Overwatch is Blizzard’s latest multiplayer first-person shooter (there’s no single-player mode), and while it’s by no means flawless, we had great fun playing it.
There are 21 characters to choose from, each of which belongs to one of four classes: attack, defence, tank and support. The latter is the least represented with just four, which is a shame. With so many heroes there’s plenty of variation, even within each class, and you’re bound to find one to suit your personal style of play. You can also switch character during a match, so you’re not stuck with a hero until the end.
Unlimited switching means you can try out lots of heroes within one match or make tactical substitutions based on what’s happening at any given moment. If you don’t want to plunge straight in, you can either play matches with the game’s AI or use the training ground to hone your skills before playing real people.
Each hero has a completely different make-up, including their primary weapon (some have a secondary fire) and abilities. For example, Soldier 76 can throw down a biotic field to heal allies who stand in it, while Torbjörn can build a turret. You’ll want to choose a team consisting of characters with different skills to have the best chance of success. You can check your current hero’s skills at any time. You’ll notice that they all have an ultimate ability. During regular play you’ll charge up a meter by, for example, hitting enemies or healing other characters if you’re playing a support role. Once this hits 100 percent you can unleash it whenever you want. The meter remains fully charged if you die, though not if you switch character.
Levels, maps and game modes
Overwatch currently has 12 maps and they cover four different game modes. This isn’t a huge amount, but is a nice balance of being able to play them regularly enough to learn them well, though not so often it feels repetitive. Matches last around 10- to 20 minutes on average, which is a happy medium between getting stuck in and it taking too long.
The first mode you’ll encounter is Assault, which has one team attacking to capture an objective, while the other tries to stop them achieving this until the clock runs out. Next up is Escort, where you must protect a vehicle on its journey while the other team tries to stop you. The third mode is Control. This ‘best of three’ game will see your team both attacking and defending a point on the map. To win, you’ll need to fend off attacks until the game’s meter reaches 100. The final mode is a combination of Assault and Escort: the attacking team must first capture the payload via a point before it can be taken across the map to the destination.
There are three maps for each mode and you’ll rotate between them. Each is set in a different location around the world, including London, Hollywood and Nepal.
One of our only complaints about Overwatch is that we’d like more variation with the game modes. A capture the flag mode wouldn’t go amiss and Blizzard is also the kind of developer, which should be about to bring something completely new to the table here.
You can select Quick Play in the menu to jump into a match, and as well as the aforementioned AI and practice modes, there’s a weekly brawl option. This might involve, for example, everyone playing the same hero with 50 percent health, cooldown times, and so on. The rules change each week. We’ve also been told that a competitive mode is coming soon.
As well as the above setting the game up nicely, Blizzard has done lots of little small things to make Overwatch as fun as possible – for veterans and newbies alike. Some of which we’ve mentioned, such as the ability to change heroes throughout a match.
You can, for example, heal other players via support characters or packs around the level, though you will die. Spawn times are quick though, so you’ll be back in the action in no time and there’s enough of a gap in which to decide whether to change character.
You won’t need to run around finding ammo. Every character has unlimited resources, which ensures the action is fast-paced, though you still need to reload your weapon.
After the fun is over, we found ourselves thinking ‘just one more match’ whether we’d won or lost.
To avoid players leaving when the game isn’t going so well there is a leave penalty. Once a threshold
is reached you’ll get a 75 percent reduction in XP until you get back below the threshold.
At the end of each match players are awarded medals – gold, silver or bronze – for the team members with the most kills, objective time, damage done and other stats. You can also check how you’ve done on a personal level, overall and how you’ve done with each character you played. You can also vote for the best player of the match from a few automatically selected bases on different things.
Although you can’t level up during a match, you will gain XP points from each game you play. You will gradually level up your Overwatch account and whenever you reach a new level it will affect the players you’re matched against. You’ll also get a Loot Box, which contains four random items such as skins and victory poses. With 54 for each hero to collect, you can spend money buying boxes if you can’t wait to level up. It’s a shame you can’t spend in-game credit or real money buying the exact item you want. Also on offer are achievements, trophies and portrait frames.
Blizzard has done a grand job with Overwatch. It’s fun, fast-paced and accessible to a wide range of players of different abilities. A great range of heroes and well thought out maps makes for an online shooter that’s up there with classics such as Unreal Tournament 2004. We’d just like more game modes, better play of the game selection and another support hero.