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Overwatch REVIEW – Certainly, one of the year’s best

by Joey Davidson | May 27, 2016May 27, 2016 12:00 pm PDT

I can’t stop playing Overwatch.

I’ve been sick with some awful virus over the last, literally, two weeks. This is the longest I’ve ever sustained a fever, my head hurts, one of my eyes is extremely red, I’ve gone through several boxes of tissues and I’ve been diagnosed twice by two different doctors with different illnesses.

You’d think I’d be in bed. Heck, I probably should be in bed. It’s just, man, I can’t stop playing Overwatch.

The sad thing is that the game isn’t going anywhere. I was even in the closed beta for a stint, so it’s not like this experience is addictive because it’s brand new to me.

Overwatch is a highly polished, beautifully balanced, wonderfully addictive multiplayer shooter from the folks at Blizzard. This game formed up out of the collapse and cancellation of Titan, their planned MMO after WoW. I don’t know if Titan was going to be any good. Overwatch, though?

Overwatch is good.

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Play the dang objective!

Overwatch is a team shooter with heroes. There are 21 of them, and they all have completely unique weaponry and abilities. They also fall into specific roles.

There are support heroes capable of healing, providing shields, opening teleporters or dishing out damage buffs. The defense class has been built for guardian specific locations or creating tight choke points. The offense role boasts heroes that are fast, can deal a lot of damage and move well over the environment. Then there are the tanks. These heroes have a big health pool, can normally block damage and are essentially for dealing with crowds of opponents.

There are four modes in Overwatch, and the only way to access them without firing up a custom game is to hit them randomly through Quick Play. The modes are Assault, Escort, Control and Hybrid. With Control, players compete to control single points, like king of the hill. Assault makes one team attack a point while the other is set to defend. Escort puts one team in charge of slowly moving a payload across a map while the other tries to stop them. Hybrid is basically a blend of Assault and Escort. First you assault one point, then you carry the payload.

That last one, Hybrid, that’s my favorite.

Overwatch demands its players are strategic, good at working together and smart enough to figure out that running lone wolf is a bad idea. Unless you’re playing as Tracer, flashing your way behind enemy lines to use your ultimate ability (a bomb) and then getting the heck out, you really shouldn’t be far away from your team.

Typically, the winning team boasts a good tank and healer with a cast of heroes dealing significant damage. Sticking together and actually working the objective is when Overwatch is at its absolute best. That’s when the time spent with the game clicks by incredibly fast, and those tight games, win or lose, that feature two teams working exceptionally well together in order to attack and defend objectives mark some of the most fun I’ve had in an online game in years.

No campaign, but, trust me, that’s okay.

When it comes to the lore of Overwatch, the most you’re actually going to get in game comes from random one-liners characters share. Winston and Tracer, for instance, exchange brief quips about their history when together in the spawn area before a match starts.

If you want more storytelling, you’ll have to look beyond the game and to the comics and animated shorts.

Folks have sort of complained that Overwatch doesn’t feature a campaign mode. I assert that whatever campaign Blizzard could have cooked up based on this game’s roster of heroes and gameplay mechanics simply wouldn’t have worked.

In order to feature a narrative that made any sense, Blizzard would have had to stick to one or two single heroes. Writing a tale that competently wove together the story of a time traveling British chick, a gorilla raised on the moon, a steampunk dwarf, a Korean competitive gamer and a cowboy seems nigh impossible to me.

Even further, though, I can’t think of a campaign mode that would be any fun with the way these characters play. Sure, it could have been an FPS with streams of NPCs with varying AI skillsets. I could have done fetch quests as Junkrat while blowing up robots and using my ultimate ability to… blow up more robots. That doesn’t sound fun, though.

In order for Overwatch to have featured a campaign, it would have had to be an entirely different game.

This multiplayer experience is worth the price of entry.

Overwatch is selling for $39.99 on PC. It’s selling for $59.99 on consoles. The price jump for the console version exists because Blizzard is only selling the “Origins Edition” on consoles. That includes some extra skins and goodies in other Blizzard games. The $20 price difference isn’t really justified, but it’s there.

I can’t explain away the gap between the PC and console versions. I think Blizzard and Activision didn’t want to make Overwatch seem like a budget title for consoles. A $40 game may have stood out as cheap to a PS4 exclusive gamer at GameStop. Who knows? The difference is annoying, for sure.

However, if competitive shooters are your jam, understand that Overwatch is a really, really good one. You’re absolutely going to get your money’s worth, regardless of if you spend $40 or $60 for the game.

Matches are quick and fulfilling. This is the type of game that encourages you to try new heroes by constantly switching if you’re running into road blocks during a match. Maybe your team isn’t offensively powerful enough, so you’ll switch to McCree to deal more damage. The shear number of heroes at 21 and the ability and benefit to switching at a constant clip keeps this game from being frustrating or boring.

Then there’s the whole loot box system. Yes, you can buy them with microtransactions. You really don’t need to. You earn a loot box at each level, and those boxes contain four completely cosmetic items. They don’t change gameplay at all. You could wind up with some cool sprays or skins, and they’re great for diehards. Diehards shouldn’t shell out the bucks, though, because the act of playing will earn the boxes anyways.

If you’re diehard enough to pay for loot boxes, you’re likely the type who’s going to dump in hundreds or thousands of hours anyways. You’ll earn your loot boxes organically.

Blizzard has said that they’ll release more maps, modes and heroes as the months wear on. These releases will be free, too. Buy the base game and you’ll be a part of the full Overwatch experience for life. That bit is absolutely awesome.

Overwatch is a tight, friendly, fun, well made shooter. It’s easily one of the best games I’ve played this year, and it’s one I see myself playing daily for a long, long time. What are you waiting for?

Buy.

Disclaimer: We received a code to download Overwatch for the PC. We played the game in beta form and a ton in final release form before writing this review.


Joey Davidson

Joey Davidson leads the gaming department here on TechnoBuffalo. He's been covering games online for more than 10 years, and he's a lover of all...

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