Following its most popular beta ever, Blizzard's new multiplayer first-person shooter (FPS) game has arrived. While it's by no means flawless, here's why we've had so much fun playing the game. Here's our Overwatch review. See also: Most anticipated games of 2016.
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We didn't quite realise until we played the Overwatch beta that this game is rather similar to Team Fortress 2 (TF2). Although there are some resemblances, Blizzard hasn't just simply copied the free-to-play title. It's made it its own.
Overwatch review: Price and platforms
Overwatch is available on PC, Xbox One and PS4 priced from £29 on the former for the standard version. Console gamers will pay a little more as usual at £44 for the Origins Edition which includes a few skins for heroes and some digital items for Blizzard's other games. You can also buy Overwatch from Amazon and GAME for a range of prices. Read: PS4 vs Xbox One.
If you want to go all out, the Overwatch Collector's edition which includes items like a Soldier 76 statue, SteelBook case, an art book and the soundtrack.
Read: Best Xbox One games.
Overwatch review: What is it?
As mentioned, Overwatch is an online multiplayer FPS and as such there is no single-player story mode.
Instead, you'll simply queue up on your own or with friends (you can create a party) to play matches with players around the world of a similar level. You'll be part of a team of six players on a random map/game mode. Blizzard played around with different numbers for the teams but found that six was the sweet spot.
With more than 10 million players already, it doesn't take long before you're in the action. The vast majority of the time it only took us less than 10 seconds to find a match. See: Best PS4 games.
Overwatch review: Characters (heroes)
We'll tackle the gameplay and modes soon but let's look at the heroes of Overwatch first since you'll need to choose one before you're let loose in a server.
There are a total of 21 to choose from spread across four different classes: attack, defence, tank and support. The latter is the least represented with just 4 which is a shame. They also range in difficulty with a handy three star rating so you can avoid jumping in the deep end.
There are males, females and robots to choose from and it's refreshing to see that the women are not, on the whole, scantily clad. Blizzard even changed one after a backlash from fans.
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With so many heroes there's plenty of variation, even within each class and you're bound to find ones to suit your personal style of play. As with TF2, you can switch during a match so you're not stuck with a hero until the end like most MOBAs.
Unlimited switching means you can try out lots of heroes within one match or make tactical substitutions based on what's happening at any given moment. If you don't want to plunge straight in, you can either play matches with AI or use the training ground to hone your skills before playing real humans.
Each hero has a completely different makeup including their primary weapon (some have a secondary fire) and abilities. For example, Soldier 76 can throw down a biotic field to heal allies who stand in it while Torbjörn can build a turret. You'll want to choose a varied team to have the best chance of success and you can check your current hero's abilities by hitting F1 at any time.
What's better than TF2 is not only the wider range of heroes and the extra class, but the fact that each hero has an ultimate ability. During regular play you'll charge up a meter by doing things like hitting enemies – or other things like healing if you're playing support – and once it hits 100 percent you can unleash it whenever you want. It remains if you die but not if you switch heroes once it's fully charged.
Overwatch review: Levels, maps and game modes
At launch there are 12 maps on which to play Overwatch and they cover four different game modes. It's not a huge amount but a nice balance of being able to play them regularly enough to learn them well but not so often it feels repetitive. Matches last around 10-20 minutes on average which is a happy medium between getting stuck in and it taking too long.
First up is Assault which simply has one team attacking to capture objective while the other team defend until the clock runs out. Escort is basically the same as Payload in TF2 where you, erm, escort a vehicle along a track while the other team try and stop you.
Control is best of three and both teams are doing a combination of attacking and defending. A single point on the map must be captured to start a meter which reaches 100 once you've controlled the point for long enough.
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The last mode is a combination of Assault and Escort where the attacking team must first capture the payload via a point before it can be taken across the map to the destination.
There are three maps for each mode and you'll rotate around them once you're in a server. Each is set in a different location around the world such as London, Hollywood and Nepal.
One of our only complaints about Overwatch is that we'd like more variation with the game modes. A capture the flag mode wouldn't go amiss and Blizzard is the kind of developer which should be about to bring something completely new to the table here.
You can simply select Quick Play in the menu to jump into a match but as well as the mentioned AI and practice modes, there's a weekly brawl option. This changes and might involve, for example, everyone playing the same hero with 50 percent health, cooldown times etc. The rules change each week. A competitive mode is coming soon.
Overwatch review: Gameplay
As well as the above setting the game up nicely, Blizzard has done lots of little small things to make Overwatch as fun as possible – for veterans and newbies alike. Some of which we've mentioned like the ability to change heroes throughout a match.
There's opportunity to heal, via support heroes or packs around the level, but you will die. Spawn times are quick though, so you'll be back in the action in no time and there's enough of a gap in which to decide whether to change hero (while watching a replay of your death!)
Unlike TF2, you won't need to run around finding ammo. Every hero in Overwatch has unlimited resources which keeps the action fast paced – you'll still need to reload your weapon though.
After the fun is over, you can't help but think 'just one more match' whether you've won or lost.
To avoid players leaving when the game isn't going so well there is a leave penalty. Once a threshold is reached you'll get a 75 percent reduction in XP until you get back below the threshold.
At the end of the match you'll be awarded medals – gold, silver or bronze for the players on your team with the most kills, objective time, damage done and other stats. You can also check how you've done on a personal level, overall and how you've done with each hero you played. You can vote for the best player of the match from a few automatically selected bases on different things.
You'll also be shown a 'play of the game' which is far too often, via the algorithm, a multi-kill from an ult rather than something genuinely clever or a support hero making that play even possible – it could do with an update.
Although you don't level up or anything during a match, you do gain XP points from each match you play. You will gradually level up your Overwatch account and each time you reach a new level it will affect the players you're matched with and you also get a Loot Box which contains four random items such as skins, sprays, victory poses and more. With 54 items for each hero to collect, you can spend money buying boxes if you just can't wait to level up. It's a shame you can't spend in-game credit or even real money buying the exact item you want. Also on offer are achievements, trophies and portrait frames.
There might be some things borrowed from Team Fortress 2 but Blizzard has done a grand job with Overwatch. It's fun, fast paced and accessible to a wide range of players of different abilities. A great range of heroes and well thought out maps makes for an online shooter up there with classics like Unreal Tournament 2004. We'd just like more game modes, better play of the game selection and another support hero.