Review | Overwatch (2021)
I've Got You In My Sights
This Game Was Reviewed on Xbox Series X
Given birth from the ashes of the canceled MMO Project Titan, Overwatch was released in May of 2016 after spending time in early access on PC. I’ve always been more of a campaign and co-op type of player, but after 5 years and 550 hours I think it’s safe to say that Overwatch has grabbed a hold of my attention in a way few multiplayer focused games have before. Non-stop updates which will culminate with a “sequel” most likely in 2022 have turned what was a sparse but fun package into something far more than complete than what we had at launch. Let’s see how that has come to pass and if their hard work has paid off.
For the Crusaders!
Set roughly 60 years in the future the world of Overwatch is one of technological wonder and constant strife. The Omnic Crisis which occurred 30 years before the game saw a revolt led by the Omnics, a race of intelligent robotic lifeforms that humanity had created. There is a large and detailed lore to the game that has been grown throughout the years. This has been accomplished with beautiful pre-rendered cinematics, genuinely fascinating comic book series, and in-game missions during special events that detail periods of the game’s history both old and new. This all serves the purpose of giving life and personality to what is generally a 6v6 Hero Shooter played in the first-person perspective.
When the game originally released there were 4 classes of hero. Support focused on healing and group utility skills. Defense and Attack were exactly what you’d think, and finally, the Tanks rounded things out. There was no restriction on how many people could play each character and things were fun albeit terribly unbalanced. Slowly but surely over the years there have been dozens of patches both large and small to try and get things to a more even state and overall they’ve been successful. In Quick Play and Ranked Competitive there is a 2/2/2 structure, that is two tanks, two support, and two attack (defense has been rolled into attackers now). You can queue for the specific role you would like, though choosing “flex” is invariably the best way to quickly get into a match. This has you say you’re fine playing any of the three roles, though Attack is rarely one you’ll get that way.
There is an excellent variety between the game’s now 32 heroes (up from 21 at launch). Each is invariably defined by their weapon and how it attacks, along with that are 3 special moves assigned to LB, RB, and Y. These moves range from things like putting down a healing field as Soldier: 76 to throwing a hook as Roadhog and pulling enemies in close for a blast from your shrapnel shotgun. The Y button is your ultimate ability and these are constant game-changers. A meter at the bottom of your screen slowly builds up both over time and in chunks based on if you’re healing, dealing damage, or absorbing it with a shield. Pretty much every match will hinge on which team used their ultimate abilities best outside of the rare complete stomping. There is a great variety in the weapons and abilities and a full breakdown of them all would take ages. Thankfully, there is a practice range and mode where you fight computer-controlled enemies built-in to the game so you can get a handle on how each hero works. A press of left on the directional pad will bring up a snazzy screen that gives you a description of each active and passive ability your character has as well.
A Good Time Killing Strangers with Friends
Of my 550 hours in Overwatch I would estimate 500 of them have been playing with my brother and my wife. From the early days of absolute mayhem to coming back time and time again to play through one of the many events the game runs (such as the Archives event running at the time of this review in 2021), we always find ourselves coming back to Overwatch and absolutely loving it. The party system is easy though sadly there is no console crossplay and with how accurate people (cheating) with a Xim are, that’s a device that lets you use a mouse and keyboard on console, I’m glad there is no cross-play with PC. There are a few snipers and after one of them pings you in the head from a mile away and you see them snapping from head-to-head on the kill camera you can always intuit that they’re a “damned mouse user!”, well that’s what I say anyways to feel a bit better about myself.
The main mode for the game is Quick Play which features three types of modes. First up is Escort/Hybrid where one team either takes a point and then escorts a payload or escorts said payload the entire time depending on the map type. Then there are the Assault maps where one team attacks and the other defends over 2 control points. To take a point you need to keep the defensive team out of it completely as you cannot gain the point if any of them are alive inside of it. Finally up is the Control where both teams are on the attack and trying to take control of one point in a best two out of three rounds setup. The Arcade section of the game sees various other modes including a free-for-all deathmatch, capture the flag, quickplay with random heroes given to you after each death, and many more seasonal types. These seasonal events often include PvE (player vs environment) content that is a nice diversion when the PvP is getting to be a bit painful after a losing streak.
Project Titan Lives On In Glory
After 7 years of development Blizzard canceled their MMO titled Project Titan and tasked a group of 40 or so people, led by Jeffrey Kaplan, to try and come up with some way to salvage some of the work they had done. Those years of development gave us some fantastic graphical set pieces that the team has put to excellent use. The character models are fantastic, and even on the original Xbox the game ran at 60 frames per second which should be standard for any good competitive FPS. A One X patch bumped the resolution up to a dynamic 4k and a surprise Series console patch in March of 2021 gave us 3 graphical modes. These are 4k/60fps, 1440p/60fps with higher settings, and my personal choice of 1440p/120fps. I played the game at 4k/60 for the video review but other than that I cannot go back from 120fps. The inclusion of the higher fidelity 1440p mode is great for those who don’t have a 120hz display as well and I can’t thank both the Overwatch team and the Xbox backwards compatibility teams enough for getting us this version of the game. There is also a staggering number of cosmetic items to earn which are tied to the tried, true, and hated loot box system. The remedy for this from Blizzard is to make said loot boxes quite easy to earn. In a normal week I open between 5 and 15 loot boxes without spending a penny, with the higher numbers coming during the bi-monthly special events.
The voice work in the game is fantastic with excellent callouts both manually and automatically triggered. Every character has a “good” and a “bad” version of their ultimate ability call-out. Hearing “It’s High Noon” will have your head spinning as you look for where McCree is and how to best avoid his one-shot kill. Flavor is added in pre-match banter that is tied to the lore of the game, and the seasonal events tend to have stories of their own as well which are fully voice acted. Sound effects are solid if not spectacular, and the audio mix is generally clear and is great for informing you where friends and foes are around you.
Overwatch is a special game, and as Overwatch 2 is essentially a complete rework that will carry your progress over there is no reason to not give it a try if you haven’t already. It goes on sale for $20 in the US quite often and solo or especially with friends it will be well worth it. The mix of frenetic PvP and PvE content, a wide variety of modes, and excellent roster of heroes have made this one of my favourite games of all time.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Playstation 4|5, Windows PC, Nintendo Switch|
|Release Date||May 24th, 2016|