For Blizzard’s first foray into the overcrowded world of first-person shooters, the company really nailed it with Overwatch. It’s a truly superb game that has set the tone for what it takes to be an outstanding FPS in today’s fast-paced, ever-evolving industry.
Truth be told, it’s incredibly difficult to make an FPS that stands out from the crowd. Overwatch’s overwhelming popularity is a testament to its topnotch quality and innovative gameplay. It’s widely beloved among players and one of the biggest competitors in the eSports scene, standing toe-to-toe with other heavy-hitters like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and making its mark on the genre.
If you haven’t given Overwatch a spin yet, it’s a squad-based FPS in which you cooperate with other players to complete a variety of objectives depending on the game mode.
Conceptually, the gameplay is pretty straightforward. Two teams of six face off in competitions such as capture the flag or push the cart. In action, it’s anything but straightforward. The diverse roster of characters, complicated maps, and special features — like seasonal events and new content releases — make it so that Overwatch never really gets stale no matter how many hours you clock playing it. And watch out, you’ll probably play it a lot.
What really sets Overwatch apart from similar FPSes like Team Fortress 2 and Paladins is the number of one-of-a-kind characters in the game. They each have their own unique backstory, personality, toolkit (ultimate abilities included), and are incredibly fun to play. For instance, you can be everything from a wisecracking cowboy, somersaulting and firing a six-shooter from the hip, to a cybernetic ninja, backflipping over your enemies’ heads and peppering them with shurikens. And those are just two of a whopping 29 heroes — for now. Blizzard regularly releases new ones. They fall into three distinct classes — tank, damage, and support — which are exactly what they sound like. Tanks soak up damage, damage dishes it out, and supports keep everyone healthy with a constant stream of fresh HP from the backlines.
Given that Overwatch’s characters are designed for specific roles on the battlefield, the importance of teamwork cannot be emphasized enough. This is somewhat of a double-edged sword to the game. If you and your teammates are doing what is best for the group, then you will have a good time. But, if you get one uncooperative person on your squad, you’ll most likely lose. You’ll have a fairly miserable experience, unless you’re willing to pick up the slack by filling in the gap. It’s no fun to get skunked. There’s a fair amount of toxicity in the Overwatch community, but more often than not, it’s a great team-based game.
While the diversity of its characters is by far Overwatch’s best feature, the maps are a close second. The game currently features 17 different levels, and Blizzard tends to add a few new ones each year. Best of all, each level is themed, modeled after scenic places in the real world. The western United States gets a shoutout in Route 66. Or you can battle your way through an ancient Egyptian temple in Oasis. There are many other examples from around the globe. There are only three different map types: escort, assault/escort, and control. But, each setting is immersive and full of cultural touchstones, making Overwatch one of the most inclusive FPSes ever.
Speaking of inclusion, Overwatch strives to represent multiple walks of life with its characters. They are a diverse bunch of people from all over the world. This is something you don’t see all that often, especially in the violent genre of FPS.
Furthermore, Overwatch has one of the most robust eSports scenes of any modern FPS. This is remarkable given that so many examples from the genre tend to have communities that fizzle out rather quickly. They rarely develop such a massive viewership on the competitive level. This hasn’t been the case with Overwatch, which currently has 20 pro teams playing in Overwatch League. These teams have collectively won more than $13 million. It’s also one of most entertaining FPSes to watch. Some of the plays teams make when working together at their best are simply jaw-dropping. And jaw-dropping plays tend to happen a lot in every match. It keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Overall, Overwatch will probably go down as one of the most successful and innovative FPSes in video game history. It pushes the envelope as far as striking a balance in such a complex system of characters and gameplay. Other video game companies will have to bring similar or better nuances to their games to compete with Blizzard. The company has raised the bar by taking their FPS to the next level.