By Grant Stoner | Staff Writer
“30 seconds remaining,” a female robotic voice warns. Mere meters away from its final destination, the attacking team needs to give the payload one final push. Yet, with a heavily fortified position, the defending team is all but victorious. That is, until Zarya unleashes her ultimate ability, Graviton Surge, pulling every defender into a miniature black hole. With nowhere to run, they are eliminated, granting the win to the attackers in another close game. In the addictive, occasionally frustrating shooter “Overwatch,” nail-biting matches are the norm.
Developed by Blizzard Entertainment, the same company responsible for massively successful franchises such as “World of Warcraft,” “Diablo” and “Starcraft,” “Overwatch” gamers compete in 6v6 objective-based game modes, with a focus on team composition and skill.
With 12 maps and four game modes, “Overwatch” has players navigating across the world to either defend or capture various objectives. Assault and Escort maps like “Hanamura” and “Route 66,” have attackers secure points of interest, or push a payload to an end location. “Hollywood,” a Hybrid-styled map, combines the objectives of both Assault and Escort levels. Finally, Control maps such as “Nepal,” tasks both teams with fighting over a single control point.
While the maps are beautifully designed, their layouts are redundant and quickly become stale after a few matches. Every map has a central location with very few alternating paths. This often results in stalemates for both sides. A strong defending team will barely need to exert themselves, especially if their defense point is on lockdown. On the opposite side, attackers will make little progress with the objective, which might cause some players to leave the game out of pure frustration.
“Overwatch’s” cast of 21 colorful characters brings excitement and intensity into every match. With four class types to choose from, players can easily find specific heroes which suit their play-style. Attackers such as Pharah rely on speed and mobility to flank defenders and deal high amounts of damage. Defenders, like the bow-wielding Hanzo, combine their abilities to track and disable oncoming attackers. Tanks, including Reinhardt and Roadhog, hold the largest health bars in the game, allowing them to protect weaker allies from enemies. Finally, Support characters such as Mercy assist their teammates through either healing abilities, or personal buffs. Any team seeking victory needs to balance out these four types perfectly, or find themselves facing defeat.
Coinciding with class types are unique abilities for each character. At the beginning of each round, players start with a minimum of two, which can be used freely and reset after a small cooldown. As the match progresses, and as players deal damage to the opposing team, their ultimate ability charges. Once it reaches 100 percent, players simply need to press a single button before unleashing a devastating move, capable of easily turning the tide of the game.
After each match, “Overwatch” displays what is known as the “Play of the Game.” This unique video feature showcases five seconds of what is supposed to be an incredible clip from the game. While some are astounding, such as a Reinhardt getting a quadruple elimination with nothing but his hammer, most plays are often disappointing or lackluster. Furthermore, if either team features a Bastion or Torbjorn, the “Play of the Game” will usually consist of their turrets eliminating unsuspecting players.
Despite the fact that “Overwatch” does not include unlockable weapons or upgrades, the game does still feature cosmetic items which differentiate characters. After each successful level up, players receive loot boxes containing anything from common sprays to legendary skins. If a player wants a specific item, they have the ability to purchase the boxes with real-world money, but it is entirely possible to earn everything in the game for free.
“Overwatch” is a game that arrived at just the right time. In a market that is currently being consumed by massive online battle arenas, or games that are shipping while incomplete, this title provides a nice change of pace with its eye-popping color design and eclectic cast of unique and memorable characters. One can only hope that these features will become the norm for the first-person-shooter genre. “Overwatch” released on May 24 for PS4, Xbox One and PC, for a price of $59.99.