When I played Splatoon, I was excited at the prospect but ultimately disappointed at the end product. A number of Nintendo only traits ruined what could have been a great experience. Now with Overwatch, we get a view of what Splatoon could have been.
Overwatch, developed by Blizzard has released on PC and PS4/XBOX and immediately grabs you with its presentation. The characters are colourful and jump to life straight away. It is apparent from the beginning that characters play a major role in the game. Jumping into a quick game you are faced with the choice of character and style of play. There are offensive, builder, support and tank. This is like the MOBA style of game and it is essential that your team is made up of a good mix of these. For a first time player, it can be quite daunting.
When you see the character screen, you are immediately drawn to certain characters. Reaper, for example, is a dual shotgun wielding, dealer of death. He looks exceptionally cool and early games may see a superfluous of him. Scratch a little deeper and he has a few interesting abilities. He can teleport to a targeted location on the map or change to a mist, that allows him to move quickly and avoid gunfire. In this mode, he cannot shoot. Anyone familiar with gaming will quickly see the tactic with him is to use the mist or teleport to get in close to a character before unloading with both shotguns rapidly. But what if the character you are trying to kill is a close quarter specialist as well? This fine balance means that every decision needs to be thought out.
Reinhardt is a tank character with a huge melee hammer that can cut a character down in a couple of swings. He can also fire a projectile from this but it is slow moving and easily dodged. His real strength is the ability to create a huge shield for his teammates to hide behind, slowly advancing up the map. The differences between each character are so pronounced that you could spend the whole article talking about the pros and cons of each. Luckily the game does a good job of making you learn this yourself. Holding left on the control pad shows you all the abilities of each character and how to trigger them. This is normally done in the 30 seconds before the round starts. Reinhardt’s shield is particularly useful in the game mode where you escort a payload. Put the shield up and go to the back of the payload and begin to push. As long as your team protect your rear and let you recharge the shield when necessary, you can score a decent win and feel like you actually contributed to the win. Herein lies the draw of overwatch.
When you play a game you honestly feel like you have a job to do and a necessary role to play. If it says in the team screen that there are no support characters, being a healer suddenly makes you essential. Combine a healer with a tank and you have a moveable anchor which can make its way up the map while lesser assault characters are killed and respawn. It manages to blend the MOBA style with the competitiveness of a COD deathmatch only here your K\D ratio is not king. It is the role you play for the team. After each game, there is a highlight that shows the play of the game. Usually, some epic play using a special ability. My personal favourite so far has been the cyber ninja Genji. He has an ability where he holds his sword and deflects the bullets or projectiles back at the person who fired. In close quarters, one player held the block as all others turned to fire on him. After a few seconds, Genji remained, his sword having deflected all the bullets back to the senders. After the play of the game, four stars are chosen for their roles in the game and all the other players are allowed to vote for which one was the best. It is a nice and non-confrontational way to get graded rather than someone sitting top with 30 odd kills from camping.
Speaking of camping Blizzard have also included two characters so players of COD will feel at home. Soldier 76 is your typical FPS guy with the right trigger firing his assault rifle and the left firing helix rockets. He can heal himself and others and even sprint, a rarity in the game. Anyone who feels out of place in Overwatch can slip into Soldier 76 like a comfy pair of shoes and contribute to the match. Widowmaker is the only sniper character in the game. Firing with the right trigger is an assault rifle where the left zooms in for the sniper shot. To aid her camping abilities. She has an ability to fire a grappling hook up to higher platforms and a poisonous landmine to protect against close attacks. Like Reaper, she is a popular character at the moment.
The variety of character is quite amazing. Every character has their own skills and the skills make perfect sense. No character has an unnecessary skill, they point you towards the style of play but also let you use them in unique ways. Hanzo is a Japanese archer type, As well as his arrows he can fire a ricochet arrow into crowded spaces and also fire a portable tracer arrow that reveals targets. So here he can fire the arrow to see if anyone is in the room, then if they show up send in the ricochet arrow. You could literally go down the list of characters and show how they are overpowered versions of themselves. It is such a well-balanced game already, that there us a counter to almost everything.
The only flaw at the moment is from lack of game modes. There is no single player campaign and only the three types of objective based games. Being Blizzard there is a load of free DLC promised that will sweeten the blow. With Overwatch, Blizzard is trying to monopolise the space on console and PC at the first attempt. From the excellent map design to the character orientated play, they may have succeeded, hopefully, the modes can be fleshed out like other Blizzard products in the coming months.