, the country’s flag displays next to the name of the chosen map which is reminiscent of Street Fighter. You will seldom find yourself in the same map too often because there are so many maps available in the beta. This theme of diversity is not only apparent in each characters ability, their appearance and their accents, but the maps gorgeously capture the environment of its intended country in a colorful and cartoony way. The game is so polished even in the midst of chaos. I never noticed any frame rate drops or shifts in resolution when there were clumps of effects on screen at the same time. The controls were responsive and special movement abilities such as climbing, flying, zipping, dashing, or using a grappling hook allowed many characters to traverse the maps in advantageous ways. There were no server issues or lag on the Playstation 4, but this can possibly because the beta hasn’t opened up to everyone.
Flaws: Just Some Minor Tweaks
While Blizzard has excelled in creating a team-based hero FPS, it isn’t without flaws. There is no option to chose which multiplayer mode you want to play, thus stripping the autonomy from the player. I would rather the autonomy be taken away when it comes to your team choosing too many heroes within the same class, by blocking you out of a specific class when two teammates have already chosen a hero of that class. This would not only guarantee balance when playing with randoms, but would give players who prefer to play offensively an opportunity to try out a character from another class. Additionally, when playing modes like control and defend, players are usually clustered around objective area’s of the map and a large portion of the gorgeously designed map goes unused. While there is room for flanking, certain map designs may lead players to feel an advantage in the defending position. Another issue is the “play of the game” clip occasionally ignores more impressive plays and highlights the player who killed the most opponents in a short amount of time. For a game that strongly promotes team cooperation, it is unfortunate that the player who goes on a lone killing spree and ignores pertinent objectives will have the spotlight. Meanwhile there are more notable plays that aided the objective to obtain victory. One last thing I would change is in the beta, players are only awarded loot boxes for leveling up and there are no credit awards for game milestones or challenge completions. I do wonder if Blizzard will have the option for players to purchase loot boxes or their contents with real money. As long as that option is strictly cosmetic, I’m okay with it. I hope that more multiplayer modes become available during the full release or some time during Overwatch’s life-span.
Final Thoughts: I Can’t Wait!
If this is Blizzard Entertainments first attempt at an FPS, they nailed it! Even if tweaks aren’t made the game already feels like a masterpiece. The game plays buttery smooth and the visuals are breathtaking and fun. I cannot wait until the full release for Overwatch on May 24th.
Random Thought – Why does the download title show up as “Music Player” on the PlayStation 4?
The full release for Overwatch is on May 24th, 2016 for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC.
Check out some gameplay footage from The OuterHaven Team: