Friday, August 5, 2016

Overwatch Review - United We Stand

Score: 10 / 10
PC - Xbox One - Playstation 4
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: May 24th, 2016

  • Games are fast and easy to pick up and put down
  • Heroes are diverse and each one has huge personality
  • Loot boxes are welcome rewards for continued play
  • Play of the Game never gets old
  • Active medals for your performance help gauge your contribution
  • Highlight Reels are lost after exiting the game

Constantly during my games of Overwatch, my mind is at work. Who do they have on their team, what do we need on our team, is my performance working, should we push or defend? The mental game of tug of war in my head was playing out on the battlefield, as new Heroes presented new problems to overcome. The thrill of holding a payload inches from the objective, the satisfaction as you make the highlight reel for the play of the game, the feeling of accomplishment in fending off an opposing force; these feelings never lessened in the hundreds of games I played leading to this review. Overwatch has taken the simplest of gaming formulas and perfected it for one of the best multiplayer games in a long time.

The brilliance of Overwatch is its ability to prioritize the team over your self, and its encouragement for you to play with that in mind. Every Hero has a weakness of some sort to more than one Hero, meaning your continual barrage of attack will likely be countered by the enemy team. It does not matter how good you are with Tracer, if you run into a Roadhog or McCree, you are automatically at a disadvantage. Staying together is the only way to insure you have backup against these foes, and the constant game of rock, paper, scissors with the Heroes means going in with a healthy balance at the start will provide the greatest result. Even in the Hero selection screen you will see a tip of what your team is missing to better guide player choice.

Heroes share the core four roles to balance in a team, but each one is wildly different in play style to the last. If your team is lacking a damage dealer Tracer and Pharah are both in the Assault category, but Tracer is more of a poke damage player getting in and getting out, while Pharah is an AoE splash damage character that fires rockets from the skies. Torbjörn and Symmetra both act as builders, but his turret is more central and damaging and hers are more scattered and weak on their own. Every character houses two abilities and an ultimate ability that charges with in-game action, and the diversity and range offered promises that no matter the role you are required to fill in your team, there will be a Hero to match.

Your choice of Hero is a difficult one to make, thanks in part to some entertaining character design. The personality and quality of each character is reflected in their playstyle. Tracer is the poster child of Overwatch with her quirky attitude, it is easy to see why she is the speedster. Junkrat's maniacal cackle coincides well with his explosives, Zarya's bodybuilding strength reflects in her tanking, and Reaper's sinister presence compliments his flanking close quarters attack. There is so much life in every single character of this game, and the lore that is tucked away on each level gives only a glimpse into each of their origins.

Matches evolve as the game progresses on most maps, but you will likely be escorting a payload or fighting for a control point. Games play out as a veritable tug of war, as defenders respawn and scramble back to the front lines and attackers push to capture and hold a position. Each map has its own identity, be it the open streets and sets of Hollywood to the bright and sunny Ilios. There are areas where Lucio will shine in knocking players off, but others where Mercy has open paths to quickly burst to someone she must heal. No matter the map location, each feels unique and always offers branching pathways to really open up flanking and strategy. Plenty of games later, I am finding new items in the lobby rooms pertaining to its story, and new rooms and positions to set up for defense or utilize on attack.

The conclusion of the match showcases a plethora of stats to work off of, both personally and globally. The Play of the Game highlight reel is an absolute riot to witness the most intense moment of the game that you may have performed or been the victim of at some point. Additionally, four players are highlighted for their contributions ranging from most healing to most sentry turret kills. It is a fine way to give credit where credit is due to those who may have been healing in the background or shutting down ultimates all game.

Sound design is top notch and plays a pivotal role in the game itself. You learn the cues of incoming ultimates, cowering away as you hear McCree shout "It's High Noon" and pushing forward on Lucio's "Oh, Let's Break it Down" motif. Heavy footsteps means enemies nearby, the satisfying ping means a headshot was made, and the epic musical buildup as the clock winds down means the opposing team is sure to push for one last ditch effort. Even subtle hints when a player yells "turret destroyed" gives a cue that one big line of defense is gone without anyone uttering a word. Everything works in sync, and the attention to detail in something so easily overlooked is well appreciated.

Loot boxes are your reward for hard work and offer a plethora of customization. You can customize the line your Heroes spout, the victory pose they perform at the final shot of the team, and the skin used in battle. Everything gained from these boxes are simply cosmetic, and provide no real benefit to the characters as a whole besides a snazzy look or interesting highlight reel introduction. There is an option to purchase loot boxes, but the patient need not shell out anything additional.

The last time I awarded a game a perfect score was Uncharted 2. I had to ask myself the real cons of the game. You could complain the game is tailored to be played with friends and is tough on the solo player, you could complain about the lack of single player content, I could even gripe about the connection speed at times. But really, none of it was a big enough issue. No matter what little gripe I made, I want to go back and play. Even as I write this review I am figuring the hours I can spend with the game this weekend, I am looking into improving with Heroes I am weak in playing, and I am watching streams of other players to learn new approaches. The fascination and obsession with Overwatch is because for the first time since Team Fortress 2, I am hooked on a multiplayer game. I want to get better, I want to improve, and as the game ending screen fades away I find myself eager to improve the next match.