From today through May 9th, Overwatch is in the Open BETA, and anyone can try it out for free.
A few days of playing BETA was enough to show without a doubt: yes, Overwatch is a good game. Blizzard took their sweet time polishing it, and now it doesn’t just look promising, it looks already delivered on the promise.
Here is my review.
Overwatch is accessible
Overwatch is not a traditional shooter like Counter-Strike. Proponents of mechanical skill-based competition “player with best aim wins” will not like Overwatch.
As with other games from Blizzard, Overwatch caters to the most wide audience possible.
Normally shooters require a lot of fast and precise mouse movement, but in Overwatch, aiming skill is secondary. This shows in many ways:
1) There are support and defense characters, who can be useful to their team without ever firing a shot.
2) There are targets of different sizes and movement speeds. Nimble and petite Tracer is much harder to hit than lumbering pile of meat known as Roadhog. So there are viable targets even for a player with bad aim.
3) Finally, there are combat abilities that do lots of damage without needing mechanical skill, or at least much less of it.
Even the “main combat” characters have some sort of “crutch”: Soldier 76 gets an aimbot, McCree’s ult will auto-kill every enemy in his sight after charging delay, Genji gets a sword with unexpectedly long attack range, etc.
Of course, these are most powerful abilities that require a bit of time to charge. Using these abilities also warns enemies in a loud sound and prominent visuals. So it’s not as bad as it sounds – not a legalized cheat *cough* Widowmaker’s wallhack *cough*.
4) In addition to all of the above, some characters have weapons that will automatically lock on to enemies at close range.
Some other characters have spray-type weapons, so the player can hold “fire” and wave the weapon in general direction of the enemy and still do some damage.
Combat characters are supposed to be about skill and reflexes, so in traditional games, lesser skilled players are shoehorned into support roles. In Overwatch, even a child can take a combat character, and be able to kill something, eventually.
Not saying that aiming doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, it’s still an FPS, but just having an ungodly aim will only get you so far.
Overwatch rewards other type of skill: knowing enemy characters, their strengths and weaknesses, reacting to their ability cooldowns, trading those cooldowns in a favorable way.
Besides, characters here move much faster than, say, in Bottlefailed, so some sort of crutch to hit or stop them is justified.
Everyone gets a chance to shine
Every match in Overwatch ends by players watching “Play of the Game” (PotG) – a short moment from the match, automatically picked by the game as the most spectacular.
Often it involves someone using their character’s most powerful ability or just scoring a multi-kill.
It feels awesome to be featured in a PotG, and what’s more awesome – the game automatically records them for you to review later.
Thanks to equalizing abilities, any player can do something deserving a PotG, if he uses his ability at the right time in the right place – which is also a skill that should be rewarded, and the game recognizes that.
Overwatch offers a lot of it.
For example, in a scenario where both teams have to capture and hold a control point for a set amount of time, the match will not end when time runs out if enemy team is contesting the point.
It’s totally possible to allow the enemy to hold the objective for 99% of the time necessary to win, then storm in, retake the objective, and hold it until you win.
Matches often end with these adrenaline-filled moments, and win and loss is decided in the very last seconds of the match, regardless of how the match went previously.
Blizzard loves to talk long and hard about “fantasy” of playing a certain type of character. Stereotype, even. Characters in Overwatch are diverse, in nationality and accent, style and visuals.
This shows in everything: how characters exchange witty one-liners in match prep-room, how they announce their abilities, how they introduce their PotG moments.
Anyone can find something he’ll like.
Players can further customize their characters using in-game currency, which I assume will be sold for real money, eventually. But it’s possible to get a little of it while leveling up your account.
Competition and matchmaking
Both normal matches and upcoming ranked mode are matchmade using internal MMR, so you will always be playing against enemies of roughly the same skill level. I find this to be a huge advantage over Bottlefailed or PlanetSide 2, which have no matchmaking at all.
By this time you must be thinking that I’m so far up Blizzard’s pocket that I can’t see the light of sky, and I sold my soul to promote their products.
Even after few days of playing, Overwatch has already shown a lot of things to hate, mainly having to do with mentioned equalizing abilities.
A lot of kills feel undeserved
For example, Junkrat and D.Va characters get abilities that do lethal explosive damage in a huge radius. Really huge, like “you’ll never get a chance to dodge them” huge.
In one game, my team cornered a Junkrat. He had nowhere to go, so he just used his ultimate ability to kill himself and 2 or 3 players in the room with him. To add insult to injury, that moment was featured as PotG, even though all it took is bad judgement and one press of a button.
Most of the equalizing abilities are announced with loud sounds, last a short time, and are somewhat personal: you need to be in direct line of sight of the enemy to be exposed to them.
But there are exceptions. For example, Widowmaker, a sniper, gets an ability that enables a wallhack for her entire team for 15 seconds. Enemies will be able to see you through walls, and set up a trap with a one hit kill ability or shot.
Widowmaker does say something when she uses this ability, but in a quiet voice, usually lost in sounds of battle. The amount of times I die to this ability is surprisingly huge, since a lot of my plays involve stealth and surprise.
I really do hope this ability gets patched up to offer better indication.
Support characters in FPS
Nobody likes being helpless. Well, support characters in Overwatch, while technically capable of defending themselves with lethal weapons, don’t really stand a chance against combat-oriented characters.
It’s a price to pay for their supportive nature. People that play them will understand that, but it still feels bad to die without chance to enemy assault if allies aren’t covering for you.
And on the opposite side, it doesn’t feel challenging or interesting to execute a cornered Mercy who has little chance to defend herself.
And somebody has to play a support. Like in League of Legends, it’s a meta enforced by developers, and Overwatch will remind you of that on character select screen, if your team has no supports.
Some people might feel obligated and forced to play support, which is less capable in combat, and may seem less engaging and fulfilling to play.
Camping and AI
Continuing with “undeserved kills”, Tornbjorn’s turrets in this game are obnoxious. Players are supposed to take them out from long range or explosives, but it just isn’t always possible, and it takes seconds for a Tornbjorn to build another turret.
There’s also this Bastion character, who is encouraged to literally transform into a turret and camp hallways with a minigun with crazy DPS that eats tanks like paper.
There’s a lot of “assault” scenarios in Overwatch, and breaching through these defenses – that don’t require a lot of skill to deploy – is futile frustration.
Random one shots
Everyone gets infinite ammo pool, so it does feel like standing and shooting in general direction of the enemy in hopes of a lucky hit is overly encouraged.
This gets especially bad with characters like Hanzo, who will oneshot most players if his arrow hits the head, which almost never happens intentionally.
Thank god there are no mines that can 100 to 0 on their own.
Should you play Overwatch? Depends on you.
You don’t have to be an FPS fan to like Overwatch or do well in it. It’s a game intended for a wide audience, and there is a price to pay for it.
It will take a thick skin to tolerate perceived injustice and witness praise given to people who don’t deserve it, from your point of view.
But it’s still a well-made game, alluring to all who enjoy Arena FPS or MOBAs, and whether you want to play a quick match with friends before going to bed, or tryhard no-life in competitive mode, you will have something to do in Overwatch.
Needs to be reminded that it’s an objective-oriented team game, and as of yet there is no death match or team death match modes. If you just want to kill people or run solo all day every day, Overwatch isn’t for you.
Overwatch releases on May 24th for Windows, Xbox One and Play Station 4.
From today through May 9thl, Overwatch is in the Open BETA, and anyone can try it out for free. You can probably expect more Open BETA windows before the release.
If you decide to buy it, you can help me out by purchasing Overwatch from Amazon.