Overwatch Review: Believe the Hype
Since it's announcement, Overwatch has been followed with an almost unbelievable amount of hype -- which can be a dangerous thing for a new IP. As Destiny can attest, if a game reaches a certain level of hype before its release, then anything less than near perfection will be met with complaints. Blizzard, despite being one of the most respected publishers in the industry, has run into this before with Diablo III. However, despite lofty promises, Overwatch delivers on nearly every one, creating not only a fun, balanced game, but also crafting an interesting world with a huge cast of memorable characters to inhabit it.
So Much To Choose From
For a game just launching, Overwatch already has a ton of content. While three game modes may not sound like much, the twelve maps have a ton of variety both visually and in terms of gameplay. Regardless of which character you play as, you'll find that each one accommodates your playstyle nicely, with plenty of high places to snipe from, corners to plant turrets behind, and cover to retreat to. The maps look gorgeous, even on low-end PCs, and are so full of detail and personality. The world of Overwatch feels like a truly living one, with more going on behind the scenes than the battles portrayed onscreen. Little things like books on shelves that fall off when shot at in Volskaya Industries or the flowering cherry trees in Hanamura help to distinguish the maps from each other.
The huge variety is also apparent in the massive cast of characters, arguably the game's biggest selling point. Despite being separated into four distinct groups, the cast of characters available in Overwatch are different enough both visually and in terms of their playstyle that it won't take long for players to find one that suits them.
A Shooter with Charm and Personality
Part of what makes this cast of characters so likable is that they all have believable personalities communicated by their animations, abilities, and different voice lines. Most of these are unlockable through leveling up, but a lot of them are apparent from the moment when you select your character and start up the game. Before the match begins, for example, the different characters will converse between themselves. Conversations are generally hilarious, like professional gamer D.Va and pop music hit Lucio asking each other for autographs or Junkrat hitting on a disinterested Mei, but they all reveal a lot about the characters and how they work (or don't) as a team.
If I have one complaint about the game, it's the lack of a campaign mode. While multiplayer shooters like this in the past have had lackluster campaigns (or none at all), it's a bit of a let down that a world as detailed as Overwatch's isn't being fully explored in game. That said, there are several beautifully animated shorts featuring the characters, as well as some comics that I would recommend checking out. Still, it's a bit of a shame.
A Delicate Balance
One of the most important things in a multiplayer shooter is balance, and for a game with so many characters geared towards so many playstyles, Overwatch does a very good job at keeping them balanced. While some characters will feel impossible to deal with for new players -- in particular the transforming robot Bastion and the ice-powered Mei -- each has a set of strategic counters that makes handling them easy once you know what to do.
There are also plenty of characters targeting different skill levels, making the game feel accessible to newcomers while also offering options to more experienced players. Soldier: 76, for example, plays like a fairly standard FPS character, easy to learn but tough enough to be useful on all teams, whereas Genji is a hugely skill based character who can easily turn the tide of battle. Regardless of who you choose to play, you'll always be a valuable part of the team.
The Bottom Line
Overwatch is a must play game. If you like shooters, it won't take long for you to find a character to play as and a role to fill in any team. If you're one of the few people who haven't played the game in beta or already bought it, you owe it to yourself to pick it up and play. I can guarantee you you'll be playing this one for a long time.