Review: Overwatch

overwatch cover

You don’t even have to click through and scroll down to the bottom of the page – the score is 100.


(And lightning bolts and tigers and a solid gold velociraptor with a laser blaster.)

For the first time ever in my 10 years at NAG, I couldn’t find even one thing wrong with a game. Not even a spelling mistake. What even is this? It’s an existential crisis, that’s what. I mean, it would be an existential crisis, but I don’t have time to indulge that sort of snivelling drivel because the other team is attacking the point, and my turret isn’t upgraded, and IT’S ROADHOG, OH SHI-

Game info
Genre: First-person shooter
Platform/s: PC / XBO / PS4
Reviewed on: XBO
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Activision Blizzard
Distributor: Megarom

But first, what exactly is Overwatch? It’s a team- and class-based competitive multiplayer FPS, featuring a lineup of 21 eccentric characters, each with their own unique gear and abilities and combat roles – there’s a nerdy gorilla from the moon, and a rootin’, tootin’, six-gun shootin’ cowboy bounty hunter-for-hire, and an ex-pro gamer with an explosive mechsuit. Players can swap between characters during a game, and a team can include more than one of the same character. The game launched with four objective modes and 12 maps, and more (free!) content drops are expected sometime later.

Basically, it’s a supercharged, neon-futuristic Team Fortress 2 with some next-gen bling-bling.

Overwatch‘s cartoon hero cast is gleefully diverse, spanning four basic types – Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support – that pick ‘n’ mix with clever tactical combo synergy. Besides their other, more obvious duties, for example, the hulkish Tank character Reinhardt has a sort of energy shield that allies can take cover behind, and the Support character Symmetra can build a teleporter between the team’s spawn zone and anywhere else on the map. No two characters of even the same type play the same way, though – the Offense character Soldier: 76 is a standard issue Call of Battlefield grunt, but Genji, another Offense character, is an ultra-mobile ninja with shurikens and a katana. Every character also has a special “Ultimate” ability that charges up over time and can be deployed to game-changing effect. Amaze your friends, and BLOW UP YOUR ENEMIES.

So, you’ve got two teams of six players squabbling over objectives – you might be escorting an EMP payload through a map, or securing a control point, or trying to prevent the other guys from doing the same – and accomplishing this requires constant contingency assessment and some serious cooperation with your teamies. You’ll probably switch up characters two or three times during a match, and if you don’t, you’re doing it wrong. If your team is getting clobbered by an excess of enemy Tanks, perhaps, you should consider going it as a Support or Defense character instead to counter them. Overwatch includes some built-in voice comms, but – much like Team Fortress 2 – this is a game you’ll want to talk strategy with other players. The team that works together, wins together, and there’s no space for the relentlessly solo xXhitman69sniperXx (yay).

overwatch screenshot 01The game’s flashpoint-focused maps are all set in real-world locations around the globe, vividly realised with hyper-saturated technopunk colour and style, and feature multiple routes from one place to the next – some of these accessible only to some characters. Moment to moment, Overwatch is thrilling and unpredictable, with all-out anarchy just one grenade away.

You bank XP for completing matches and other, random objectives, and when you level up your rank, you get a Loot Box with an assortment of cosmetic accessories for your characters like alternate skins, emotes, and even animations (also available as microtransaction purchases). Although this stuff has no real impact on gameplay, the gotta-get-’em-all brag-swag aspect is totally compelling.

There’s a lot to love about Overwatch, but what’s maybe most astonishing about the game is that it’s an exceedingly elaborate, ostensibly intimidating mashup of discrete systems and concepts that should be so much more complicated than it actually is. It’s not that Overwatch isn’t for hardcore players – the more nuanced characters definitely take some hard work to master – it’s just that it doesn’t shut out everybody else at the same time. Me, I’m an FPS player of entirely unrenowned renown, but I’ve got more “Play of the Game” highlight reels than I can count.

100 This is Blizzard’s first ever FPS, but between its zany character design and chaotic, exhilarating gameplay, Overwatch is an instant best-in-class smash hit that marks a dizzying new high for the genre. It’s absolutely brilliant.

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