Overwatch Preview: How Is Blizzard’s New Class-Based Shooter Shaping Up?

In the past week, the FPS genre has been taken back to its roots with the arrival of the highly-anticipated Doom reboot. Featuring fast-paced action, a stripped-back story, and a focus on straightforward blasting with fewer in-depth RPG elements than we may be used to by now, Doom is something of a refreshing change for players craving simpler pleasures from their first-person-shooting experience.

Hot on the heels of id Software’s hellish adventure comes Blizzard’s latest game, Overwatch. Next week, this blaster hits the PC, Xbox One and PS4, following a well-received beta. This class-based shooter looks set to be a blast, giving players plenty to enjoy, but will it bring anything new to the table?

Let’s take a closer look …

More Characters Than You Can Shake A Shotgun At

overwatchAt launch, Overwatch offers a roster of 21 characters to play as, each with their own unique abilities and design. However, while we’re used to a choice of characters in multiplayer games, Blizzard are actually working hard to make sure Overwatch goes a little further.

The differences between characters are pretty bold, and come down to more than just varied costumes or voices. Like the heroes and villains of a fighting game, Overwatch’s characters are bold, colourful, and not unlike those in the recent Battleborn or the classic TimeSplitters series. For example, rather than commandeering some bland counter-terrorist agent or gruff marine, players can choose from the likes of cockney time-traveller Tracer, a cybernetic-enhanced gorilla named Winston, or the truly bad-ass-looking Reaper.

This latter character is a masked warrior wielding twin shotguns, blessed with the ability to take a ‘wraith form’. Once activated, this ability turns Reaper into a shadowy figure for a limited period; during this time, Reaper is invincible and can even phase through other characters. However, as a trade-off, he’s unable to actually fire his guns or use other abilities whilst hidden.

Players are likely to find this ability handy to make a quick escape when overwhelmed by enemies, or for sneaking up on opponents before materialising to pump them full of buckshot. Part of the game’s fun is likely to be found in learning when best to use abilities, and finding which characters can be thrown together to make the most effective teams.

A Class Of Their Own

overwatch previewAs you can see from a glance at the game itself, there’s a strong element of fun and visual flair in Overwatch. The characters’ designs are distinctive and dynamic, while the environments themselves are all equally pleasing to the eye. While they don’t appear to be the most detailed locations ever committed to disc, they’re gorgeous to look at as they zoom by.

Did we say ‘zoom’ by? We sure did – Overwatch is a fast and furious game, not unlike Doom. Strafing, jumping, and switching weapons is all slickly fluid. Characters able to jump higher than others, such as the jet-pack-carrying Pharah, can gain a major advantage over enemies by gaining a bird’s-eye view of levels and escaping their line of sight.

Overwatch’s classes include: offence; defence; tank; and support. This is nothing gamers haven’t seen before, but Blizzard have clearly put real thought into making characters within each class feel distinctive. Players will need to invest time into experimenting with the roster, trying out different classes and seeing which abilities and weapons they prefer.

overwatch the gameThe class you choose will affect your experience, and give you a certain role within your team. Offence-class fighters are mobile and powerful, but only have a modest portion of hit points; tanks, on the other hand, can take plenty of hits and work best to draw enemy-fire away from more vulnerable team-members. Every player will have their own instant favourite, but each class and character has their own advantages and disadvantages. Mastering every character should keep players coming back again and again for some time to come.

After each death, players can choose to play as a different character – this is a nice feature that gives you the freedom to try another if your current fighter isn’t quite working out.

Four main game modes are available: Assault; Assault/Escort; Control; and Escort. Players can also make the most of custom modifiers to tweak levels, and take part in ‘weekly brawls’ with ever-changing rules. You can also play against AI bots as practice or to take a break from the online competition, honing your skills at your own pace.

Players looking for a fresh team-based shooter should be very excited about Overwatch. The thought and effort put into giving each character their own unique look and feel is admirable, and Blizzard is clearly looking to make team-work more important than other similar games have in recent years. It might not be reinventing the FPS genre, but it may breathe new life into it.

So far, it looks like there’s going to be much to love about Overwatch – fingers crossed it lives up to its potential!

What has you most excited for Overwatch? Let us know!