Overwatch Review – PS4
Overwatch is a refreshing example of high production values and solid gameplay overcoming traditional expectations of what a big budget game should be. It features no in-game narrative, no single player worth mentioning, and aside from its large cast of characters, a relatively sparse amount of content, but it makes up for it with focus and a level of polish that makes you forget you’re playing the same selection of modes and maps over and over again. Even when you do notice, you’re having so much fun it’s not really an issue.
While fundamentally a multiplayer shooter, it borrows liberally from MOBAs, delivering an array of distinct characters that all feel unique and occasionally genre-breaking. Shooter fans will feel at home with gunslingers like McCree or Soldier 76, but might find ninja robot Genji or mad-bomber Junkrat to be a bit of an adjustment. There’s enough variety that most players will find a play style that suits them, and despite this range of approaches, balancing feels finely tuned and appropriate. Each character comes with a unique weapon, special skills, and a powerful ultimate attack, but no character has the best of everything; often you’re forced to choose between a weapon you really like and a devastating ultimate, but it always feels like a willing concession, not a compromise.
A big part of the fun comes not just from trying new skills, but after each death you’re treated to seeing exactly how someone downed you. It’s good for stealing strategies, as well as learning which skills you want to try next. Even after you’ve been playing a while it’s possible to see someone do something you hadn’t even thought of, sending you scurrying to the character select screen to give it a go. The game rewards this by incentivising all skills, not just kills. Handling objectives, healing damage, eve blocking damage, are all considered worthy of score at the end of the game, and as such the community at large seems less fixated on maintaining their Kill / Death ratio and actually on switching it up and having fun. There’s an experimental camaraderie to it all, and this cycle of charging ultimate attacks, forcing your enemies to change character, and changing your own in response, keeps every game a revolving door of changing tactics that can provide endless variety. Almost.
All this takes place in a series of fifteen maps that represent futuristic interpretations of real world cities, and seem ripped right out of a Pixar movie. They play a massive part in setting the scene, with little consistent details popping up over and over like hidden machinery, hover cars, and skyscrapers towering over historical buildings, hinting at a deeper lore, Blizzard has hidden away in short films and other merchandise. Each does a great job of showing off how colourful the game is, and disguising how samey the game modes can be. It’s great to zip up to the roof of a Buddhist temple and pick enemies out from below, or surprise someone from behind the British postbox, but most of the maps are basically linear zig-zag paths between two bases. Even the game modes are largely indistinguishable from one another, with heavy objective based modes that see you claiming and reclaiming control points until time runs down.
Overwatch is the most fun I’ve had with an online shooter in years, but it’s hard to shake the feeling the content is a little thin on the ground. The character roster is huge and will take hours to play through properly, but once you’ve picked a character you can play most of the modes and maps in less than a day. The lack of single player or story don’t hurt a game that feels so well developed for multiplayer, but it does make it feel, on consoles at least, a little expensive compared to other big budget games offering the whole package. And yet, the experience is so addictive, and so well designed that it’s hard to really feel this complaints while you’re in the game, all you want to do is jump in for one more round.
Overwatch is a solid, and compelling multiplayer game that hides a sparse amount of content behind a huge roster of characters. It’s great fun and will keep you coming back for more, but after a few hours you’ll have seen everything there is, even if you’re still having a great time.