Part 2 of our Overwatch write-up. If you're looking for part 1...
Overwatch currently offers three stand-alone game modes: Escort, in which the attacking team must help move a payload to a delivery point within the time limit; Assault, a classic mode in which attackers gradually push their way forward taking points sequentially; and Control, a best-of-three format king of the hill, with no differentiation between attackers and defenders. There’s also a ‘Hybrid’ mode, which throws together the objectives of Escort and Assault in alternation.
W: This might be controversial, but I really liked the Escort mode. It did mean that all the action takes place around the truck (if you can’t find it after respawning it can get pretty lonely), but following and defending the truck felt like a game in itself.
N: Escort definitely led some of the most interesting strategies I witnessed - watching teams playing Bastion turrets on the truck itself and slowly push forwards with Reinhardt covering the front, was the sort of teamwork I’ve typically only seen in the more strategic of FPS titles, like Rainbow Six: Siege most recently. However, Assault was the one that captured (pun intended) me best. It’s always been my favourite TF2 mode and I love how it combines keeping the focus of the action in one place (à la king of the hill) whilst shifting this throughout the map as you progress, making it feel like a real mission.
We all love a little bit of controversy. There was quite a furore around Tracer and, unless you’ve been living under a gaming rock lately, you may have heard of her infamous ‘Over The Shoulder’ victory pose; so infamous in fact that Blizzard eventually announced they would be removing it from the final release, instead opting for a (ironically somewhat pinup-inspired) pose, which fans generally agree showcases more character without compromising on the original styling. Without jumping too much into what could be (and has already been) the subject of a long and ongoing debate, we just wanted to touch briefly on our immediate takeaway feelings on this aspect of the character designs.
W: I’ll be honest, the character designs aren’t perfect. I love the cartoony style which is both accessible and fun while making each player look like a cross between Disney and Manga. But while I liked the exaggerated art style, the majority of females are highly sexualised with svelte figures, giant eyes and even bigger boobs. A lot of the male characters are clichéd too, with a cowboy bearing more than a slight resemblance to Clint Eastwood in his spaghetti western heyday, a robot that could very well have been based on the titular character from Chapi and a gun-toting Grim Reaper-style terrorist imaginatively named: Reaper. The fact there’s only one black character and he rocks dreadlocks, wears rollerblades and is a DJ probably deserves an article all of its own.
N: I’m typically one to steer clear of these sorts of debacles, as - despite the best of intentions, they can often prove a minefield for developers and journalists alike. Whilst the Tracer issue was, in my view, blown out of proportion (indeed, the initial poster raising it was widely lambasted by the community), this was partly down to the nature of the complaint and how it was handled. The initial response from game director Jeff Kaplan saw them apologising for making people feel uncomfortable, rather than actually citing how the pose was inappropriate to the character, who, unlike assassin femme fatale Widowmaker, who boasts an almost identical pose. This led to many fans leaping to the other end of the spectrum and citing “SJW censorship”, spiralling the whole issue into extremes. Kaplan’s explanatory follow-up eloquently tackled this and, personally, I feel Blizzard’s handling of the issue was an appropriately soft-touch in this instance. That’s not to say there aren’t features in the final game some fans may still find problematic - there’s still clear stereotyping and sexualisation going on, though this is something we continue to see in character design across an kinds of media outlets.
So after several games, how do you feel about Overwatch now?
W:There was definitely enough in the beta to get me interested in the single player story mode; each character is so different to one another that I’d love to master their abilities and play out their backstories once the game is fully released. I do struggle to see how tactical you can be in multiplayer though. The crouch ability is so subtle I’m surprised Blizzard kept it in and there’s no ability to lean in or out from behind cover. That, for me, was the most frustrating part of the Doom beta, with it feeling like you were just running around until you found someone and then started shooting while hoping for the best. Overwatch’s different character abilities means there’s more sophistication to your battles, but the rigid set of movements and abilities set to each character means you’ll need to put the time in on single player mode to master your favourite before you can really start owning death matches.
N: I have to be honest, gripes aside, this was some of the most fun I’ve had in a competitive shooter in a long while. It was fast-paced enough to keep me interested throughout, whilst leaving plenty of opportunity to dip in for brief sessions (which all too many of mine often are at the moment), yet it retains a ton of depth. That’s not just in terms of mastering the full array of characters (particularly the more technical roles); the cosmetics unlock system, for example, which we’ve seen Valve put to great effect in the aforementioned TF2, is full of additional content and balances an in-game currency distribution alongside random unlocks to help give you some control over picking out what takes your fancy.
Whilst ‘Play of the game’ does feel a little broken at present - with fortuitous Ultimates or everyone’s favourite friendly robot, SST Laboratories Siege Automaton E54 (a.k.a. The Bastionator) usually making these fairly monotonous - one of my favourite touches is the post-game voting mechanic, which allows players to effectively add a little kudos to one of several highlighted achievements from the past match. This could be anything from a player winning several medals to healing consecutive members of their team. It’s a really nice addition that helps make all role-types feel valued.
Suffice to say, Overwatch has made it onto my ‘to buy’ list.