Review: Overwatch (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • Blu-ray Disc
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Flag_of_the_United_States.svg
Title: Overwatch
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (12.91 GB)
Release Date: May 23, 2016
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was purchased by the reviewer.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Overwatch is the latest from Blizzard, a new franchise from the legendary studio that rarely creates new IPs unless they have something special. It succeeds in feeling special by standing out in the crowded competitive first person shooter genre and being one of the more popular shooters in recent memory.

This is a team based competitive shooter that relies on a hero-based Class system. The game is a stripped down shooter in terms of features though it makes up for it with fantastic gameplay and characters.

Team are composed of six heroes who are the personality and storytellers of Overwatch. There is no single player campaign, leaving players to piece together relationships and atmosphere from the bits of dialogue between characters. It’s not ideal, but what is present is enough to leave players wanting to know more and fuel fan fiction.

Characters fall under one of four categories Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support. Offensive characters are your fast movers. This can be your run and gunner (Soldier 76 or Reaper) or the hard to catch shooters (Tracer or Genji). The Defense Class can hold down an area like a sniper (Widowmaker) or a builder (Torbjörn).

Tanks are the heavies like any shooter or RPG. These are the characters that can take a ton of damage (Reinhardt) and help the team move forward in heavy fire (D.Va). And finally we have the heart and soul of the team, the Support Class. These are essential to a successful match as some can heal players and even bring them back from the dead (Mercy) or create new spawn points (Symmetra).

Overall there are twenty-three characters to choose from, all of which are different from each other with various strengths and weaknesses. The game launched with twenty-one characters and since then two additional characters, Ana and Sombra, have been added for free.

Choosing the right character is important since the right combination of characters can make or break a team. A good team has all four Classes covered with the other two slots being filled with whatever character is best for a specific map or enemy counter.

It may sound odd, but I treat Overwatch like a fighting game or chess match when it comes to character selection. I often will change characters based on what the team needs in specific situations. For example if my team captured a point with me as Roadhogg that’s fine, though I wouldn’t consider Roadhogg a character suited for holding a point.

… every Class is fun to play …
So I might want to switch to a Defensive character like Bastion or Torbjörn and set-up a turret. Or if my team needs to move quickly onto an objective then I might want to go for a more agile character like Solider 76. In order to win you need to be willing to sometimes play against your tendencies.

Having a balanced team is important and the game does not reward selfishness. XP is greater for a win and no one player can dominate a match by themselves.

Luckily, every Class is fun to play. The characters feel completely different from each other even within the same Class type. You’re bound to find one you are more comfortable with even if being a particular type has never appealed to you in other games.

In most games, I rarely ever enjoy being a healer. They get no love and are rarely fun. Overwatch somehow makes playing them fun and players are rewarded for filling that role with XP and love at the end of a game. Healer Highlights are always well earned and cool to see.

There actually isn’t a Class I don’t enjoy playing. I find myself playing whichever one my team needs. Sure I have favorites that I gravitate to, but I’m rarely upset that someone else has taken my favorite character. I would recommend for a newcomer to try all of them and pick a couple to main. I currently have about five characters that I feel completely comfortable playing at any time and having that makes for a better experience.

Currently there are four match types: Assault, Escort, Hybrid and Control, and they’re all pretty straightforward. Assault involves one team attempting to take control of a point on the map while the other team defends it. In Escort one team has to get a payload vehicle to a destination while the other team prevents them until time runs out. Hybrid is a combination of Assault and Escort, while Control involves both teams attempting to take control of a point on the map, in a best of three rounds.

… some of the more balanced maps I have experienced …
Despite only containing four modes in casual and competitive play, it doesn’t feel slight in content. I’ve put over a hundred hours into the game and I have never felt bored with the modes. It’s more about the strategy in choosing the right characters and having the perfect amount of luck and skill to defeat your opponent. That’s enough to keep me coming back and trying to become a better player.

Twelve maps were available at launch with two more added later. Each main mode features at least three unique maps. Like my opinion on the modes I have not grown tired of any of the maps despite the number per mode being on the small side.

They’re some of the more balanced maps I have experienced in a multiplayer game. Whether I am on offense or defense, I feel like I have a fair chance at winning a match. I do think however that the maps can dictate which characters are more useful.

Some have pits that can be utilized easily by some characters like D.Va, Reinhardt, or Lucio. Others are more open and can make flying as Pharah more opportune or making an easier killing field for Hanzo and Widowmaker. The maps play a key part in what makes Overwatch feel like a balanced and fair competitive game.

The thing I enjoy the most is the game’s ability to focus on teamwork and reward players for working as such. You’re not likely to hear players worrying about their kill-death ratio because the game doesn’t shove your kills and deaths in your face.

Eliminations are kills, but they’re earned by anyone that contributed to the opponent’s death. This means in-match assists and kills are practically the same thing and your number of deaths isn’t shown till the match is over, so it’s not something hanging over your head all game.

XP is earned by doing everything from eliminations, damage dealt, healing, and staying on the objective. Working as a team means more XP and being a lone wolf is not something that is rewarded.

… I found myself dreading opening a Loot Box …
The one negative aspect though is the Loot Box. XP is used to raise your level and the only real reason to raise your level is to earn Loot Boxes. Each contains four random items for your characters which can be something like skins, sprays, voice lines, etc. That’s fine, but there’s a lot of useless fluff.

You want the skins, victory poses, and highlight intros because those look cool and are things you can use to show off online, but there are not a lot of them, or more accurately, there aren’t a lot of them compared to the useless crap. Each character has over fifty items to collect, most of which are useless like the sprays, which are tags, and voice lines which no one really use.

More times than not I found myself dreading opening a Loot Box because I knew it would likely disappoint me. There are more things I did not want and an even better chance that you’ll get a duplicate item which is turned into a small bit of currency. The currency can then be used to purchase specific items you want, but you just don’t collect a lot of currency. You can of course purchase Loot Boxes from the PlayStation Store though they remain random making their value questionable.

Visuals:
Everything is bright and colorful in the world of Overwatch, from the characters to the maps the game stands out thanks to its bold and beautiful visuals. The world is cartoony and full of character which is refreshing compared to the drab future shooters being put out by other companies. I wish there was a single player campaign because the visuals are screaming to be explored in more depth.

It’s funny but the characters all remind me of characters from other pop culture properties. I often find myself looking at how they’re designed and trying to figure out where Blizzard took inspiration from. Despite my ability, I think it’s an ability, to find a resemblance to other properties, I still think the characters are unique and interesting.

I love each and every one of them for an assortment of different reasons. Soldier 76 just looks like badass, Reaper has the best reload animation in video games, and Mei is Bae. Look at Mei and try not falling in love, I dare you!

… a last ditch effort or a triumphant defensive victory …
Audio:
You’d think that with the lack of a single player campaign it would be hard for Blizzard to establish the characters as individuals with personalities, yet they pull it off somehow. Using only voice lines, small random interactions, and one liners, they’re able to establish a world. The game gives everyone a distinct personality that can create a connection. This is done through a combination of good writing and voices.

The heroes are diverse in gender and nationality and the voice acting does a good job representing the diverse cast. Each member feels well thought out as if they’re from their respective countries without relying too much on stereotypes.

Music is done with excellence as well as cues happening throughout the match. The music builds in anticipation at the start and reaches a climax at the end of every match. The ending music has the ability to be the theme for a last ditch effort or a triumphant defensive victory.

And to keep with the game’s effort to be diverse, all the maps take place in different countries and feature music to match. It would be very easy for the score to fall into the trap of having stereotypical theme for each map, but it doesn’t feel like that. Instead each map has a score that feels right for the location.

Online/Multiplayer:
Overwatch is an online only game. It’s a team-based multiplayer shooter and because of this I figured I’d use this section to talk about the Competitive mode.

The match types are the same in the Casual mode (Quick Play) while the Competitive mode is where you will find the serious players. This mode takes place in Seasons that last roughly three months with rankings resetting at the end. Each Season has its own rewards, usually some sprays and player icons, and more importantly bragging rights on the leaderboards. As of the date of this review the Competitive mode is in the midst of its Third Season.

One major thing that is different about the Competitive mode is the restriction of characters. The restriction is the blocking of more than one character per team, meaning you can only have one D.Va or one Lucio, no doubles. This is a measure to force players to build more well rounded teams, which I appreciate.

… most games I’ve played are rarely a one sided affair …
It does lead to the occasional baby on the microphone whining that someone took “their” character, but otherwise it’s rarely an issue. Forcing players to have a team filled with different characters leads to more serious players gravitating to this mode. There are no shenanigans in Competitive like an all Reaper team which, while it could be fun, is not going to win any games.

Matches are the standard modes in a multi-round format with players ranked on their skill and wins. Players must complete ten placement matches from which they are put into a tier that will serve as the basis for their matchmaking.

Speaking of the matchmaking, I find it to be really solid based on the fact that most games I’ve played are rarely a one sided affair. I find many going down to the wire and when looking at the win/loss ratio of myself and friends, everyone is about fifty-fifty.

This could be a sign of decent matchmaking that is actually matching people’s skills against others with a similar skill. Plus the tier system means it’s less likely that I’ll get matched against someone that’s way out of me league, thankfully.

The only frustrating knock against the mode is that Blizzard has not quite nailed down the penalty for those that quit. Currently if a player quits a match early they’re suspended from playing for a specific amount of time and get hit with a loss.

… one of the best shooters to come along in quite some time …
This is fine, but for those left in the match they have to continue playing in an uneven fight or quit and receive the same penalty. The issue I have is my skill rating appears to take the same hit after a loss with less team members as it does when I have a full team. I’m sure there’s a way to fix this and hopefully it’s adjusted for Season Four.

Blizzard has tweaked the mode every Season so far as they try to find a perfect balance for ranking players and adjusting to the needs of the player base. They’ve done an excellent job at adjusting characters based on feedback from the community and have been consistent in their ability to adjust characters as needed. For example D.Va has been nerfed and buffed multiple times since launch and each change has felt like an improvement from the previous versions.

Conclusion:
Overwatch is hands down one of the best shooters to come along in quite some time. They have broken through the Call of Duty/Battlefield wall and made a game that can be appreciated by both casual and eSports fans.

The game is beautiful, bright, and bombastic in appearance and deep in mechanics. It stands out from a crowd of esports mainstays and pretenders. Blizzard appears to be committed to supporting it for a long time too. They have updated the game frequently since launch with patches and have added characters and maps free of charge. This is a studio that doesn’t release sequels as frequently as other developers and I’m hopeful that this will remain the case for here.

No single player campaign is a missed opportunity with this wonderful cast of characters, but the multiplayer is strong enough to make its absence less of a big deal. If you have yet to play the game I recommend giving it a shot. It’s welcoming to both the casual and hardcore crowd.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Flag_of_the_United_States.svg
Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg
Flag_of_Canada.svg

 

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook