USgamer just can't stop playing Overwatch. Mike, Kat, and Bob all got seriously hooked on Blizzard's new team-based shooter when it hosted its open beta over the past weekend, and they are seriously looking forward to its launch on May 24. Here's they're take on how Overwatch is shaping up so far.
Well damn. Despite being involved in previous beta phases, Overwatch hit me hard this time. I was exceedingly sad to see the beta go away. (Also, I'm pretty sad that all my progression will be wiped.)
I haven't really played competitive multiplayer shooters for quite a while. I tend to stick to single-player campaigns and dive briefly into multiplayer just to see what's up. That's started to change this year as developers and publishers moved away from semi-realistic warfare scenarios towards the science-fiction and fantasy style stuff I prefer. Doom, Unreal Tournament, and now Overwatch.
What really works about Overwatch is I never particularly feel punished. I'm not that great and in other first- or third-person multiplayer shooters, I'd be able to quantify how poor my performance is. A match ends and you'd be given a leaderboard, showing your kills, deaths, and assists in comparison to everyone else. Overwatch gives you none of that. Sure, there's the Play of the Game and the voting system, but otherwise, the only person you're compared to is your past self. Overwatch wants you focused on the team and leaving out hard numbers reduces the chance that subsequent games will result in a pissing contest.
That feeling of teamwork and camaraderie was strong in this open beta. Like I said, I'm a solo player. There are a ton of folk I know in real life and on social media, who I've never connected with in online gaming. Until Overwatch. Over the course of this beta weekend, I added 12 people to my Battle.net friends list. They were all people I've known for quite a while, but being able to play Overwatch with them was a blast. Sure, it's still fun in solo play, but with a good group, Overwatch simply becomes a transcendent experience, with an entire team shifting to meet whatever their opponents show up with.
Otherwise, the game sports that classic Blizzard polish. The character designs are great, the audio for weapons and character dialogue is on point. It feels relatively balanced, even if I do have hated match-ups, like multiple Bastions. I wish their were a few more game modes, as the lack of a Capture the Flag mode is perplexing to me. I also hope that the Random Heroes mode is actually a regular feature. It randomly picks a new hero everytime you die and I found it great for learning other heroes outside of my chosen favorites.
I still have to take hard looks at other multiplayer shooters that have caught my eye, including Dreadnought and Lawbreakers, but I think Overwatch is going into my regular rotation. It'll be the game I keep playing in-between review titles. It's simply a fantastic experience and I'm surprised Blizzard was able to salvage their work on Project Titan and turn it into this.
Poor Battleborn. It's not fair to compare it with Overwatch - they really are two very different games - but going back to Battleborn after a weekend with Blizzard's shooter has been like eating my vegetables. What it comes down to is that both want to be flashy, over-the-top successors to Team Fortress 2, and Blizzard is still the best in the business when it comes to style. Launching their open beta on Battleborn's first full weekend was almost mean on Blizzard's part.
But I digress. After spending a bunch of time with Overwatch over the past weekend, my only question is whether it will hold up over a long period of time. There's absolutely no questioning how fun it is to play in short bursts; but then, Titanfall was like that too, and Overwatch can't even claim that game's vestige of a single-player mode. It's actually pretty amazing that Overwatch is charging a full $60 out of the gate given how much it feels like a free-to-play shooter.
On the flipside, Team Fortress 2 wasn't free either when it launched back in 2007, and no one is going to question that game's legs. Counterstrike: Global Offensive - currently one of the most popular eSports - is similarly multiplayer-focused, and it's not free-to-play either. So long as Overwatch's team-based competitive play holds up, I imagine people will keep playing it. I also imagine it will benefit from a steady stream of new content that will keep it fresh and interesting.
Right now, its biggest strength is how quick and easy it is to jump in and get a decent team together, even when playing with random groups. Overwatch does a terrific job of highlighting what classes are missing; and as such, even public teams are usually pretty balanced (though not always). What's more, Overwatch's roster of 21 characters is really diverse and interesting. Blizzard was smart to make all of the heroes available from the start, since it opens up your options and feels less restrictive.
My feeling is that Overwatch is going to settle into that Hearthstone space of being the game that I pick up whenever I have a spare moment. It's the sort of shooter I feel like I can bob into for 15 minutes or so and play a round or two, which should be enough for it to remain on my radar for the rest of the year. If it does indeed have legs, Overwatch will probably get Game of the Year buzz. Already I'm hearing from enthusiastic fans that it's the Team Fortress 2 successor we've always wanted. I'm inclined to agree.
I wouldn't call myself an authority on team-based shooters. Left 4 Dead and its sequel got their hooks into me—so much that I still play them with my weekly gaming group—but nothing outside of Splatoon has come close to scratching that multiplayer itch. And while I'd definitely need more time with it to say anything truly definitive, the handful of hours I played of Overwatch this weekend completely sold me on the idea. Like Nintendo's recent take on the competitive shooter, Overwatch isn't tailor-made for people who love that particular genre above all—it's made for people who just want to play a fun video game.
I've found that Overwatch's greatest strength lies in how much of a motivational experience it can be. For the most part, I tend to gravitate towards single-player experiences because it removes the possibility of pedantic idiots shouting at me (or loudly typing at me) for not playing things the "right" way. In Overwatch, I can suck, and know I suck, but no one so far has been interested in letting me know. The teams are big enough for your failures to remain slightly anonymous, but small enough so that your actions can still have a huge impact. Above all, Overwatch just wants to make you feel good: Matches end with a celebration of key players—rather than also shining a spotlight on the losers—and a vote for who you think did best—including members of the other team. Even after my most miserable of failures, Overwatch didn't feel the need need to remind me I was a loser, and I appreciate that.
And being able to change your character during a match definitely helps dissipate frustration. If you aren't feeling a particular character, or got in over your head with a move set you weren't equipped to handle, heading back to the spawn area gives you the chance to switch to someone new almost instantly. True, many of these characters have the same function, but I've been genuinely surprised by the amount variety Overwatch has been able to generate out of some very basic types. I still need to try everyone, but with the characters I've played so far, Overwatch has done a fantastic job of making each one feel strikingly different—and since they each have only 3-4 moves at most, rolling with someone new isn't an intimidating proposition.
I'd be lying if I said Overwatch was perfect, though: A few maps feature bottlenecks with no creative solutions, so matches in these environments tend to turn into unfulfilling bloodbaths. Overall, though, Overwatch impressed me enough after just a few hours that I've already decided to buy the full release—and it certainly helps that Blizzard, those masters of manipulating your brain chemistry, have made unlocking cosmetic upgrades and grabbing new loot boxes so damned addictive. Here's to a summer full of fruitful dopamine releases!