Overwatch‘s release date of May 24, 2016 is fast approaching. In preparation for this, Blizzard released first a closed beta, and then an open beta, which they extended by an extra day to end on the 10th. We spent the weekend jumping, shooting, gliding, bombing, sniping, healing, and more in our time with the beta, and have our impressions ready for you.
Overwatch gets compared to Battleborn quite frequently, and rightfully so. Both games feature pastel-colored graphics, with highly stylized characters, each with their own personalities and weapons. Yet the two games feel worlds apart. Battleborn is a slower, more plodding affair, with games lasting tens of minutes, perhaps even an hour or longer. Overwatch has matches that have the same frenetic pacing and quick conclusion as a game of Counter-Strike. Is one better than the other? No — each game will appeal to different types of gamers. However, I will call it now: Overwatch is going to sell gangbusters, while Battleborn will likely see a more subdued success.
There are 21 characters to choose from, and they all play fairly differently from one another. There are offensive characters, akin to assault characters in other team-based shooters. These characters do heavy damage, are quick on their feet, but cannot take too many hits. Defensive enemies have higher health points, but tend to move and fire more slowly. Tanks have a massive amount of health, and also tend to be loud characters to keep your enemies busy focusing their fire on the tanks. Finally, there’s support characters. It’s rare for people to want to play support, but those who do, and do it well, are often among the most valuable of all team members.
In the game’s quick play mode, you are matched up with a lobby consisting of players within your general skill level. A map is loaded at random, including the game type. So far, there are only a handful of game modes. Assault sees one team attempting to control two points on the map, while the other defends. Escort has one team trying to move some cargo to a destination within a time limit, while another attempts to stop them. Assault/Escort includes both of the previous modes in tandem, with the control points being consolidated into the convoy that the defending team must stop the attackers from progressing. Finally, the Control mode involves a single control point that must be controlled until a meter counts up to 100%, in a best-of-three series.
Each game mode has a small variety of maps, but these maps are very intricate. Characters such as Hanzo can scale walls, and attack from above. Players often forget to look up when most of the action occurs at the ground level, so this will quickly become a winning tactic in most rounds. Characters also have unique abilities tied to the L1 and R1 buttons, with relatively quick cooldown times. These range from knockback grenades for Junkrat, to enemy-sensing arrows for Hanzo, and orbs which increase enemy damage received for Zenyatta.
Whatever engine Blizzard is using for Overwatch is incredibly high-performance. No matter how hectic the onscreen action got, I never saw a frame rate dip on the PlayStation 4. Load times were very quick, and menus popped in and out with little issue. Joining a party was also painless, and moving from game to game worked reliably. Collecting loot as my profile leveled up was a fairly ho-hum affair, since most games have a similar system these days.
The Hype Is Real
As mentioned previously, games are over fairly quickly. Expect match times of around five minutes. At the end of each match, a play of the game is shown to everyone, which appears to showcase the most damage/kills doled out by a single player within a short amount of time. It appears Blizzard has been hard at work balancing their characters, because I saw plays highlighted by almost every single character.
It looks like Blizzard has the makings of another winner in Overwatch. Featuring almost two dozen unique characters, the usual appeal of loot to collect, a hyper-stylish look and feel, tight, traversable levels, and an overall polished package, it’s not hard to predict success with Overwatch. Stay tuned to PlayStation LifeStyle for our full review closer to the game’s launch on May 24!