The date is May 25th, 2016.
The world lies in ruins. Businesses empty, cars abandoned on the streets, fires burning, but at least the internet’s working. What chain of events have led us to this? What cosmic deity did we bother so greatly to wreak this havoc upon our planet? Where are the Overwatch?
They’re too busy kicking each other’s asses over the internet, in what has got to be one of the most stable releases for an online game that I have ever seen in my entire life. Blizzard is no stranger to having MASSIVE releases for just about every game they’ve introduced in the last fifteen years, between every World of Warcraft expansion, Starcraft II, and Diablo 3, they’ve had their fair share of problems getting servers up and running on Day One. But I’m here to tell you, Overwatch, in my case, has experienced none of the symptoms of it’s predecessors. With the exception of a single server drop which occured 3 minutes after the game went live, everything has been perfectly seamless, lag free, and most importantly fun.
Before I get into my critique of the game itself, I want to go over my opinions on what helped this launch be so successful. A lot of these newer games release never having gone through a beta phase, or having gone through a very short one. A good example recently is The Division. A game that I liked, but that also has glaring flaws. The prime flaw in The Division was lack of endgame content, coupled with a lot of bugs for the little bit there was to do at level 30. The beta only allowed gameplay up to level 8, which was a very minimal part of the retail game. On top of that, the beta was only for two separate weekends, whereas Overwatch beta lasted weeks and months depending on when you got your invite. The endgame content for Overwatch was completely available during all betas, although it is a different type of game, so that point is moot. Long story short, open and closed betas are important if you are going to have thousands and maybe millions of people logging on at once. It’s like practicing for your 5th grade play in front of a mirror, but never practicing in front of your parents.
So I want to break this review down a little more than I usually do. I’ve put a lot of thought into my overall score, so I want to explain why I will eventually arrive there.
Cinematics – 9
This is a bit of a minor point, as it isn’t in the game, but it really helps add to the atmosphere and the idea behind Overwatch, which is a completely new story for Blizzard, instead of being based out of Warcraft or Starcraft. There are several cinematics that you can find on YouTube (and hopefully in-game soon) that have the production value of a Pixar or Dreamworks film you might see in a theater. The characters personalities are revealed, and you begin to get an idea of what they are doing, and why they are doing it. The cinematics from Blizzard have always been top notch, and they really hit it out of the park this time.
Graphics – 7
Graphically speaking, Blizzard has never worried about pumping out games that require a monster rig to be able to run on Ultra. Overwatch nails the Blizzard goal of being beautiful, but simple. Bright colors help lend to the simplicity, with beautiful stages such as Hanamura, Japan or Route 66 (I assume it’s in Arizona). In Hanamura, the Japanese architecture fits well, with heroes fighting in gardens, city streets, and a dojo looking building. Stage design plays a very important role in the strategy of the game, and being able to blend that with good looking graphics leaves you with a sense of seamless progression throughout a match.
There are a few, very slight graphical bugs that I foresee being fixed soon. One I noticed is Junkrat’s traps (look like a bear trap) sometimes clip a little into the floor. As I said, very minor.
Music – 6
I typically mute music in most games and supplement it with my own. The music in Overwatch is well fitting to the theme of each level. I only really notice it during loading screens, as I am far too entranced during gameplay to even tell you if there is music during matches. But as I said, the music does lend to the atmosphere in each stage. Some nice Western country sounding guitar twangs in Route 66, or some poppy bing bonging with happy sounding chanting in Numbani.
Controls – 8.5
A simple game requires simple controls. Overwatch has your standard WASD movement, CTRL to crouch, etc. Most of the 19 heroes have an ability on left click, right click, shift, and E, with Q being their ultimate. The characters move fluidly,small characters feel small, big characters feel big. But despite Reinhardt being a massive metal man with a huge hammer, I don’t feel like a clunky knight slugging around the battlefield. When I play Torbjorn, I actually feel like a 3 foot tall dwarf who can barely see over counters. Movement is quick and responsive and things like hitboxes seem to be very tight and accurate.
Some characters do feel slow, such as McRee, but he’s one of the few characters who don’t have any sort of long range charge or dash ability to let him move quickly across the battlefield.
Story – 8
The Overwatch was an elite task force with the goal to restore peace to the world, but they have slowly lost influence and disbanded (very similar to the Watchmen, now that I think about it). The game doesn’t have a story mode, so we rely upon in game conversations between certain characters and certain levels to understand the lore a little better. As I said previously, the majority of character development and plot comes from the cinematics. Still, the quips such as Lucio and D.Va asking for each others autographs, or Genji and his brother Hanzo arguing are perfect for bringing life to Overwatch.