Overwatch Review

Team based first person shooters have a tendency to focus on the weapons in-hand rather than those holding them. Overwatch differs from this trope by ensuring that the characters themselves are more integral to the game and its mechanics, than you’re usually likely to see.

It’s this mixture of gameplay and unique mechanics for each character that sets Overwatch apart from its peers, delivering a genuinely fun FPS with a variety of different ways to play. But having a variety of heroes isn’t a great point if there are weak-links in the chain, thankfully though there aren’t. Overwatch’s characters certainly have flaws in their game, but they’re flaws that are designed to allow for an opportunity for other characters to break you down. It’s these individual character traits that allow for matches to pan differently almost every time, depending on which characters teams choose during a match.

The characters are sectioned off within the character selection screen as Offense, Defense, Tank and Support players. But each hero offers so much more than those four roles represent by just looking at a character selection, it’s only when you get your hands on them and spend real time on the battlefield that you will truly appreciate just how versatile some of these heroes actually are. Some characters are able to deploy large shields to protect the group, while others – like Bastion – can turn into a turret to protect a capture point. Tracer is able to move lightning fast, D-VA can drop her mech off into an area to self-destruct; while Blackwidow is a sniper with a grappling hook able to reach high areas easily. We could name them all, but it’s better to experience them for yourself. Learning what each and every character is capable of is part of the fun in the early hours of Overwatch.

After a while of playing in a match you’ll end up charging an Ultimate move. You can check on this by looking at the percentage at the bottom of the screen, the more times you strike an opponent, the quicker your Ultimate will charge, although it rises steadily even if you don’t do anything. Like basic skills, each character has a unique ultimate. Some heal the team, one can make the other team visible to all, while others are more adept at causing a large explosion, perfect for the end of an Escort game where most players are usually concentrated in a small area. The Ultimates are often game changers if used correctly.

As you play Overwatch more and more you quickly learn which characters are best for offense and defense depending on which set of characters you’re lining up against. While it’s still early days, it’s clear that once the community gets older and wiser, players will have specific plays on different maps and will quickly dominate once they’ve learned how to bend the characters mechanics to their will. It will be interesting to see how the community develops but for now, Overwatch is fun for all, as most players are still exploring the ins and outs of the likable cast.

Strategically switching characters mid-game is a key component to picking up wins. You can quickly change characters when you’re still in your team’s respawn area by holding down square (or X) for a few seconds, giving you a quick opportunity to gain the upper-hand on your opponents. Should the defending team have a few Bastions stationed to defend a zone, you can quickly change to one of Overwatch’s quicker characters to get around the back and to his weakpoint, rather than have to endure his constant turret fire. This mechanic allows for intriguing situations where players try to outdo each other and stay one-step ahead. If the ability to switch characters wasn’t included, then the character selection screen and strategy would often come down to luck, but by including it, it gives the player control over how they wish to change their tactics mid-match, much in the same way a coach substitutes players in real-life sport scenarios.

Overwatch features three main modes, with hybrids thrown in for good measure. Assault is a point capture mode where one team must attack and control specific points of a map and then defend them from the opposing team. Escort asks one team to escort a vehicle on a set path from point A to point B, while Control is a more traditional zone capture game, with both teams on the attack at once. The hybrid matches start with one team attacking an area while the other defends, much like Assualt, but once the attacking team has captured the zone, an escort vehicle then becomes available to be escorted to another area of the map.

Escort games often end up the most strategic, especially towards the end when your payload is close to the goal. The payload only moves when a member of your team is next to it, and with the goal often being close to the opposing teams spawn point, the last few minutes end up being a case of picking the right group of characters to break down the opposing teams last stand, often resulting in some impressively close finishes.

There are a total of 12 maps in Overwatch, and all feature multiple zones where all out team warfare becomes inevitable. Each level features a layout that begs for a strategic plan from either team, with the beginning of matches often culminating in a game of cat and mouse. The defensive team has a minute to get themselves ready in positions around the attacking teams spawning point. During this period, the attacking team are locked in a room with not much to do other than wait. At times it can be quite difficult for the attackers to break out of their initial prison, but this game of cat and mouse often creates drama right from the start of a match.

While Overwatch does contain micro-transactions that allows you to purchase Loot Boxes, we’re pleased that they don’t affect the balance of the game whatsoever. Loot Boxes are earned organically by leveling up and you’ll receive one each time you do so. These boxes delve out four character add-on items such as skins, voice lines or end of game animations. You never have to buy any, but they’re there if you want to try your luck without leveling up to earn a Loot Box the old fashioned and only way.

We’re also relived to say that Overwatch didn’t come with a purchasable season pass or any premium DLC content. In fact, Blizzard have stated that all future DLC will be free, with new maps and characters to be available within Overwatch’s first year. This is a welcome change from most DLC plans and one that should be commended from all quarters.

If it’s not clear already, Overwatch doesn’t feature any single-player modes at all outwith matches vs the AI or training, which may be a deal breaker for some. It’s a shame that there’s no story mode, as Overwatch’s brilliantly crafted characters beg for a narrative befitting of their creation. Of course, Blizzard would then need to decide which character (or characters) would feature in a mainline campaign, a decision which they would be spoilt for choice on.

resizedPREssentialDespite the lack of a single-player mode Overwatch’s strategic team play is stronger and more cohesive than anything else currently out there. Throw in a great and varied cast of characters, as well as some tactically recipient maps, and you have all the makings of a long-lasting FPS. There’s also no doubt that the future free updates without the need to purchase a season pass is one that we are fully in favour of, and can hopefully kick start others into making the same decisions.

Overwatch is brilliant at what it does and thrives on not only a unique style, but a fresh approach to team objective first person shooter games.

5/5

We tested the PlayStation 4 version of Overwatch after purchasing a retail copy and it’s available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

Check out our Best Games list for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

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