"Overwatch" not my jam, but it may be yours

"Overwatch" not my jam, but it may be yours

But many other people love it — with good reason

Most of the hype around Blizzard’s latest, “Overwatch,” makes it sound like the greatest thing since peanut butter and jelly smeared on sliced bread.

Don’t expect me to be quite that effusive.

If you’re into team-based multiplayer first-person shooters, yes, it is fantastic. It very well may be your jam.

But it’s not perfect.

Sure, there’s a lot to like. For instance, the maps are beautifully detailed, with lots of paths to take and vulnerabilities to exploit.

The six-on-six battles tend to be frenetic, chaotic and competitive. Skillful play can turn a loss into a win in a heartbeat.

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And the 21 playable heroes are superbly designed. And I’m not just talking about the comic-book-influenced art style of a game that pits a cy­­borg gorilla, women in skin-tight outfits and an Old West cowboy against each other and others. No, I’m talking about how each character has a mix of strengths and weaknesses, so there is no right one to use overall, just right ones to use for your playing style and in particular situations.

For instance, Reinhardt’s a huge armored dude with a giant metal hammer. He looks fearsome, but he won’t usually rack up a lot of kills. He’s a slow-moving melee fighter, with no meaningful way to strike a ranged opponent. But he’s got colossal defense, and he can summon a large, transparent energy shield that allies can shoot through while enemy fire is blocked. If a team is working together, Reinhardt is invaluable in allowing everyone to safely advance on an objective.

Mercy looks like an angel, and fittingly, she’s the healer. She’s got almost no damage potential, but she’s mobile, keeps teammates alive and can boost their damage output.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Bastion’s a robot that can transform into a machine-gun turret — and tank — and hammer away at op­­ponents. But he goes from slow in robot form to immobile as a turret, and he has almost no defense from the rear, making him essentially a glass cannon.

If you want to know what all the characters are like, there are countless guides online, so I won’t spell them out.

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The point is that it’s not what they look like; it’s what they do. You pick a role you want to play in battle — attacker, defender, healer, support, crowd control or sniper — and play it to the best of your ability. If things aren’t going well or you’re not having fun, it’s easy to switch characters in midbattle, and you don’t even have to die to do it.

But ...

The match types — assault (one team attacks and another defends a point on the map), escort (one team tries to defend and advance a slow-moving cart), control (teams fight over a map point in a best-of-three contest) and hybrid (a mix of assault and escort) — just feel like variations on one theme: Go to this spot and start shooting. And that gets boring — at least for me.

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“Overwatch” needs more match options. Capture the flag, maybe, to emphasize mobility and the clever defense of chokepoints. Or multiple goal points at once, so teams have to actually strategize together to succeed.

I mean, seriously, I’ve been in maybe two matches where teammates tried to communicate. And I know why they don’t: Six-on-six matches where everybody’s rushing to the same spot don’t require it. It’s a failing. Not a huge one, but a failing.

I would also like to see an option to ban duplicate characters in a match (a setting seems to exist, but I couldn’t get it to function.) You see, the lore of the game is akin to the movie “The Incredibles,” where the world no longer thinks it needs heroes and the members of Overwatch want to prove that wrong.

Given that premise, it doesn’t make sense that teams can have multiples of the same character or the same character can be on both sides.

Sure, I know why Blizzard allows duplicates: A player may rage-quit if someone else takes “their” character. But allowing players to opt in to a game type that forces everyone to be someone different would improve the overall balance. I want that option.

There’s also a flaw in the tutorial setup, specifically the option to play against AI-controlled opponents. The default puts you on a team of players against an AI team, so you have to wait for the game to find five others wanting to play versus AI. It’s weird, because you can actually set up your own match of AI teammates against AI opponents, though the character roster is limited. No waiting, and it more purely fulfills the goal of learning the characters without the pressure of a live audience.

Ultimately, “Overwatch” is a great game — but it’s just not my jam.

About "Overwatch"

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC.

Price: $59.99.

Rating: T for teen.


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champaign61821 wrote on June 07, 2016 at 3:06 pm

Nice review. However, I'd argue that is refreshing to see a FPS not built around "Team Deathmatch". In fact, that play mode doesn't exist. However, a few more game modes would be nice. I would expect them to be forthcoming.

Blizzard has a bigger success on their hands than they expected, so there is expected improvements coming soon. I'd wager that as more characters are released, and ranked play is added, that you won't have the ability to have duplicate characters in ranked play.