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Overwatch Review: Shooting Bliss

Overwatch is a great game and accomplishes a lot for how little content you get for a $60 price tag.

Blizzard returns to the foray with one of the most anticipated shooters in quite some time, Overwatch. Rumors of the scrapped Project Titan MMORPG leading to the development of Overwatch makes this title even more impressive than it already is, considering a first person shooter is not exactly in Blizzard’s wheelhouse. That didn’t stop them from creating one of the best shooters I’ve played in a very long time. Pure and simple, mechanically, Overwatch is a lesson on how a first person shooter is supposed to feel.

If you haven’t played Overwatch by this point, it’s basically a more competitive version of Team Fortress 2, but it’s got abilities aside from just the standard left/right click, and it’s also got an ultimate ability, similar to what you’d find in MOBA type games such as League of Legends or DOTA 2. The ultimate meter fills as you get kills and assists, and once full allows you to release a power ability – such as Zenyatta’s Transcendence which makes him invincible and heals anyone within his vicinity for a few seconds. Mercy’s ultimate lets you resurrect fallen allies, while Reaper’s Death Blossom turns him into a whirling dervish of pure pain.

The thing that makes Overwatch interesting is how well the characters are balanced. While some characters are considered overpowered, part of the Overwatch meta game is learning how to deal with certain enemies.  It’s like a game of chess, where you’ll learn quickly that a character like Widowmaker might be able to one shot someone like Tracer, but that’s provided she can keep Tracer in her crosshairs – and that’s hoping that someone like Genji isn’t creeping up to destroy her while she’s aimed down her sights.

The mechanics of Overwatch are what really make it shine. Everything you do just feels good in that game. Shooting is fast and furious, and it doesn’t feel like you need to get lucky like in Counter-Strike: GO or Call of Duty. You don’t have to shoot and guess, you can aim your shots and take them in real time and Overwatch just seems to get it right. I don’t know how Blizzard managed to pull it off, but Overwatch is absolutely the new Gold Standard for what a shooter should feel like. Gameplay is also excellent, as Overwatch is about objectives and not having the best K/D/A scores.

If you’re just trying to kill people, you’re helping your team lose the game – and that’s one real problem that Overwatch has right now. There’s a lot of people just going for the “play of the game” highlight at the end and they couldn’t care less about the actual objectives. I’ve played games where I’ve watched people run around the payload and kill people, refusing to run back to advance the payload forward. On defense? They kill people and let the others push without ever trying to stand in front of it or push it back. It’s the exact same issue in the control point maps. People will run off and catch stragglers trying to sneak in on the capture point, but they don’t defend the point so those they don’t kill wind up grouping and overwhelming the few that are actually playing defense and as you know, a 6v2 game is extremely difficult to win.

Overwatch also features deep lore – but you have to search it out to find it. There’s not really any explanation in game of why people do what they do, why the factions are fighting, or even what the hell is really going on – which is fine, cause it’s fun – but it doesn’t help those who want to know the story. After some research, I found out why these people fight: The Overwatch was an international task force that stopped Robots from taking over the world. 30 years after it formed, Overwatch was disbanded. This made way for new factions to come in and try to pick up where the robots left off, and while Overwatch isn’t a thing anymore, the world still needs heroes so they fight to keep one group from taking over. There’s a great explanation of the lore over at Gamepedia and the story is certainly interesting, but I wish the game itself did a better job of explaining it.

While I really like Overwatch, I have to admit that it feels like a free-to-play title that has a mandatory buy in with very little reason to have actually required it. You get loot boxes every time you level up, which contains skins, sprays, voice overs, and other goodies for each character at random. You can buy more loot boxes via Microtransactions, but because that’s an option I’m still not sure why Blizzard had to charge for this game aside from the obvious “because they can” answer. The PC version is also $20 cheaper than the console version, which adds even more salt to the wound as Overwatch is easily best played with a controller from where I sit.

The controls on the keyboard are awful, and the sticks feel so good that I don’t miss a mouse for aiming on the PS4. I was in the Overwatch PC beta for months and while the game got smoother and faster as it went on, the full version feels almost identical to what I played for months on PC and that also made the cost hurt a little more. Overwatch is definitely worth $60, but I’d argue that’s really only for new players. I think I would have been a little less salty about the price if the full game came with some free loot boxes or something, cause a single Widowmaker skin just doesn’t cut it for the price tag.

Overall, Overwatch is easily one of the best shooters that’s been released platform wide in years and it’s worth being in your library – but at what cost? Unless you just really want it, there’s no reason to rush out and buy it unless you plan on playing it between other releases or during the summer lull. As of right now, the game is still filled with people more concerned with their scores – even though the game explictly makes that a non-factor by not displaying it all times, people still don’t care about objectives and that makes winnable games extremely frustrating.

If you don’t absolutely need it, Overwatch will only get better with time as the Call of Duty and Battlefield players disperse once their new editions release later this year, and by the time games really become competitive and more fun, Overwatch will likely have dropped in price. I’m glad to have it now, but now that I know the full game doesn’t feel too different from the beta, I probably would have waited a little longer before picking it up. 

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Big-headed Blogger with a press pass. Jonathan is a former KnowTechie contributor.

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