This week Blizzard Entertainment released the highly anticipated Beta for their new first-person shooter Overwatch. Blizzard is more commonly known for their MMO’s such as World of Warcraft and Starcraft than their FPS qualities, but I thought I would put that aside and take a look at what this game offered in terms of gameplay.
The first thing I noticed as I loaded up the game was how colourful it was, in a world of future/modern military shooters it’s certainly different to anything currently on offer, especially on Xbox One. The next thing I took note of was just how many characters were available. Many Betas, for good reason, limit the amount of playable characters but Blizzard have gone all out allowing players to try 21 characters all with unique abilities, weapons and special attacks.
The roster consists of attacking characters with high speed and attack but low defence. Defensive characters meant to form choke points for enemies. Support characters that provide buffs and debuffs for their allies and enemies respectively (such as healing or speed alterations), and finally tank characters that have a large amount of armor and hit points to withstand enemy attacks and draw fire away from teammates. That’s quite the selection. Players can also switch between characters in-game following a death so you’re never stuck with one character and can change on the fly depending on what role needs to be filled. This sort of role based system rewards team play above all else, if you’re not running a medic on your team chances are you’re going to lose.
The characters themselves are all unique, I played with pretty much everyone and never did I feel like one character was a copy and paste of another. Each had their own unique quirk and weapon which separated them from the rest of the roster. Each character also has a special, which charges over time, and I found them all useful and fun to use; even on the support classes which sometimes, let’s be honest, is a thankless task.
Gameplay is very ‘Team Fortress 2’ -esque, with the game modes being identical. You have to remember though that this is a Beta and I’m sure there will be plenty more to come. The game modes I could play are as follows:
- Assault: The attacking team is tasked with capturing two target points on the map, while the defending team must stop them.
- Escort: The attacking team is tasked with escorting a payload to a certain delivery point before time runs out, while the defending team must stop them. The payload vehicle moves along a fixed track when any player on the attacking team is close to it.
- Assault/Escort: The attacking team has to capture the payload and escort it to its destination, while the defending team tries to hold them back.
- Control: Each team tries to capture and maintain a control point until their capture percentage reaches 100%. This game mode is played in a best-of-three format.
I found each game mode fun and exciting and slightly different from the last, each encouraging fast, frantic gameplay. However, I’m still hoping they have some sort of regular TDM mode to satisfy my old school FPS needs in the full game. Overwatch also allows players to play against AI with an easy, medium and hard setting. So if you get tired of the hectic gameplay against human players you can always retreat and play against a difficulty of your choosing. I found this to be a great way to relax and to learn how to use the characters abilities.
The maps are large and have plenty of routes to attack from so you never feel like you’re being bottlenecked down one road. Blizzard have adhered to the FPS golden rule of map design, always have 3 routes available. The maps are all varied in design too, from a Hollywood set to an old London town, which means you never get bored of looking at the same thing.
Aside from the main gameplay mechanics, two passive ones stuck out to me. The first one was the ability to hold left on the D-pad and check what your characters move set was. This is extremely useful to newbies when switching out your character mid-game. If I forgot what my special or left trigger attack was I could quickly check at the press of a button. It’s such an easy thing to implement into a game but extremely useful. The second was the voting system after the game ended, players can vote on who the ‘player of the game’ was and this made being a Medic for the team more rewarding. Instead of being that silent hero, people could see my stats at the end of the game and how many defensive assists I got. I found in the majority of the games I played that the medic would get the most end game votes giving them some hard earned bonus XP. Again an easy thing to implement but nonetheless a great little touch to reward those who play support.
Overall I have found Overwatch very moreish, each game takes anywhere from 5-15 minutes and matches flow from one into another. Before long you’ll realise you’ve been playing for two hours straight. It’s certainly different from anything you’ll find on Xbox, however on PC it may be a different story. I would definitely recommend downloading the game and giving it a go. This sort of FPS normally isn’t my type of thing but Overwatch has really got it’s teeth into me. With a loot system to boot, featuring different skins and audio cues for your character amongst other rewards, it certainly fills that ‘one more game’ urge many of the great FPS games have.
You can currently play the Beta on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.