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Notice: this article is a spontaneous review. We did not receive any kind of incentive to review this game, and we bought our copy of the game.
We played Overwatch, the newest game from Blizzard, and in this article we will talk a little about the game that is drawing attention from gamers around the world, and try to understand why it is so fun to play.
Overwatch is, by definition, an FPS (first person shooter) game. The game itself is pretty simple: two teams, each one with six online players, battle for an objective in quick matches. But what makes Overwatch unique is its charming characters, beautiful graphics, and of course, its marketing strategy.
Before the launch, Blizzard published four beautiful short movies that set the stage for the world the game takes place in, as well as the scenarios, and some of its characters. The open beta was also responsible for attracting a great number of players.
The game has no campaign mode, as it’s intended to be played online only. There are two offline modes (Practice Range and Play/Practice vs. A.I.), but they are nothing more than practice for the online game modes. The main mode is the Quick Play, where you quickly find a match and join a team to fight another team in a random scenario. There are also a Custom Game mode (where you change the rules at your will) and a Weekly Brawl, where each week there is a new game mode (where everyone uses the same character, or random characters.)
Figure 1: game modes
The Quick Play is what makes Overwatch so interesting: you can actually start playing in less than a minute. For the casual gamer or someone who has less than half an hour to spend playing, this is a great feature.
In Overwatch, you don’t develop characters along a career. You level up as a player, but these level advances only allow you to unlock cosmetic upgrades, like skins, poses, and speeches for the characters. The playability and abilities do not change, which is great for new (or casual) players. It doesn’t matter if it is your first time with a character or if you’ve played with it for a long time, the character powers and abilities will be the same. If you have a higher level, your character will look cooler, but the match will be fair since only the player skills will make the difference.
Talking about the characters (or Heroes), they are probably the best thing on the game. There are 21 characters, each one unique in story, visual, and playing style.
Figure 2: characters
Each character has a completely different moving style, speed, firepower, defense, and special powers. And each character has a well-written background, which makes all of them very charismatic to watch.
The Overwatch heroes have a main weapon (which can be a blaster, a rocket launcher, a western style revolver, a ray gun, or even a giant hammer) with different damage, fire rate, reload rate, and range. There are also special abilities like climbing walls, fly (for a short time), teleport, project a shield, create ice walls, heal or boost teammates, amoung others. But the big hit of the game is that the characters are very well-leveled. Each one has strong and weak points, and the choice of the hero you are playing depends on the other team and, of course, of the strategy you are using. And the most fun is that you can change your hero anytime you are in the respawn area, so you can adjust your strategy at will.
Each hero also has an “ultimate power” (like a rocket salvo, an earthquake, or a rage outbreak) which took some time to load, and can make a difference in the match, usually allowing the player to kill a bunch of adversaries at a time.
The heroes are divided in to four categories: offense (characters with high mobility and damage), defense (characters with low mobility but high firepower), tank (with a lot of hit points and great close range damage), and support (with team healing and boosting powers).
Figure 3: hero categories
The most important thing to win a match is to adjust the strategy and build a well-balanced team.
The missions are divided in four types: assault (where a team must capture a sequence of checkpoints and the other one defends it), escort (where one team must escort a payload trough the map), control (where both teams must take a map area for some time), and assault/escort, which combines the two first modes.
Along with the characters, the 12 maps are superbly designed. Most of all, they are easy and straight-forward to interpret, and since your objective is always marked, you never get lost on them, which is also great for new players. Nothing is more frustrating than running trough a map where you don’t know where to go.
Besides being simple to understand, the maps are actually beautiful. Maps and characters are not intended to be photo-realistic, but cartoonish instead.
Figure 4: maps on Overwatch
Each time you level up as a player, you win a “Loot Box”, where you find four random items, which could include a new skin, speech, spray (you can graffiti walls during the game), or victory pose for one character. You can also gain game credits, and use those credits to buy those items for the character you choose. You can also buy (with real-world money) as many Loot Boxes as you want.
There are other great features: you can form a group with one or more friends (the game shows you when they are online) and so, when the group leader enters a match, the entire group will be on the same team.
You may be asking yourself, will my PC run Overwatch? Even with beautiful graphics, and the choice to make maps and characters cartoonish, the game engine is pretty light. It does not require the latest generation processor or video card. According to Blizzard, the minimum requirements are a Core i3 or Phenom X3 processor, 4 GiB of RAM, and GeForce GTX 460, Radeon HD 4850, or even Intel HD 4400 (integrated) video. The recommended hardware includes 6 GiB of RAM and a GeForce GTX 660 or Radeon HD 7950 video card.
In our lab, we ran Overwatch on a PC with a Core i3-6100 CPU, GeForce GTX 750 Ti video card, and 8 GiB of RAM, and we were able to run it at Full HD and graphics quality at “high”, with a framerate over 60 fps. So, you will not need a latest-generation-ultra-expensive-gaming-PC to run the game smoothly.
Answering the question we made at the beginning of this review, there are a lot of reasons Overwatch is so fun. First, because it is simple to play, and a player who is new to the game can actually play well, which is different from some other online FPS’ where a new player is no match for high level ones. It is also quick to play; which makes it excellent for casual players.
The other point is the character design: each one of the 21 heroes is charismatic, interesting, and fun to play. It may take some time to master all the hero abilities, and once you get bored with it, you can use another hero with completely different abilities and playability. And the best thing is that all the characters are unlocked from the start, so you are not obligated to play with a character you don’t like in order to unlock other ones. You always play with the hero you want to play, even if someone on your team chooses it too. You can even form an entire team with six Tracers or Widowmakers if that’s what you wanted.
The only drawback we found on Overwatch is the small number of maps. Let’s hope Blizzard offers more (free) maps on future updates.