Right now over 7 million people are playing and talking about Blizzard’s latest game Overwatch. It’s a fun, fast-paced adventure shootout between some of the coolest and craziest looking characters in videogames, and it’s been getting high review scores across the board. We even recently ranked our experiences with each character based on how much fun and frustration it caused us.
And for the most part, Overwatch deserves every ounce of the praise it’s received. It’s not without its faults, though. It’s just like a big movie releases with an avalanche of hype, you’ll want to wade through all the noise and find out if it meets your own standards. To balance things out, here’s a list of pros and cons to help you decide if Overwatch is worth your time.
Over the past decade shooting games have slowly ditched the typical soldier-shoots-Nazi formula and has become more inclusive by adding in different types of gameplay beyond just shooting. Overwatch excels at creating a flexible experience by offering variety in the move-sets of each character. Not that good at shooting things? How about you try setting up trap turrets with Symmetra, or healing with Mercy? The game takes all of its unique characters and uses their identities as a basis for multiple avenues of gameplay. It’s actually pretty refreshing to see the genre that was once ridiculed as strictly for “gamer-bros” who only played shooters finally becoming inclusive to casual players who may be interested in getting into it, and Overwatch is a really great example of how far we’ve come.
One of the best parts of Overwatch is the wide arrangement of well-designed characters and locations. From urban cityscapes to rural shrines, the game takes you all around the world with the vibrant colors of your favorite cartoons and some surprisingly realistic architecture. The cast is also brightly colored and uniquely tailored with diverse races, species, and power-specific designs that match up with their superheroic ideals. A strong design aesthetic helps to draw players into any visual experience and Overwatch knocks it out of the park. There have been lots of comparisons to Gearbox’s Battleborn despite the games being completely different in gameplay styles, but I think it’s mostly attributed to their shared focus on character and environment designs that strike to stand out and feel alive instead of just being photo-realistic.
My entire household is playing this game on the same internet connection (roommate and girlfriend plus me) and I have yet to experience lag. The game runs smoothly at all times and on top of that it only takes about two to three minutes to find a multiplayer match. In fact, the longest I’ve had to wait is probably around five minutes tops and that was when we had a full team of people with us. Multiplayer games take for granted the idle times of their players, but Overwatch seems to have a fantastic system for what they set out to do. They maximize the actual play time instead of sitting you around in a lobby half of the time. Other games should seriously take note.
One of my favorite parts of the game is the fact that it openly tells you how to balance your teams when you’re selecting characters. Things like “Not Enough Offensive Characters” or “Too Many Snipers” causes players to rethink their choices in regards to the entire team’s potential. You may be good at a certain character or a certain type of play, but Overwatch encourages you try something new in order to achieve victory as a team. There are so many characters to choose from and with everyone swapping characters for various circumstances even mid match it just makes sense to constantly adapt to what the team needs on the fly. Too many bullets coming in from turrets? Swap over to Reinhardt and put up that big shield for your buddies. Everyone getting slaughtered too quickly? Why not shift over to a healer like Lucio to see if it makes a difference? There are so many ways to alter the course of a battle and I’m a big fan of how the system helps you figure out how to do it.
A huge appeal for Overwatch is it’s wide cast of characters. Each of them have unique personalities and techniques that make them incredibly different from each other on every level. No two characters play the same in combat or even just in movement type. You’ll get a new experience and new results from each match every time you swap to a new character. Plus, you’re never stuck with just the one character you’ve chosen, because the game actively lets you swap characters at any time during the match. In a spawning base or after you die, you can change up your game plan and try a new character in a matter of seconds. There are no leveling systems per character or any kind of advantages to playing any of them that are particularly better than any others, and that makes for less competitive gameplay and more of just a crazy fun time.
Characters aren’t supposed to be inherently better than others—they offer different abilities that appeal to different kinds of players, but if you’re able to master one character you should be able to hold your own against anybody else. At least that’s the idea; one character in particular spoils that ideal. The robot Bastion is basically a moving turret whose Gatling gun can lay down suppressive fire so hard that you’ll never be able to get into the line-of-sight necessary to kill the bastard. He’s a monster of a character who constantly racks up kills and is a super big pain to deal with no matter what character you’re using. There’s even a meme going around about how Bastion always gets “Play Of The Game”, a feature Blizzard put in to recognize impressive feats of skill. But it doesn’t require skill. It requires pointing in the right direction and holding down the R2 button until everything dies. And trust me—everything will die.
At first I was happy to see that there wasn’t a random chance that I could die and be respawned right in front of an enemy that could gank me the second my little digital self made its way in front of their barrel. Then I realized that half of my time in Overwatch matches was spent running back from respawn points. The respawn safe zones are literally half of the map away from where all the action takes place and if you’re not Lucio, a character who can boost speed, you’re going to take forever to get there. Most characters move as fast as a hippo in a shopping cart, so dying becomes even more frustrating because of the trek. The plus side is that nobody can camp your respawn areas and you’re guaranteed a safe return. But man, it takes so long to get back that I wonder if dying again wouldn’t be worth it.
One of my closest friends, who claims himself to be a shooting game enthusiast, saw Overwatch at release and literally almost turned it down because it was $60 for a multiplayer only game. And I can’t say that I blame him. For all the hype and all the work put in on the character designs and their world, I find it sad that they couldn’t add in a little extra effort just to give the solo players a bit more to enjoy on their own. You can’t even do anything with it offline, so if you have internet problems there’s nothing you can do in Overwatch. No exploration. No deeper storytelling to be had about the world and its cool, crazy characters. Just two modes of multiplayer play. And don’t get me wrong, those modes are really fun with a group of people, but for those seeking a bit more bang for their buck or even a bit more of that Overwatch flavor, it’s kind of a stale deal.
Each player in Overwatch has their performances constantly kept in the system’s database and that data is used to connect them to players with similar performances. This means that really great players will always be paired with equally really great players and the not-so-great players will be paired with their equals as well. This sounds like a balanced and fun way of keeping the competition on edge, but it’s actually not ideal for the really good players. Because they are really good, they will ALWAYS be with really good players, and that will make every match a competitive nightmare where they can’t relax or have any fun. This situation has been all the talk lately in games like Destiny where the professional level players just don’t want to compete 100% of the time, so they quit. If Overwatch wants to stay ahead of their own competition, they’ll need to rethink their matchmaking strategy for sure.
Right now, Overwatch contains only two modes of play—Capture the flag-styled area control and escort the payload. One is a straightforward us-versus-them fight over a designated area and the other is a moving car that you have to escort from one designated point to another while fighting off the opposing team. Both are really fun and the environments are cool and unique, but after a few days of play you’ll start to wonder what else there is to do. Blizzard has stated that they will be adding in content for that purpose, but for now, it’s a bit of a limited experience. Luckily, the many character types will keep you interested for a good while, but over time it will definitely start to get old. Here’s hoping they add in a few new modes sooner rather than later.
Alex Tisdale is a writer and illustrator who runs on coffee and pop culture. You can find him covered in ink and rambling on his website or on Twitter.