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Overwatch PC Review: Cheers, Love. The Cavalry's Here

We dig into Blizzard's first foray into the first-person shooter genre.

Review by Kat Bailey, .

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Overwatch is above all a triumph of style. Even Team Fortress 2, the benchmark to which Overwatch clearly aspires, never quite hit the heights that Blizzard's new shooter has already reached in that department.

Overwatch's artistry is evident in every detail of its design: its fighting game-like roster select screen, the distinct ping that comes with a kill shot, the Player of the Game highlights. Blizzard wields Overwatch's visual cues and sound effects with the experience born of creating some of the most addictive and long-lasting games ever made. They understand the power a great presentation can have in getting people hooked.

Nevertheless, Overwatch in many ways also exists outside Blizzard's traditional comfort zone. Since making it big in the real-time strategy space with WarCraft, Blizzard has been known for its work in the strategy and RPG spaces - genres that are diametrically opposed to the action of first-person shooters. This is virgin territory for them; and even with the pick of some of the best talent the industry has to offer, Overwatch could have easily turned out to be a misstep.

Well, it's a little early to call Overwatch an unqualified success, but the level of hype that it has inspired speaks for itself. In designing their first FPS, Blizzard has brought all of their customary strengths to the table, including their knack for memorable character design, their instinct for positive reinforcement, and their talent for designing smart and balanced online multiplayer. It's thus no surprise that Overwatch has already managed to build up a large and dedicated community.

Overwatch further resembles Blizzard's more recent projects in its rather lightweight design. Like Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, Overwatch eschews a single-player campaign in favor of a tightly-focused online multiplayer experience. Unlike its predecessors, though, Overwatch actually retails for around $40 - a risky move in an environment where competitors like League of Legends have managed to find significant success as free-to-play releases. It's tempting to draw comparisons with Titanfall and Star Wars Battlefront - two multiplayer shooters that also cost money at retail and ultimately failed to have staying power as mainstream shooters. Indeed, it's certainly possible that Overwatch will fade once the hype subsides and people start to drift away from the multiplayer.

On the flipside, Counterstrike Global Offensive is living proof that a top-quality first-person shooter can continue to command significant audiences even if it's not free-to-play, so it's not like Overwatch is doomed to be a fad. As always, once the novelty fades, it'll be up to the actual gameplay to carry the load.

In that regard, Overwatch has a few things going for it. First, it's moves incredibly quickly, which ensures that even bad matches where one side is getting rolled won't last too long. Matchmaking likewise moves at a brisk pace, making Overwatch a good game to play if you have 20 minutes to kill and want to squeeze in a quick match. These same strengths have helped Call of Duty to remain a top-tier multiplayer shooter for nearly a decade now.

Second, Overwatch has an unusually strong focus on teamplay and a good understanding of how to get even public groups to work together. When selecting a character, Overwatch shows what roles your team is missing, which is usually enough to shame someone into grabbing a tank or a healer. As a result, Overwatch matches have a cohesiveness to them that many other shooters lack. It's truly a thing of beauty when you get an actual push going on an objective with Pharah and Soldier: 76 knocking out defenses, Mercy healing, and Reinhardt tanking up front with his massive shield. Other shooters have classes, but it's rare to see team compositions that mesh so naturally that people can't help falling into their natural roles. It makes me think that Overwatch will be a lot of fun to watch as an eSport.

Finally, despite sporting only four modes with three maps apiece, Overwatch manages to feel varied and interesting. One thing that stands out in particular to me is the way the maps always seem to be moving, whether in defending a payload or assaulting different objectives. Such movement keeps defensive characters like Widowmaker and Bastion from getting too comfortable while offering a variety of different vantage points, which has the side effect of keeping the maps relatively fresh. It also gives Overwatch matches a certain degree of momentum, encouraging team battles and keeping the action humming.

In an interesting and perhaps risky move, Overwatch avoids many of the more traditional shooter modes like Team Deathmatch in favor of ones that encourage teamwork. I was initially skeptical of this approach, but my misgivings have subsided the more I've played Overwatch. In the end, teamwork is Overwatch's defining trait, and it's smart of Blizzard to focus on that strength as much as possible.

With that, I think that Overwatch has a good chance of retaining its momentum and remaining in the public eye, particularly as it begins to pick up additional content. It's already managed to hook several of my friends who aren't even shooter fans, and it feels perfectly calibrated to keep them coming back for a long time to come. In that light, paying its $40 price of admission doesn't seem so bad.

Naturally, I need to spend more time with Overwatch before I give it a final score. I'm having a blast with it now; but it's only been out a few hours (in addition to the open beta), and there's still plenty of time for its weaknesses to become apparent. But for now... wow. It sure seems like Blizzard has another mega hit on their hands.

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Comments 36

  • Avatar for ChairmanYang #1 ChairmanYang A year ago
    $40 seems utterly reasonable for Overwatch. For comparison, Kat, how much have you spent on Hearthstone? I'm guessing more than that.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #2 VotesForCows A year ago
    The excitement around Overwatch is really remarkable - I can't remember the last time a game that was virtually unknown to me has so dramatically been forced into my awareness! I really, really want to try it ASAP...
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  • Avatar for Ralek #3 Ralek A year ago
    @VotesForCows The same happened to me a couple of weeks back, just before the open beta. I just HAD to go to ebay and get a key for the early access to be able to play right away, despite being barely aware of the games existence 24 hours earlier ^^ Been waiting for the 24th every since ... now I just have to find the time to start playing :-P
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #4 UnskippableCutscene A year ago
    The thing I love about this game:
    1) No daily/weekly timed tasks. Since WoW, Blizzard has become hooked on these time-gated progression mechanics. Hearthstone and Heroes most notably use them; and in WoW they're a way to lure people in to subscribing longer. The problem is they make the game feel like a job, like you're sub-optimal if you aren't playing regularly forever. This game has nothing like that.

    2) Soundtrack. I think this is the only shooter where I play with the music on.

    3) Team comp advisor. I'm used to the "nobody wants to play support" phenomenon that exists at the low end of MOBA matchmaking ladders. The little tooltip thing telling you what's missing is a great way to get random people to actually build a balanced team rather than pick whatever hero they were determined to pick when joining the game.

    There's a lot more, but overall this feels like this game is doing for multiplayer what Doom is doing for single-player: bringing some old fashioned concepts that died in the military drama age back into fashion, as a more relaxed game that's easier for people who don't want to beat themselves up over K/D ratios.

    Now, just add that kid in the hoodie from the first trailer as the new DoomFist in the first update.Edited May 2016 by UnskippableCutscene
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  • Avatar for DemiurgicSoul #5 DemiurgicSoul A year ago
    I really liked the beta, but I am one of those people who definitely won't buy because of the lack of a single player campaign. I'm just not a big multi-player gamer. I would hop in every now and then if it was free like Team Fortress 2, but I don't feel I would get my money's worth out of it, even at $40.Edited May 2016 by DemiurgicSoul
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  • Avatar for rezzyk #6 rezzyk A year ago
    @DemiurgicSoul not sure if you watched the Q&A yesterday, but Jeff Kaplan seemed more open to single player than he has in the past. Although he did say it may end up being more of a co-op campaign. Maybe that would still let it be single player + bots?
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  • Avatar for jjmahoney3 #7 jjmahoney3 A year ago
    I really want to try it (and am kicking myself for missing the beta), but FPSs usually give me motion sickness. Destiny was the first game in years not to do that. I've watched a few gameplay videos and I'm hopeful (no crazy headbob), but I'm only seeing it for $48 (Amazon's discount for everyone from the $60 list price), so I don't know where the $40 is that people are seeing. Maybe they'll have a free weekend soon so I can try before I buy. Few things in gaming are worse for me than spending money on a game only to start feeling sick 5 minutes into playing.
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #8 Kat.Bailey A year ago
  • Avatar for metalangel #9 metalangel A year ago
    I can't believe how much I enjoyed it when I tried the Beta. Spent the whole afternoon unable to put it down, insta-purchase.

    I am glad that there's nothing to unlock except cosmetics, I love the character design and how quickly and effectively the game communicates with you with sight and sound. I hope they record some extra barks because that's the only thing I can see getting old quickly - hearing the same quips over and over again (that aren't the ones announcing ultimates).

    Got my first POTM last night too, and as Mercy no less!
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  • Avatar for Uncompetative #10 Uncompetative A year ago
    @Ralek I really tried to like this. I dithered over it more than any other game. I was super impressed by its superlative presentation and remarkably broad mix of influences. So, I impulsively preordered then lost confidence in my decision as I gradually realised that my ineptitude in matches wasn't due to me understandably being a noob, but lacking the ability to form any situational awareness.

    I guess it helps to have a communicative and balanced team, but I have no friends and no desire to make any acquaintances to play with online. So, I cancelled it. Then felt I'd been unfair and gave the Beta another chance and preordered it again. Then, because it was a Beta thought I should give the guys at Blizzard some feedback through their website and note that the order of abilities should be reversed so that your Primary ability comes first in the list as you read them from left to right and end up with your Ultimate on the extreme right as it is least frequently used, and the tutorial movies need to go beneath each name, not to the right of the name where they can be misconstrued as being the the video for the next ability which I found to be a little confusing.

    So, I thought I'd help them out as they'd asked for feedback, but then wasted an hour of my precious Sundau afternoon registering and downloading the Battle.net app after which it flat out refused to take my small constructive criticism.

    This angered me and I petulantly cancelled my preorder again.

    I've seen some Twitch videos since, but I am still convinced that I would find this game unplayable. I have wondered if what is needed is the ability to hold the Pause button to temporarily show a map of the entire area and all enemy positions identified by character names - I really couldn't care who all these people are online, so having their PSN IDs is more useless clutter on screen in my opinion. A mode with fewer players on each side might also help, say 3v3, as well as larger frameless icons for selecting your hero and a longer interval in which to make that selection as often it has to change in reaction to other player's choices.

    In a way there are a lot of commonalities with Black Ops III:

    Hanzo has Outrider's Bow.
    Reaper has Spectre's Invisibility.
    Bastion has Reaper's Scythe Gatling Gun.
    Widowmaker has Outrider's Vision Pulse ability.
    Tracer has Prophet's Glitch 'teleportation' ability.
    Winston has Ruin's Gravity Spikes 'shockwave' ability and Prophet's Lightning Gun.
    Symmetra has H.I.V.E.'s Nano-Drone Launcher that attaches proximity traps to surfaces.
    HAZMAT (since temporarily removed is seen in yellow on the left of this old roster pic) has Firebreak's Flamethrower.

    ...and all can wallrun like Lucio and sprint like Soldier: 76, throw flashbang grenades like McCree, and have rolling Robotic Anti-Personnel Sentry drones like Junkrat's RIP-tyre. Obviously, there aren't any mechs for D.Va to pilot as that's too close to being like their former employee's Titanfall.Edited 7 times. Last edited May 2016 by Uncompetative
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  • Avatar for capedconstable #11 capedconstable A year ago
    I'm really on the edge with this one because I liked Team Fortress 2 but am just not a big fan of FPS' in general. The class system looks cool but $40 is $40, so I don't know if I want to pay that. I bet it is good for what it is though and hopefully Blizzard will get back on the track of making interesting new games with depth and authenticity.
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  • @jjmahoney3 The PC version has a $40 edition that Blizzard has done almost hidden the existence of, that can only be purchased through the battle.net web store.

    The $60 edition includes a bunch of exclusive skins and unlocks in Blizzard's other games, like Hearthstone card backs etc. Unlocking Tracer in Heroes of the Storm is the one with any real value, but if you don't play that game...
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  • Avatar for sobo89 #13 sobo89 A year ago
    One word of warning to console owners: Overwatch is only available at the $60 pricetag for you. Dubbed the "Origins Edition," it includes some skins and other cosmetic goodies that are mostly only usable in other Blizzard titles... So, yeah.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #14 Kuni-Nino A year ago
    So, how does this game compare to Halo 5? If I'm going to play this, I'm going to have to convince a bunch of my friends to switch. I don't see this game gaining any traction for me if I have to play it by myself. I don't want to play with randoms.
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  • Avatar for chancedule74 #15 chancedule74 A year ago
    @jjmahoney3 This is actually the first FPS that didn't make me motion sick. I think it has something to do with the animation style and the color palette, tbh.
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  • Avatar for WiIIyTheAntelope #16 WiIIyTheAntelope A year ago
    This is the most fun I've had playing a multiplayer shooter since Goldeneye on the couch.

    Even playing strictly with randoms so far isn't too bad. Occasionally you'll get teamed up with some people that ignore the objective while they're off on some random part of the map playing Call of Duty, but it's pretty rare.
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  • Avatar for Ralek #17 Ralek A year ago
    @Uncompetative I gotta say I never bothered to visit the website or watch any (official) tutorial videos, as those are normally superficial to the point of being useless ^^ (stuff like: keep moving to not get hit :-P)

    I think your point about situational awareness though, is quite well taken. Personally, I do not find it it impossible to form one, but it's definitely the hardest part of the entire experience ... but also the most crucial one.
    I played a session last night, basically my first time as Reaper (played for like 10 mins in the open beta), and still managed to go for 16 player killstreak. Sounds quite impressive, but really, I was just constantly using the map, or teleport, to get behind the enemy group, then close in ... and then simply blast away merrily dishing out massive damage, hitting the whole team at least once, thus getting eliminations over and over again.
    Had the team paid attention to the situation and the direction of the incoming damage, they could have easily a) anticipated my tactics (esp. the 2nd, 3rd and 4t time around) and/or b) merely react to my presence and quickly focus me down. Alas, as it's a console game (playing on PS4) with limited turn-speed and a narrow FoV, and such, people struggle with keeping tack of their surroundings.

    Still, I prefer the lack of a radar, as that would really change the dynamic of the matches drastically, as well as undercutting some hero abilities and really, hero design.

    As for BLOPs, I never played that, but I don't doubt your analysis. I mean it makes sense, seeing as both are Activision games. ALso, none of these ideas are really "new", they are just, well, I guess recontextualized in a way ^^

    Still, I sooo love playing Tracer. It's an incredible rush to have a streak with here, and it's just a really nice charactere - nice in every sense of the word possible. Killing folks with Tracer is an act of merciless joy and lighthearted righteousness: a combination you don't get every day.

    Sorry to hear it did not really click with you, so to speak. I mean, I did not expect it to work for me either, and the footage I saw was not enough to convince me otherwise, but once I played it, I almost instantly realized, it totally worked for me. One round of Tracer was enough to get me thoroughly hooked^^

    Btw, if you change your mind, and are interested in playing with a group, just holler at me on PSN. We got a bunch of "senior", 30-somethings of varying individual skills, but all equally chilled, who plan to group up for a posse ^^ whenever possible. We are normally having a good time, even if we happen to loose miserably - or to put it another way: Just good company! :-P
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #18 MetManMas A year ago
    While I'm not a huge fan of co-op games, I was almost tempted to try Overwatch when I heard it was only $40. Just renewed PS+ yesterday, and it would be nice to play multiplayer stuff besides Bloodborne and the Dark Souls sequels.

    But then I checked PSN and Amazon and they say the MSRP of the game is $60 (the $40-ish is for used copies) and that killed my enthusiasm. I would like to have cash for the new Star Ocean at the end of June. I'm guessing it's because it's the Origins version, but right now it looks like that's the only version, aside from the more expensive collector's edition.

    Le sigh.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #19 VotesForCows A year ago
    @Kat.Bailey Do you have a feeling for how this would work if you couldn't chat with your team? Cos of my living arrangements (i.e. a tiny flat with cardboard walls) I can't really speak loudly in the evening without waking up my daughter!
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #20 Kat.Bailey A year ago
    @VotesForCows I had a perfectly good time last night playing in a group without my mic
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #21 VotesForCows A year ago
  • Avatar for Bigtrunk #22 Bigtrunk A year ago
    The sony has been signing up for playstation 4 since the birth of the service, something that has become a tradition in the world of console games: Want to play online? You will need to pay for it. Fortunately, there is a compensation to the melhores jogos ps4 program where you win every month four games for playstation 4 since the birth of the service, something that has become a tradition in the world of console games: Want to play online? You will need to pay for it. Fortunately, there is a compensation to the melhores jogos de playstation 4 program where you win every month four games for playstation 4. The sony has been signing since the birth of the service, something that has become a tradition in the world of console games: Want to play online? You will need to pay for it. Fortunately, there is a compensation to the melhores jogos para ps4 program where you win every month four games for playstation 4.Edited 10 times. Last edited October 2017 by Bigtrunk
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  • Avatar for sobo89 #23 sobo89 A year ago
    @Kat.Bailey Objection: "few people seem to care about Zenyatta." Don't forget about Zen. Especially when paired with another Support, he is a DPS secret weapon.
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  • Avatar for Kruton #24 Kruton A year ago
    @Kat.bailey It needs to be pointed out that

    a) Mei is not an Eskimo, she's Chinese and
    b) even if she were, the preferred term is "Inuit."

    It's a little irksome considering lots of her barks are in Chinese and Mei-Ling Zhou is an incredibly obviously Chinese name.Edited June 2016 by Kruton
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #25 Kat.Bailey A year ago
  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #26 donkeyintheforest A year ago
    I definitely love Overwatch's gameplay more than I ever did for TF2. However, I think the trouble with this maintaining the popularity of the that or Counterstrike is the fact that there is no level editor.

    Blizzard sometimes does level editors (Starcraft and Warcraft RTSs), so hopefully they'll implement that in the future. Otherwise they're gonna have to release a constant stream of new maps and modes; and charging for those will negatively split the userbase.

    Definitely worth the initial asking price IMO though!
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  • Avatar for tricerarock #27 tricerarock A year ago
    You should come to Denver and go to the barcade with me. Not a "date." Just two adults enjoying Denver, arcades, booze, and probably holding hands and skipping while staring into each other's eyes.
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  • Avatar for Karisu #28 Karisu A year ago
    If only it had a single player...
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  • Avatar for razakhan75 #29 razakhan75 A year ago
    This is really a nice and informative, containing all information and also has a great impact on the new technology. Thanks for sharing it
    SEOEdited 2 times. Last edited July 2016 by razakhan75
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  • Avatar for mihaela #30 mihaela A year ago
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  • Avatar for razakhan75 #31 razakhan75 A year ago
    Excellent article. Very interesting to read. I really love to read such a nice article. Thanks! keep rocking.
    comparateur de prixEdited 2 times. Last edited July 2016 by razakhan75
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  • Avatar for ramizrazashaikh76 #32 ramizrazashaikh76 A year ago
    I admire what you have done here. I like the part where you say you are doing this to give back but I would assume by all the comments that this is working for you as well.
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  • Avatar for Joanaderek #33 Joanaderek A year ago
    That's true mate, Overwatch's artistry is evident in every detail of its design. All are attracted by the brilliant design works he share and that makes the game favourite for many. Thanks for sharing the details. It was nice read.
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  • Avatar for seorankbuilders #34 seorankbuilders A year ago
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  • Avatar for tarekahmed67 #35 tarekahmed67 A year ago
    I particularly love how varied the movement is between characters. Not just Tracer's Blink, but also Genji's vertical scaling, Lucio's wallrun, Widowmaker's grappling hook and, most of all, Mercy's glide. Mercy, Overwatch's medic, is the perfect example of how every aspect of a character can, in the best cases, support a specific style. Alone, she's vulnerable and slow – easily ambushed and dispatched. But, with line-of-sight to a teammate, she can spread her wings and fly towards them. It's fun to do, and also reinforces the symbiotic partnership between healer and healed: Mercy needs her teammates as much as they need her. It's masterful design.
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  • Avatar for christeena #36 christeena A month ago
    Overwatch is a very exciting game and the development of this game is really great.From the video shared here itself we understood. It is a multi-player game and the main remark is that the lack of a single player campaign.So interesting to read this article.amsterdam tours
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