Overwatch, like many of Blizzard’s games, is the culmination of a genre.
World of Warcraft is the biggest MMO of all time, StarCraft is the high-water mark for strategy games and Hearthstone has no close competitors.
Now Overwatch has come to dominate the FPS landscape, and with a solid core gameplay loop, a colorful roster of characters and just enough content to charge full price, it might have already accomplished its goal.
Overwatch is a team-based, online-only first-person shooter, most easily compared to Team Fortress 2. It features 21 characters and 12 maps at launch, with three (and a half) modes to participate in.
Each of the characters comes equipped with a unique weapons (or set of weapons) and special abilities. Genji, a cyborg ninja, uses shuriken to dispatch his foes, a blade to deflect their bullets and a Cyber-Agility ability to climb walls. Winston, a genetically-engineering gorilla, prefers to use a tesla cannon while wiping out his opponents and a jump pack to swiftly leap across the map.
Not only do the characters feel vastly different in combat, but their animations and their speed (or lack thereof) give them an added flavor that most character-based games outside of the MOBA genre seem to lack.
Having tested all 21 of the characters, I’ve already got a pretty good idea of my own personal tier list when it comes to which characters I’m most comfortable playing. Pharah, a solider with a rocket launcher and a jet pack, is one of my go-to picks, along with the aforementioned Genji and Winston.
One of the best things about Overwatch is that it encourages different play styles. If you prefer to rush into battle and soak up bullets, pick a tank character. If you would rather find a perch and pick enemies off from afar, grab a sniper. If you want to make sure your team stays healthy, go for a healer.
One of the worst things about Overwatch is when your team doesn’t fill those roles.
Although a group of six rampaging, hyper-intelligent gorillas might sound like an unbeatable team, it’s not. While playing Overwatch with random players, you’re inevitably going to end up on some bad teams where everyone just wants to shoot at the opposing players. Your team is going to fail spectacularly, and you’re going to be left wondering how and when everything fell apart.
The game features just three modes (well, four if you count the hybrid mode). The first is Assault, which requires the attacking team to capture points on the map while the defending team tries to keep them from doing so. The second is Escort, which tasks one team with escorting a payload to a delivery point, with several checkpoints along the way. Finally, there’s Control, which is basically Assault with a single capture point, over which both teams will fight for control.
Unfortunately, with only one broad Quick Play button on the home screen, there’s no way to stick with one mode if you happen to prefer it to the others. Instead, you’re just along for the ride until you happen to hit that Assault map you like. Although the lack of private servers is unsurprising, it could add a great deal of value to a game that feels unfinished at launch. Yes, you can make your own custom games, but you have to invite friends or play against AI.
I was initially skeptical about the Weekly Brawl, which mixes up the rules to make for a unique matchup, but it’s a great way to break up play sessions. If you’ve just gone through a rough stretch of Quick Play games, playing a matchup that only allows players to pick between Genji and his bow-wielding brother Hanzo with 75% faster ability cooldowns is a joy.
The thing about Overwatch is that it still feels incomplete.
The game — the core concept — is done and polished, but as a $40 or $60 package (depending on which version you buy), there just isn’t enough to do, at least to my mind. Once Blizzard tosses in a few more maps and breaks up the game into more than just Quick Play and Weekly Brawl, I don’t think there will be a game on the market that can offer quite what Overwatch offers, but until then, it’s just not as compelling a collection as I’d expect from the house of Warcraft.
Overwatch is available now for PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Blizzard provided BGR with a copy of Overwatch on PC for this review.