Gaming

Overwatch lives up to the hype

Even before its official launch late last month, 9.7 million players had tried Overwatch in open beta.
Even before its official launch late last month, 9.7 million players had tried Overwatch in open beta.PHOTO: BLIZZARD ENTERTAINMENT

The game can keep players engaged and hungry for more

Blizzard Entertainment's Overwatch is not just a video game, it is a phenomenon.

Even before its official launch late last month, 9.7 million players had tried the first-person shooter (FPS) in open beta, and many had discussed the trailers and animated short films the developers released.

Advertisements for the game flooded online and offline spaces, and the frenzied anticipation even prompted Forbes to run a piece titled Why Overwatch Hype Is Different Than All Other Hype.

So the question is: Does Overwatch live up to all the expectation? My answer, after this review and for now, is yes.

The game is incredibly accessible and has brought together players from all genres of gaming.

Blizzard has deliberately taken steps to keep the game friendly, and to build a strong community of players.

But, at the same time, there is a dynamism and a depth to Overwatch that keep players engaged and hungry for more.

The game is simple enough to pick up. Click on Quick Match, and you join a six-versus-six matchup. Maps are randomly chosen and each one has different objectives, such as capturing a point or escorting a payload.

Blizzard has worked wonders on several fronts to make the game inviting, even for FPS newbies.

While many FPS games are realistic and gritty, Blizzard has taken a whimsical approach to the visual design of Overwatch.

  • 10/10

    RATING

    PRICE: US$39.99 or S$54.99 (PC version tested), S$90 (PlayStation 4) and S$76.90 (Xbox One)

    GENRE: First-person shooter

Maps are vibrant and warm, with rosy cherry blossoms adding colour to the trees in Hanamura and white-walled houses littering the sun-kissed Greek seaside town of Ilios.

Heroes each have a distinct character, with their own idiosyncrasies and back stories.

Mech-piloting D.Va is a former StarCraft pro, while Lucio grew up in the favelas of Brazil, and Mercy was the head of surgery at a Swiss hospital.

On the gameplay front, Blizzard has taken away the daunting match scoreboard, and players can see only their own elimination and no one else's.

The only sense of how well (or how poorly) you have done comes at the end of the game, where outstanding players are highlighted.

Players also do not have to be fantastic at putting crosshairs over an enemy's head in order to be good at the game, as there are heroes to suit almost any play style.

Yes, there are traditional sharpshooters like Widowmaker and Hanzo. But there are also disruptors like Tracer and Reaper who specialise in wreaking havoc on the peripheries of battle, and defensive heroes like Bastion and Torbjorn who rely on smart positioning.

Instead of a disparate selection of individual characters, teams in Overwatch benefit more from having a balanced composition of heroes, with a good mix of attack, defence, tank and support.

Unlike many other FPS games, Overwatch players can switch their hero at any time if they are standing in the spawn room.

This adds another layer of complexity to the game, as it demands a flexibility in hero repertoire to respond to the opponent's tactics and different phases of the game.

While Overwatch has come out of the starting gates with all guns blazing, the game is still in its infancy. It remains to be seen whether Overwatch has the longevity of other Blizzard games like StarCraft: Brood War or Diablo II.

There are only 21 heroes and 12 maps in the mix, although more are on the way, and the eSports aspect of it is still nascent.

It will take a year or two before we fully understand the impact of a phenomenon like Overwatch.

•Verdict: The much-hyped Overwatch is very inviting; easy to learn but difficult to master. However, the longevity of the game remains to be seen.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2016, with the headline 'Overwatch lives up to the hype'. Print Edition | Subscribe