The Team Fortress 2 Killer, that’s what this game has created as a reputation. A multiplayer only class based shooter with different abilities and playstyles depending on who you pick to play with a colourful and slightly cartoonish art-style. Say what you will about this game being inspired by TF2 but make no mistake this game is much more than just a cheap knock off to catch Valve’s glory. Blizzard knew exactly what they were doing when they made this masterpiece of a game, and this is my review.
So the story then, what is it all about? Well like TF2 the story is not really the focus of the game at all. In fact if you know pretty much nothing about Overwatch and just play the game itself you might hear the occasional spoken line of dialogue that hints to some kind of relationship between characters but otherwise nothing else pops up. You need to read between the lines and research the lore of each character to truly get a feel for what the story is about. Essentially in the semi-distant future a big war between a race of robots called Omnics and Humans brought about the creation of a global peacekeeping task force known as Overwatch. This group comprised of extraordinary individuals who all had the latest and greatest technology in their hands, from giant suits of armor to time travel devices. However after the war ended Overwatch became feared and thus was abandoned. Eventually however, trouble starts again and as the newly reunited Overwatch it is up to you and everyone else that plays this game to complete objectives, stop the bad guys (or work with them on some occasions) and save the world. Fairly standard stuff all things considered however it’s the characters and their backstories that make this game’s story interesting. From the gentle but misunderstood frontline robot unit Bastion to the Korean professional gamer in a mech suit D.VA the heroes of this game are without a doubt what makes this story not as generic as you might think.
Now the presentation of the game won’t exactly blow you away. Don’t get me wrong, the game is so colourful and full of charm that you could call it drop dead gorgeous by multiplayer shooter standards. The charm of this game is due to the slightly cartooney art-style and specifically how the characters are designed. No two characters look exactly alike and you can tell exactly what they are meant to do just by looking at their design. The environments that you play in throughout the world look distinct and clearly like the real world inspirations from which they are based. They all have different routes and paths that allow each character to flank or fight on different levels. These maps were clearly designed to be as balanced as possible and in an online multiplayer shooter that is absolutely key. The music also is a great sonnet of trumpets and orchestra, providing key moments of intense pressure and excitement as you fight to control the last point or are about to move the payload the last few metres. Even the menu music is memorable and while I may not be buying the soundtrack anytime soon it at least does its job and in a game where gameplay is the sole focus there’s not much more that can be asked for.
Speaking of the gameplay I don’t say this lightly when I say this is probably the most intense action and fun I have had in a long time in multiplayer shooters, like TF2 when I first started playing. Each character fits into one of four roles; Attack, Defence, Tank and Support. Each character has their own role to fill within these broad terms however the inclusion of a difficulty indicator for each individual hero helps to identify exactly what you should be playing depending on your skills level. The game modes on offer is always 6v6 and is always objective based, which I quite like. I prefer having smaller and more focused games rather than giant juggernauts where you just find yourself dying as soon as you exit the spawn doors. Don’t get me wrong though, this game is absolutely mad. It might be overwhelming to figure out what is happening when you first play however over time you will learn that this game gives specific triggers depending on what is happening. The most important of these triggers is sound, which gives an indicator as to what heroes are running about and when their ultimate ability, a final powerful move that charges over time, is being unleashed. This focus upon skill based gameplay and rewarding those who figure out more about the game over time is incredibly satisfying and really makes you feel as though you are improving. The thing I could praise this game the most for however is the emphasis on filling roles and swapping heroes. On the pre-match screen you are told what roles need to be filled, if you are missing a tank or if there are too many snipers you will be notified, and due to the nature of every character having a proper counter it encourages you to constantly swap characters during matches in order to adjust to your enemy. This focus on skill based swapping over dedicated ‘Maining’ of characters helps to keep the game fresh as you constantly play characters you have hardly touched before.
However the game does have its problems. The main thing people seem to have an issue with is does this game warrant a full price tag for it being essentially a multiplayer only experience with a lack of game modes and maps. Now while this is a valid concern, especially with it being absolute full price on consoles, Blizzard has said that all new content and patches will be free from now on and seeing how long Blizzard support their franchises (just look at WoW!) I have faith that we will get our money’s worth as more and more content is added. At the current moment however there are one or two balance issues, mainly stemming from the attack based character McCree. However Blizzard has said they are patching him and that nerfs and buffs will come accordingly over time, which is a relief. What has to be said however is that this game while enjoyable on your own playing with randoms is so so so much better with a team of friends as you all learn the new characters and try out silly and effective team compositions to see how it goes.
Overall then is this game really the Team Fortress 2 killer? Well while I know that TF2 will still have its place in the online shooter sector I certainly won’t be playing it for a while. This game is my first venture into Blizzard products and I must say I am very very impressed. With this being the first new IP Blizzard has created in a good many years I look forward to seeing how this game and its lore progresses and develops until even WoW has something to compare it’s success to.