Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Rory and Frankie Review Overwatch

For this review we though it would be fun to try something kind of different.  First Rory gives his take on the game as a Blizzard noob, followed by Frankie who is a Blizzard fanboy.  How will their opinions differ?  You have to read to find out.    


I've been playing video games since I could pick up a controller. I started on the NES and the giant grey and purple Gameboy, moved onto the N64, had a PS2 and an Xbox, then moved to the 360 and now finally the PS4, plus I've owned pretty much every handheld that Nintendo has ever made. Through all this time Blizzard (which has gone through a few name changes during it's existence) has been making critically acclaimed games and I had not played a single one. It's not like I haven't been exposed to their work, seeing as two of my best friends are enormous Blizzard fanatics (I'm looking at you Frankie and CJ), I have seen many sessions of Wow, Diablo, and even a few rounds of Heroes of the Storm take place. Blizzard has historically been a PC based developer, a gaming platform I've always been lacking. But now with Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls and Overwatch out on consoles, I can jump into the fray. And jump in I have.

After playing a little bit of Diablo 3 earlier this year but not being extremely hooked by it, I went into Overwatch with high but tempered expectations. The beta washed all my doubts away and made these past couple weeks unbearable. Luckily, a busy work schedule has kept me occupied, but now the game is out and it's clear that the wait was worth it. 

Overwatch takes place in the not so distant future. A future where A.I. called omnics began a war with humanity that pushed the world to the brink of devastation. Overwatch, a special task force of powerful heroes, was commissioned to put an end to the omnic war and keep the peace afterward. The war was ended but eventually infighting and corruption tore Overwatch apart and the group disbanded. While the game doesn't have a single player campaign, the rich backstories of the world and characters keep Overwatch from feeling as hollow as most multiplayer only games like Titanfall and Evolve. To dive deeper into the lore Blizzard has been releasing animated shorts and web comics to fill in some of the blank spaces in the character's pasts. I highly recommend looking into these as it attaches you to characters you wouldn't expect and gives the game an even more personal feel. 

Each character handles so different from the next even if they reside in the same class group. For example Hanzo and Widowmaker are the 2 snipers in the game but they are vastly different in play style. Widowmaker is very much the typical sniper, preferring to hang out far away from the fight picking off enemies with her powerful sniper rifle. Hanzo on the other hand is better at medium range, weaving in and out of cover to take people out with his bow and arrow and setting up massive group kills with his deadly dragonstrike ultimate. No matter what character you play as you're bound to have a blast, win or lose.
For a game with this many characters it's impressive that it feels so balanced right from the start. There do not seem to be any characters that are just terrible, or flipside, any that are downright overpowered. Yes, the much maligned Bastion can be a real pain in the butt, especially when the other team is using two of them on the defend matches, but the community clearly has caught on to stopping his insanely powerful turret mode and therefore seems to be much less of a threat because of it. Also Zenyatta could use a tiny health buff but these are minor problems that can be patched later. The game runs incredibly well, even on console. I've never seen the framerate dip even in the heaviest of battles. Everyone has always told me about the polish Blizzard games but now seeing it first-hand, color me impressed.

I knew I would like Overwatch but I wasn't prepared for just how much I love it. It reminds me of my love for Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. Colorful characters with different and interesting powers duking it out for supremacy in interesting places. The drab environments and characters of Call of Duty/Battlefield have just never really appealed to me, and outside of Gears of War I have never really invested heavily into online shooters. But Overwatch is a breath of fresh air that is bringing me back into the world of competitive multiplayer, a world I thought I mostly left behind on my 360. Just when I thought I was out, Blizzard managed to pull me back in. 
.... but seriously go buy/play Overwatch right now. There's a talking gorilla scientist who loves peanut butter. What more do you want?


Blizzard is easily my favorite game developer, and with a track record of quality games over the span of 20+ years they have definitely earned the praise. From the fantastic space RTS that is Starcraft, to the horrific dungeon crawling of Diablo, to the mystical quests through the World of Warcraft, Blizzard has proved to be a true juggernaut in the gaming industry. They have sustained a incredible following because of these titles, and even threw in some new additions such as the online TCG Hearthstone, and the MOBA esque Hero Brawler Heroes of the Storm, but these are just new games based on the pre-existing universes Blizzard has already invested so much in, until now. Overwatch is not only Blizzards first new IP in over 17 years, it is also the creation from the ashes of the trashed MMO Project Titan, and boy does it prove they made the right call. Overwatch is a six on six FPS team arena shooter (they call it a hero shooter) that not only embodies all the personality and polish Blizzard is known for. Overwatch achieves something that every developer should always strive for above all else, it is an incredibly fun experience that will have you loving every second you spend with it, win or lose.   


Now for a little backstory, Overwatch is set in a fictional futuristic Earth where there was a global catastrophe called the Omnic Crisis. A.I. beings that were created to serve eventually rebelled, creating hostile omnics and triggering a full-scale war. Overwatch was created to restore order and maintain peace in the midst of the worn torn world, but eventually Overwatch would be torn apart from the outside, and inside. The world then blames Overwatch for everything that had happened and is outlawed, causing the family of heroes to go their separate ways, and try to find a new path. The game takes place after the official disbanding of Overwatch, and after the gorilla scientist Winston re-establishes it. Even though there is no traditional campaign the game is still rich with backstory, history, lore, secrets, and much much more. Each level even has easter eggs pertaining to Blizzards other titles, such as a murloc in a flying saucer on Hanamura, or Heroes of the Storm fighting games in that same levels arcade spawn zone. One thing Blizzard does so well is putting everything they have into whatever project they undertake, the finesse and polish on Overwatch is spectacular.  From the breath taking cell shaded visuals, to the wonderful soundtrack, and even the little nuances of each character, you can't help but smile during every second of it. Overwatch even has a website you can go to read up and discover the finely crafted lore behind their shooter, causing it to be much more then just a Team Fortress 2 clone. Each character isn't just a class, but a hero completely different then any other on the roster, in both play style and design. For example the poster child Tracer has the ability to teleport short distances and rewind herself placing her ammunition, position, and health back to where it was just a few moments earlier. Now at first glance this may just seem like an ability, but by diving into her backstory you find out she was a test pilot for a project called the "Slipstream", a time traveling fighter that malfunctioned and caused her to be lost in time. Unable to stay in present time for more then a few moments, Winston created a device that not only allowed her to stay anchored in present time, but control her own time flow, allowing her to jump forward and move backwards through time. This is what makes this game so impressive, just a simple ability becomes so much more interesting just because of the lore Blizzard has created for the character, and everyone gets the same treatment. 

You can truly feel the love Blizzard has put into creating this world, they want you to care about the people in it, they want you to care about the world, they don't want to shove another generic shooter at you, slap a $60 price tag on it, and call it the best thing around, they want to prove to you it is. Even the characters will interact with each other while on the same team, such as Zenyatta saying how happy he is to be fighting alongside his pupil Genji, Tracer challenging Lucio to a race, or even Reaper throwing some mean spirited words towards Mercy. Overwatch even has several comics and animated shorts that allow you to learn more about each character that once again proves Blizzard is committed to making this a living-breathing world.   Even though Blizzard has put so much into the lore of Overwatch, that doesn't mean they slacked on the gameplay.  Quite the opposite, this is easily one of the most balanced and polished shooters I have ever played. Each of the twenty-one characters is placed under one of four roles, offense, defense, tank, and support, and has strengths and weaknesses that can be countered, or used to counter another. For example my personal favorite Reaper has twin shotguns that devastate anyone unfortunate enough to be in close quarters with you, and with Wraith mode making him invincible but unable to perform any actions other then moving and Shadow Step, a long range teleport with a slow start-up and end time, he is a great at flanking and eating up tanks, and his ultimate Death Blossom can wipeout an entire team if you can ambush them. However he struggles against characters like Pharah, who can fly high into the sky and rain rockets of death down on the enemy, or Widowmaker, a sniper who can grapple up to hard to reach places and pick off unsuspecting targets. Even characters in the same role are vastly different, such as Zenyatta and Symmetra. Zenyatta is a omnic monk who can place a healing orb on an ally to passively heal them, or a discord orb on an enemy to boost damage on them by 50%.  Couple that with his high damage projectiles he's basically a healing sniper. However Symmetra doesn't heal at all, she instead places a shield on her allies and uses her Ultimate which is a teleporter, to allow her allies to absorb a bit more damage and get back into the fight quickly, and with sentry turrets that be placed virtually anywhere along with her high damage weapon she completely lock down an area basically by herself. The uniqueness of each and every character means regardless of skill level and playstyle, there is a Hero that will suite you perfectly. That doesn't mean you will main any one of them, this game is about strategy, and part of strategy is adapting, and with the ability to switch character mid match during any respawn, causes a giant rock, paper, scissors match between the two teams. Communication and team composition is key here, as it will determine whether you snatch victory, or fall into the arms of defeat. Each character not only counters others, but compliments them as well.  Mercy is a great match-up with Pharah because she is the only one that can follow her into the sky to heal and boost her damage, causing the devastating Pharah to become and even bigger threat then normal.  Another example is Reinhardt and Bastion, by holding Reinhardts shield right in front of Bastion while he is in turret form allows him to chew through the enemy team with little threat of taking any type of damage at all. 

The other intriguing thing about Overwatch is that not only is every game mode objective based (that's right COD fans, no Team Deathmatch), but each map is catered to a specific mode.  So, Hanamura will always be two point control, and Ilios will always be domination, making each map feel tailored fit perfectly to each mode. Every map is designed thoughtfully to help you find multiple ways to an objective without the fear of getting lost, also meaning you need to take the time to know every nook and cranny of the area. Knowing where every health pack, choke point, and entry/exit point is crucial for offense and defense.  Because knowing where you can ambush, or be ambushed can greatly change the flow of the game. I do wish however that there were more game modes, or at least different versions of each map was made for each other mode, I would love to escort a payload through the beautiful setting of Ilios, or play domination on King's Row, but despite this I still have zero issue playing for hours on end. Maining a character is something that does not exist in Overwatch, and if you think you do this, you aren't playing it right. As I've stated before Overwatch is a constant rock, paper, scissors match with the enemy team, and you have to be familiar with each and every character to fight them. If you are playing Hanzo and are constantly being killed by a Genji player, switching to the cowboy McCree who can flash bang and triggers his secondary fire "Fan the Hammer" to fire all six shots quickly can stop him right in his tracks. On the surface it may seem like just another shooter, but once you start to really analyze and learn each and every hero, it reveals a whole new depth that proves this is a truly deep and complex multiplayer game filled with endless possibilities of strategy and tactics.

Overwatch even has a training mode where you can practice against dummies to hone your skills with a character you aren't very good with but want to learn, and even weekly brawls that reset every week that range from reduced cool downs on all abilities and ultimates, to only being able to choose from a limited pool of heroes or role. Overwatch even has a progression system that you accumulate xp for each match you play.  Every level you acquire unlocks a loot box with random vanity items that range from voice lines, player icons, and sprays, to color swaps for each hero all the way to legendary skins that can make Reaper a Mariachi, or Junkrat look like a Juggalo. You can even earn in game currency from each loot box and duplicates to purchase the vanity items that you want. The option to purchase loot boxes via micro-transactions is also possible, so you can stock up to increase your chances to get even more sweet loots.   

 Blizzard has once again proven that they have the ability to take a formula that has been done time and time again and make it truly special and unique. When you play Overwatch you won't be thinking, "oh this is just like Team Fortress 2" or "this is just like Plants Vs. Zombies Garden Warfare".  You'll be thinking about how much fun you're having playing with all your friends, in each adrenaline-inducing match. Overwatch is not only a finely crafted FPS, but also it is just flat out fun.  I promise if you pick it up, you'll be smiling from ear to ear in no time. So what are you waiting for? It's time to get in the fight, because the world can use more Heroes, and trust me, you fit the bill.


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