Overwatch excels at making me feel special

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I didn’t know what to think when Blizzard first announced Overwatch. A developer and publisher, who had made a name for themselves with titles that required more resource management than shooting, dipping into a more visceral genre felt like a massive gamble. It didn’t exactly ease my mind when I saw that just about everyone was jumping on the hero shooter bandwagon as well, just like the industry did with multiple failed MOBAs in the early part of this decade.

And I’m not even that big of a multiplayer fan. I generally like my games to be of the single-player variety, while I cocoon myself up in my room and start screaming the second anyone suggests that I maybe go outside and talk to actual people. Testicles to that idea. But here we are. Blizzard’s Overwatch isn’t just on the way, it’s pretty much finished its development cycle as the current open beta shows off the fruits of its success.

And it has me excited to actually jump into a multiplayer game again, as if I’m at a Quake 3 Arena LAN in 2000. Here’s what’s kicking ass for me so far:

I love ALL of the characters

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You play a hero shooter these days, and you’re going to find that one character that you like to stick with. Hell, maybe so will a dozen other people, resulting in matches where EVERYONE is tearing up the field as Shooty McFace-Stab. And that’s kind of true with Overwatch. While I’ll usually start a match off in the boots of Genji, a ninja who I’m pretty sure is yelling Japanese curse words at me when I blunder into a trap and get him killed, I’m also kind of happy to play as any other character.

Blizzard’s idea of a team-based multiplayer shooter with several distinct classes, is impossibly well-balanced. I can hit any match, and find myself changing faces like a fantastic Nicolas Cage sequel to that John Woo film several times over. Getting my ninja ass handed to me by Tracer? Balls to that, I’m going to switch to Bastion, transform into a turret and set up an ambush.

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Teammates struggling to capture a point? Right, I’m flicking on over to Reinhardt and covering their asses for them. Enemies grouped up and just waiting to be scattered? Time for some Winston action. MONKEY SMASH! There’s a massive amount of characters to play around with here, each one with their own strengths and weaknesses. And when you play Overwatch as a proper team game, those differences become very visible. It’s an absolute miracle then, how Blizzard has managed to create a cast that keeps the action fluid, and constantly on track. Which brings me to my next point:

Everything unlocked all at once

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When you’ve got a multiplayer game that forces you to put in the hours to get your hands on the characters that you paid for, you’ve done f***ed up. You’ve also created a perfectly unbalanced playing field, a barrier to entry that will drive players away. Not so with Overwatch. None of this play to earn characters nonsense. You’ve paid up front, so everything is yours.

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And this also stems from the fact that we’re still living in a third-world nation. Where our online access still isn’t as godly as the connections that first-world friends enjoy. What that means, is that you’ve got to put that much more effort into a killshot than they have to, to make up for that constant lag in the action. And having a full arsenal available from the start, eases that pain somewhat.

I don’t want to live in a world where Pharrah’s rocket barrage requires me to grind through hours of gameplay to unlock. Or Genji’s sword dash can only be unlocked by killing X amount of people with melee attacks. I’m a big fan of a power fantasy, but I’m also a bigger fan of a level playing field. When it’s skill that determines victory, I’m happy.

Colour. So much colour

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But honestly? I’m also a lover of art. And art isn’t just something that can be found in a museum. It’s more than a brush stroke or an overrated Andy Warhol collection of printed soup cans. Art is more than Roy Lichstentein being a thieving f*** and making a name for himself by copying comic book panels. Video game art is so underrated these days, as the backbone of game development never gets the recognition it duly deserves.

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But Blizzard games are different. The concept art used to create their titles speaks volumes. Overwatch is this idea at its finest, a Saturday morning cartoon of good vs evil that I can’t get enough of on a visual level. In an industry dominated by depressing shades of grey and more brown than a rock concert with free acid trips, Overwatch manages to distinguish itself with a colour palette that pops.

And all thanks to an art department that deserves a helluva lot of love for dreaming up those concepts.

I feel special

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You ever get that one kill in a game, that you wish you could show off? It’s a lot easier to do just that these days, thanks to built-in capture capabilities on consoles and recording software. But Overwatch goes a step further with a highlight system that perfectly records your best eliminations. It’s a small touch, but one that speaks volumes. And having proof that I actually kicked ass, is priceless.

Hell, it took a good few hours before everything clicked for me. Before I could actually survive a round and work as a proper member of a larger team. When you’re playing Overwatch properly, that’s magical. Blizzard has managed to create something here that is insanely polished and has the potential to be the next big franchise that defines them for a new age, much like WarCraft, Diablo and StarCraft did.

It’s a brave new world, and I’m chomping at the bit to dive back into it.

Last Updated: May 6, 2016

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia's M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

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