Overwatch Review

I'm watching the Overwatchers and I love it.

It takes a lot for an FPS to impress me. I would consider myself only the most casual fan of the genre, someone who enjoys the off-kilter offerings (the BioShocks, the recent DOOM, etc.), and just dabbles in the rest. I'm not much for MOBA's either, and Overwatch is a curious combination of the genres, a team-based FPS with plenty of MOBA DNA in its motley crew of heroes.

And yet, despite my lack of skill and usual interest in this kind of game, I love Overwatch. It's a perfect example of a game surpassing usual genre expectations though accessibility, tone, and mechanical grace.

The premise is standard - you're on one team, and you need to defeat the other, whether via deathmatch or capture the flag, or occupy the territory - the usual match flavors. To do that, you have free reign over a selection of heroes, each with their own abilities, special moves and attributes (there's that MOBA influence). Buff Zarya, for example, is a sort of tank/support character, with big muscles, big guns, and big, hulking footsteps. Slick Lucio is a healer who can boost his teammates' speed, or heal them, buffing everyone within a generous zone. Hanzo is an archer who moves fast and turns into a giant dragon/snake creature when he activates his special.

It's a deceptively simple setup - no matter who you select, the controls generally work the same - but the possibility space is as deep and varied, with so many valid approaches to the same scenarios. Feel like playing heavy? Fast? Sneaky? You have ample options at your fingertips. And you can switch characters at any time while on your base and after a death, meaning that you're never locked into a playstyle during a match.

This freedom is intoxicating, and makes the experience accessible without sacrificing depth. Even a shooter scrub like myself can go in and get some kills, or at least be helpful and buff or heal my teammates. When I get sick of any given character, there are 20 more to try, minimizing frustration and keeping things breezy.

It's worth mentioning here that this is a game that really GETS support characters. Its as much fun, for me, to play as Zarya - hanging back and throwing shields on my teammates - or Lucio - buffing the hell out of everyone - as it is to rack up kills with offensive specialists like McCree or Reaper. Clearly the team at Blizzard went out of their way to make every character appealing, and this makes for a better game in every way.

This level of care is apparent in everything from the UI to the animation. Everything is designed to give you all of the information that you need as a player in the moment - and also give you little hints and details about the characters and their place in this world. It's typical Blizzard, and speaks to a level of playtesting, iteration and pride in their craft that only the very best competitive games sport.

What I find most appealing about Overwatch, past the smart design choices and ridiculous level of polish, is the aesthetic and theming. Sure, this is a game about shooting people in the face. But it's a remarkably colorful, positive, inclusive game about shooting people in the face, darn it. And I love that.

I adore that I can play as a super buff woman with wild hair and a rad "guns out" animation on the character select screen. I adore the dorky, sweet stylings of D.Va and Mei. The unconventional badassery of Lucio and Hanzo. There are characters from various ethnic backgrounds and gender expressions, and everyone is, mechanically and thematically, treated as an equal. The effect is wonderful - Overwatch welcomes all to this zany table, and calls out "come, play with us!"

Verdict: Yes