The best was yet to come.
My very first exposure to a competitive FPS was Counter-Strike 1.6, and after putting in thousand plus hours over the course of years playing CS, I found myself searching for a something new.
For a time, that was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, with its addictive progression system and solid gunplay. However, a few months later I found myself looking for yet another FPS to play, but even though I basically tried out every big FPS that was released from that point till this very day, no FPS truly clicked for me like CS 1.6 did all those years ago.
That is, until I played Overwatch.
For those unaware, Overwatch is an objective based hero arena FPS made by Blizzard. It’s tempting to just label it a “MOBA”, but not only would that be lazy, it would be incorrect, as Overwatch is a game with a mix of familiar ideas blended together into a new, never before seen package.
Each playable hero is equipped with a set of unique skills, many of them on a cooldown, and a designated “Ultimate” which can be unleashed when a meter is completely filled.
The ultimate for each and every character is potentially game-changing, with a healer like Mercy being able to resurrect her entire team or a D.VA who can self-destruct her mech, clearing out the entire enemy team in its blast radius.
Given the objective nature of each game mode, using these ultimates in conjunction with one’s teammates can often mean a decisive victory or complete annihilation.
There’s no team deathmatch, no KDA scoreboard for everyone to yell at each other about, there’s only victory or defeat and everything else in between is pure ego-filled nonsense.
I’ve never seen a competitive game promote teamwork more naturally than Overwatch does, with its UI clearly displaying and guiding players to the objective along with automatic voice cues that clue your teammates in on what they need to look out for; the overall design and emphasis on small details in Overwatch is impeccable.
The visuals for Overwatch are also well worthy of praise, especially with how the characters animate during their attacks.
Seeing Zenyatta’s attack as his projectiles effortlessly float around him as he hovers across the ground shooting them and then putting his hands together in a meditative form to summon new projectiles is a thing of beauty, and the game is full of these incredibly little touches.
In fact, these characters have become so popular due to their design and how fun they are to play, they have inspired more fan art than any other game I’ve seen to date in the short amount of time it’s been out.
Even with such a diverse cast of powerful heroes, Overwatch is easily accessible by new players of all skill levels.
Pressing F1 with any character selected will bring up their entire moveset along with a detailed explanation on what they do, and given how easy to utilize many of these heroes are, a brand new player can pick a Reinhardt, put up a shield in front of the payload and make an immediate impact.
There’s also an incredible depth of strategy involved, not only in how a player manages to use their hero but also in the team composition itself.
A team that’s six snipers will always lose against a well balanced team with a tank, healer, and damage dealers of equal skill.
Even when the opposite team manages a very powerful composition and holds that point for dear life, there’s always the option to change the hero of your choice in that very same match to try to counter it.
Do they have two Bastion turrets protected by a tank and a healer? Try going Tracer and throw a stick bomb on those death machines by zipping in quickly and warping out.
With their turrets gone, they will be open to immediate counter attack and your teammates can jump in to clean up the rest.
The wealth of knowledge for what counters what and how the heroes interact with each other is something that’s learned over the course of the playing the game, and it’s the difference between an average player and a true tribute to team.
Even though I have nothing but praise for the game itself, I am obligated to mention that this game includes microtransactions in the form of purchasable loot crates.
Given that this is a full priced game, the fact that microtransactions exist in it is already a fact that doesn’t sit right with me. Luckily, the loot crates are purely for cosmetic items including skins, sprays and the like and are earnable naturally by leveling up.
However, whenever there’s an element of such purchasable items, there’s always that lingering thought that they would make it more difficult to earn these items normally and it certainly feels that way.
It took me a little over 40 loot crate openings to earn 1000 credits which is the price for one single legendary skin.
That’s well over 30 hours of gameplay to earn one skin I wanted and frankly, I think that’s too long. Sure, I managed to open 2 more legendary skins (that I don’t like) randomly due to luck, but once again, this is well over 40 boxes we’re talking about here.
In all honestly, I want to believe that Blizzard plans to support this game for years and years to come with dozens of free heroes and maps going forward and this is really the only way they can sustain that kind of dedication, but they have not been clear with their plans for Overwatch going forward other than that the vital contents will be free, so I cannot excuse them for this behavior until all of the facts are out.
After the big initial reveal, Overwatch is a game that’s been in beta for longer than many games have been in development. Since that time, it’s been fined tuned over and over again, taking player feedback into serious consideration. The result is a gaming experience that’s more polished and exciting than I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing and one I’ll be sure to continue to play for the foreseeable future. If not for the inclusion of microtransactions, this would have been a perfect game in my book. Still, it’s earned my top spot as my current game of the year so far, and I have little confidence that anything else will be able to top it this year.
Fun Tidbit: It’s also well worth noting that unlike basically every other online only game, Overwatch had a flawless launch and I was playing the game without any issue from the night that it released.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.