As I’m sure is the case for most adamant video games enthusiasts, I’ve been sinking my teeth into Overwatch over the past few days and things are looking bright for Blizzard’s spiritual and superior successor to the likes of Team Fortress 2.
Overwatch is an exclusively multiplayer first-person shooter that champions the idea of varied and versatile gameplay, as well as colourful, vibrant visuals and culturally diverse maps inspired by a handful of familiar regions across the globe.
The gameplay in Overwatch is doubtless going to be compared to the likes of Team Fortress 2, as it focuses primarily on team-based objectives and an ensemble of mechanically-unique classes, however, what separates Overwatch from its contemporaries is that it offers any conceivable play-style for all players. There’s something for everyone in this game, as it boasts a roster of twenty-one characters that fill four distinct roles: Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support.
Each character has a weapon exclusive to their play-style and personality that in some cases rock a primary and secondary fire, and all characters have unique abilities that either compliment the player’s tactics, or reign down an onslaught of unceremonious destruction to unfortunate dissidents that have the temerity to even dare be on the red team! Who do you think you are, opposing side? You’re on the wrong side of this war, you know: the war for ‘Generic Japanese Cherry Blossom Garden’ or ‘Futuristic London Metropolis like Something out of Blade Runner’, or whatever?!
Within their respective roles, each character has something unique to offer to the fray: be it the tank Roadhog that can hook players in Scorpion-style and shoot them in the face with a shotgun, or Pharah, Overwatch’s resident rocketeer class that can reach perilous heights and shower enemies with exploding, phallic representations of the free world’s military industrial complex.
There’s a sniper, a grenade-wielding lunatic, a samurai archer, a cyborg ninja, and even a cutesy anime chick in a mech that’s guaranteed to satiate the appetites of both Titanfall fans and manga aficionados.
Whether you’re a filthy casual or Doritos-chomping veteran, Overwatch has you covered. There’s even a character that plays exactly like a Call of Duty class, so if twitchy-shoot-bang stuff is your thing, fear not!
Overwatch does something rather bold in this current industry landscape, too: it’s bereft of a progression system! Now, I know what you’re thinking: “but Blizzard, it’s imperative that I dominate scrubs with my over-powered toys that clearly aren’t a compensation for anything, please stop implying that I’m insecure!” Well, Overwatch isn’t concerned with your insecurities; it has no allusions about being anything more than an accessible, fun multiplayer shooter that borrows from and builds upon established mechanics.
In lieu of traditional progression, leveling your profile simply enables you to unlock cosmetic items and accoutrements at the roll of an internal die, so it’s more Pimp My Ride with less Tim Westwood than it is Destiny.
These can be bought as micro-transactions, which in most cases would call for abject disdain on my part, but since they have no effect on the balancing of gameplay or gating content to those that actually have principles regarding their disposable income, it’s not a huge issue.
Maps in Overwatch are beautifully-rendered vistas of worldly architecture and killing grounds that would feel right at home in Disney World’s Epcot. Each locale is punctuated with enough dissonance to convey both a sense of familiarity to anyone who’s spun a globe before and originality in regards to anachronisms, such as technology and infrastructure.
With little in the way of lore outside the ongoing animated shorts, Overwatch leaves much to the imagination of its audience, which I think is a neat touch as it refuses to distract from the ultimate goal: having some bloody fun!
If I were to mention any hang-ups or grievances (and let’s face it, any self-respecting critic should), it’s that the character Bastion seems to be heralded as an Olympian god of destruction by the developers and conversely, a royal pain in the posterior by the community.
The ‘play of the game title’ seems to be exclusively designed for the titanium reprobate; he’s like that weasel of a jobsworth retail employee that sticks close to the puckering sphincters of management in a nebulous attempt to be crowned ‘Brownest Nose of The Month.’
Facetiousness aside, it would be nice to see Blizzard nerf him a bit in a patch; especially his ability to simply camp on a moving payload and mow down those unfortunate enough to wander into his path of unavoidable demise. Honestly, avoiding death is like meandering through a crowd of jigging neanderthals at a Student Union on ‘two snakebites for a quid night'; futilely dodging their meaningless platitudes and non-sequiturs like, “Mate, this tune is live!” or, “I’m gurnin’ like a champ!”
That’s right, I compared a hurricane of bullets to a bunch of innocuous students just trying to have some fun during the apex of their care-free youth, aren’t I a curmudgeonly bore?
So if you’re looking for a fun, unapologetic and silly first-person shooter this season, look no further than Overwatch: it’s addicting, it’s bold and simplistic in many ways, yet accessible and complex in others.
Purity is something commendable these days, as the games industry is largely saturated by publishers chasing that illusive, focus-tested audience of kids with attention-deficit.
So when a game like Overwatch comes along and stoically proclaims that it has a vision worth sticking to, we should all applaud like Charles Foster Kane: with vigour and dignity paralleled only by this game.