Every year, usually in the summer, I get bored with gaming. There are the big releases that I look forward to but they seem so very far away. So there’s always the one time that I just wing it, go to the shop and see whats there that I fancy. In the past this has been a worthwhile tactic, it’s thrown up some real surprises to me such as the action racer of Split/Second, the confusing, puzzled world of Catherine, and just last year it opened me up to the cold, dark feel of the brilliant Until Dawn. Since growing up and having responsibilities I have less time to stick the Playstation on and have a blast at something. So at the ripe age of 26 I don’t game half as much as I did 5 or 6 years ago, so I end up being quite selective with games.
In June I saw a game called Overwatch on sale for £35 second hand. Reviews looked good so I gave it a try. One thing reviews did say that put me off slightly was that the game was completely online. Seeing that as a person who loves to really get his teeth into a good story in a game left me a little deflated. But ratings of 9, 9.5, A, 5 stars, 97% surely couldn’t be wrong? In fact I was strapped to find a really negative review that didn’t already address the faults that Overwatch has. All games have faults, it’s just something we have to accept.
First impressions immediately showed me what the fuss was about and why the ratings were so high. It was an FPS but not like one I’d played before. Shooters in recent times has become very Call of Duty and Battlefield orientated, very realistic to their surroundings, on occasion dark and dirty as you crawl your way through a tunnel to avoid enemy line of fire. Overwatch takes that formula and throws it out of the window. Bright, vibrant colours take up very detailed and well constructed themed maps, ranging from a canyon on Route 66 to a Hollywood film set. My favourite quickly became Lijiang Tower, very small spaces and compact destinations where teams meet, reminded me of Nuketown. The idea of the game I found very easy to understand. Objective based gameplay depending on which map you get placed on. It could be a King of the hill style control point or escorting a payload from one side of the map to the other, and it encourages that sort of play and to make you work as a team to achieve the goal. You level up on how well you did in each game whether it’s just a quick game, a blast against some bots or seasonal competitive play, but you have to reach level 25 for that. It’s visually stunning and incredibly easy to get the hang of. But one of Overwatch’s biggest plus points is the matchmaking. I hate it when servers go down, or lag, or spit you into a game where everyone on your team has had enough and left. The servers on Overwatch are some of the best I’ve come across. They keep working, even giving you an estimated time of how long it will take and if it takes too long, puts you into a free-for-all skirmish mode which is basically a waiting game allowing you to have a quick look at things in maps you might have missed or have a quick go with a new character. That is if you’re there long enough. I’ve found matchmaking pretty speedy and so far have not once been booted from a game due to connection break or experience even a whiff of lag. And I’ve only got basic Sky wifi…
So how do you complete the objectives? Grab an AK47 with a silencer and launch your way over to the control point? Not at all. To achieve what is necessary, at your disposal you have the best part that the game has to offer: The characters themselves. Each placed into 4 groups; Offence (all out damage), Defence (snipers and close combat characters), Tank (highly damaging, maximum health, slow) or Support (healers and helpers). Each one has a different weapon, ability and personality, no two are remotely the same. Abilities include providing shields, the need to fly or even to defend yourself from incoming attacks and using these combined with taking objectives and getting kills charges up a characters ultimate ability which I always find exciting to use, be it a lethal attack, Xray vision or even the power to resurrect an ally. It took me a while to find one or two I feel confident with but experimenting with new characters is all part of the experience. There’s still 5 or 6 I haven’t got round to having a go with yet in a 27 hour play through. And even then I rarely use the same character in consecutive matches. The mix and match ability transcends into matches too. If you’re not happy with the way the match is going with your chosen hero, why not switch to another? In fact you can change character as many times as you want in one game either when respawning or in the team’s safe room at the beginning. This makes for a much more lively shooter experience and can completely change the direction in which the match is going. I was with a team who couldn’t get anywhere near an objective for us being killed every time we went out. 4 or 5 of us changed character and it was made less predictable for the enemy and though we still didn’t win, we put up a much better fight and changed the dynamic and saved ourselves the embarrassment. Each character can be customised to your choosing too through a series of unlocks that can be achieved or bought using in-game coins gained through loot boxes received on every level-up or in the store. Though you can’t change weapons or abilities, the colours and skins can be altered to make them more personal to you, so can tag lines and emotes. Once a few have been unlocked you’ll struggle to find anyone who has the same combination of character add-ons as you do.
I missed out on all of the hype pre release of Overwatch. Mainly because I wasn’t paying attention and partly because, as I said earlier, I’m quite selective these days. Believe me, I wish I could just got to the shop and grab whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted regardless of time, price or revolving around others like the 15 year old me could. As the game was a quick pickup I missed the knowledge that each character has a background storyline. Though not actually discussed in the game, they can be found easily enough online and there is a whole Fallout-style timeline story on how Overwatch was formed, why, and how the characters became what they are. If you’re like me and really get into something you find this interesting then it’s well worth the read and adds a little more depth to who you’re playing as, why they are in this situation and even the background on the maps where you are playing.
Of course it means little if you just want to online and smash another characters head in with ruddy great mallet, but that’s the beauty of it. You can jump online for a quick couple of games after work and be satisfied, or likewise you can just as easily get carried away and play 20 games after work and be extremely satisfied. I tend to chose the latter when I can. Either way it’s a great experience and one I don’t regret at all. Trophies are difficult to come by in this game too (I’m on PS4). It’s not just your usual ‘Kill 100 enemies’. 90% of them are character orientated and require a fair bit of skill, and an incredible amount of luck to achieve. Nearly all of mine have come by accident, by blocking a certain amount of damage in one life or self healing by a certain amount in one game, but still after 27 hours of play, I get that sense of excitement when that little icon pings up at the top of my screen. And I like collecting a trophy or 2.
The thing that really got me about Overwatch is how incredibly simple it is. ‘Here’s a map, choose a character, go capture that point’. That really is it, and that has made it even more difficult to explain to my mates how good it is. It’s not a lot of info to go on without boring them with the depth and details like I have just done to you guys, but it’s such a simple concept that works so well it doesn’t need explaining. One of my favourite games when I was a kid was Timesplitters; loads of fun, didn’t take itself too seriously. Overwatch reminds me a little of it. Whilst that background is there should you wish to explore it, the game is just as fun for a little 6 vs 6 combat and highly addictive to boot, as all good games are.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing Overwatch, especially considering I didn’t even intend to buy it. Colourful, charismatic and a hell of a lot of fun, I’d recommend it not just to FPS fans, but fans of gaming everywhere. Creators Blizzard have done a great job and it really does go up there with another one of my spontaneous gaming surprises that fits nicely in with the games I mentioned at the start. It’s probably even the best one, which makes the find even more sweeter. From me, Overwatch gets a 9/10 and is well worth a buy, even at full price.
So that’s my take on Overwatch. I very much hope you enjoyed reading and any feedback is welcome, I really appreciate it. If anyone fancies a game or 2 I’m welcome to adds on PSN: Jaymess24 and I am too on Twitter @jaymess24. This is my first game review but I hope to do more in the future and attempt to keep everyone entertained. In the meantime for those who have been playing, I leave you with my overview page with a few of my stats. Take care and I hope to see you all soon.