Blizzard’s new multiplayer FPS, Overwatch, has already sold at least 7 million units. Since these numbers were reported a few weeks ago, the real total is probably much higher. So, why the obsession with this new FPS?
The answer to this question is both simple and complex – much like the game itself. The short answer: Overwatch is a blast. It’s just a good game from top to bottom. Great physics, controls, and a unique but familiar “feel” that invites newcomers yet remains solid after dozens of hours. Another big draw is the well-balanced characters – a host of unique personalities and weapons/abilities that has players defending favorites with no clearly over-powered ones in the bunch – really the balance is incredible. The environments are also a colorful blend of plainness and intricacy that offer no worries about their repetition due to both obvious main routes where everyone gathers to rumble, and side channels that allow for careful sneaking and private battles. And although there are really only two game modes right now (objective and escort), it’s enough to satisfy players in the game’s early days.
Furthermore, Overwatch has a fun, refreshingly non-violent art design. Its cartoony style initially turned me off. But, as I began to play, I realized that the sort of sluggish mentality of the game allowed players to better assess the battlefield. This in turn afforded a deeper level of awareness largely excluded from games in favor of extreme detail. This kind of graphics often makes for an overly active warzone that limits recognizing and understanding how to deal with every action taking place.
But the real reason people are drawn to this deceptively deep shooter has less to do with what the game offers and more to do with what other games, particularly the most popular FPS’ like Call of Duty or Battlefield, don’t - teamwork, true teamwork. Just like WoW before it, in order to achieve in Overwatch, you need to understand the characters and their role in connect to the group. This requires something that is often missing in gaming – humility. You need to be humble by understanding your character’s (and your team’s) limitations in order to take advantage of the enemies. Although players can certainly stand out and change the course of the game, Overwatch isn’t so much about your kill/death ratio as it is about problem solving.
How do we take out that turret? Hanzo can you pick it off? Their Reinhardt is blocking up the entrance pretty good. Genji, go around and get him with your dragon blade. Lucio, use your sound barrier right before we charge the point, okay?
Playing a game of Overwatch is as much a chess match as it is a standard FPS shoot ‘em up. Sure, you need the necessary skills to aim for headshots and keep moving to avoid the general chaos combat offers. But, more than likely, ultimate success in any given game will be about the seeming minutia of the match; the consistent duels like getting off Junkrat’s mine before Reaper death blossoms in order to push him out of the objective, or tricking the opposing team into charging Zarya’s shield before she sucks them into her gravity well and grenades them all to high heaven. These moments are where matches are won or lost. What’s better? They are all highly visible and where Overwatch players can truly show off their skills. Games are decided by players coming together to work off these moments which requires that key concept – teamwork.
In the end, what is perhaps most surprising in all this is the fact that Overwatch isn’t really reinventing the wheel. The comparisons to another juggernaut of the FPS world, Valve’s Team Fortress 2, are apt. But, it’s been years since a game like this really took the public by storm. It’s the timing and the polish that lifts Overwatch from good to great. It’s like an awesome cheeseburger. Sure, you’ve had dozens of cheeseburgers before, maybe even some really wonderful ones. But this one, this cheeseburger, this is the cheeseburger that really defines ground beef. And since gamers are just seeing the opening notes to what will more than likely be another magnum opus from Blizzard, don’t be surprised if Overwatch is around for a long time, evolving in new directions over the years, upgrading its status from a great game to a legendary one.