The first time I played a first-person shooter was in 2010 – my friend asked me if I had ever played Call of Duty. Not knowing what it was, but excited to play something other than Guitar Hero (I swear, that’s all we played), I took the controls for my first attempt at Call of Duty: World at War . That was also the last time I ever touched a first person shooter. I couldn’t control my character; I found myself running in circles and staring at the sky, or running into walls and staring at the ground… It was a mess. As you can tell, I came away from those matches feeling utterly discouraged, and shied away from those types of games afterwards. That is, until Overwatch.
I didn’t know what it was, but when I was looking at the list of upcoming games back in January, I was instantly attracted to the game. I knew it was a first person shooter and I knew I hated first person shooters – but I could tell that something was different. So why is everyone crazy about Overwatch?
For me, I believe the art is what essentially grasps the player at first glance. Overwatch’s art looks inviting and appealing to the eye, sort of like a cartoon. It strays away from the fairly realistic art we see in most FPSs. Each map feels welcoming and colorful. That creates a less intimidating space, allowing me to not feel stressed or anxious. With a more realistic FPS, I felt as though I was in a real situation, holding a real gun and letting down a real team – and you’re supposed to feel like that! Overwatch’s lead director, Jeffrey Kaplan, wanted players to feel like they are roaming a bright and hopeful future. This differentiates it from other “futuristic” shooters, who usually portray the future as bleak. Additionally, each character appears as though they’ve jumped right out of your favorite childhood cartoon (much thanks of course to Blizzard’s lead artist, Arnold Tsang). His artwork brilliantly portrays each of the twenty-one characters’ personalities. Just by comparing the games two “lead” characters, Tracer and Widowmaker, we can sort of grasp what their roles are in the overarching story. Tracer’s colors are very vibrant and warm – shades of yellow and orange reflect the character’s merriment. On the contrary, Widowmaker’s colors are very dark and cold – a mixture of blue and purple reflect her hidden motives. Overall, I think the art style and colors perfectly reflect the outlook the game is aiming for.
What truly sold me on buying Overwatch was its plot – most of which has yet to appear within the game itself. So far, we know that the game is set in a future where humans and technology merge. Some time before the events of Overwatch, a technology breakthrough happened: the creation of robots with advanced artificial intelligence called omnics. They became a necessity and factories (or omniums) were placed around the world to create them at a faster rate. However, for unknown reasons, the omnics began to go rogue which sent the world into chaos. Overwatch was therefore created to combat this crisis. The Overwatch team became world-wide peacekeepers and began to do scientific research and space exploration. However, the group began to fall apart due to internal conflicts within the group as well as several accusations of corruption. The Overwatch team disbanded and any activity from then on became illegal. However, since then, the world is still in turmoil; Russia is facing a second Omnic Crisis and tensions within society are still high. Winston, a former member, re-launches the Overwatch in order to help, receiving an immediate response from Tracer, a former member of Overwatch and friend. Tracer travels to King’s Row to watch the head of the Shambali (omnics who believe they’ve received a sort of spiritual awakening), Tekhartha Mondatta, speak on the possibilities of humans and omnics coinciding. The peaceful speech turns sour when Tracer discovers Widowmaker (a member of the terrorist group Talon) attempting to assassinate the Shambali leader. Tracer ultimately fails in protecting him and watches Tekhartha fall to his death. Fast forward to the present, the world now watches the Overwatch team try to return to their former glory.
Much left of the story still remains a mystery, but how did Overwatch incorporate all this history into an FPS? Since it’s original trailer back in 2014, Blizzard has developed the story greatly before the game’s release on May 24th. Along with two cinematic trailers, which provided a glimpse into the story, Blizzard released four animated shorts, each with different stories that lead to where the game is today. On top of that, Blizzard released six comic books! Each one of these stories looks into individual heroes, such as Junkrat or McCree. Did I mention they’re free? On top of all this, Blizzard is set to release a graphic novel, Overwatch: First Strike, set to release later this year. The novel will explore the early days of the Overwatch and hopefully, explain how the events of the game unfolded. By using all these tactics, the Blizzard team caused me, a strict “adventure only” gamer, to ACTUALLY be excited about playing an FPS!
You might be thinking to yourself now, “Kel, that’s all fine and dandy, but I cannot even hold a gun straight in other FPSs, how will I even play Overwatch?” I had this same concern as well. Thankfully, after hooking me in with the beautiful art and interesting plot, the game is fun to play and easy to learn! As mentioned, Overwatch gives players the chance to play as 21 diverse characters, all with different abilities that suit your gameplay. If you play as an offense character you need to make sure you clear an area of any enemies (my personal favorite is probably Pharah). For defense, you want to plant traps and, obviously, protect the given area (Mei’s ice walls are effective!). The Tank class means getting right into the meat of the battle – you have the most health pool after all (try using D.Va). Finally, the support class! The main goal of support characters is to heal your teammates (pretty much all the support characters are fun to play). I would suggest starting out in a training mode or battling AIs in order to get comfortable with some of the characters and learning how to use their signature moves. For example, D.Va can leap out of her mech once it’s destroyed, but becomes extremely vulnerable without her armor. Bastion can destroy enemies with a wall of bullets in turret mode, but is planted in one position making it impossible to defend the behind. Standard moves are effective throughout the game and are very easy to get the hang of.
The game is objective based; you must work as a team to win. This forces players to work more as a team and less as a lone gunman. You concentrate more on gaining the objective (ex: moving a payload), rather than on how many kills you get in one sitting. I found people were thanking me more when I helped them effectively be it by healing, providing a shield or a teleporter. When choosing your character at the beginning of a match, the game will tell you what your team is missing (whether your teammates choose to follow the suggestion is another matter).
The game also doesn’t give me a chance to feel like a total loser. When I jump right into a game, it does take me a couple of tries before I feel comfortable, but after that, I am assisting eliminations or healing my teammates as much as possible. Even though I may have been “eliminated” multiple times a game, it’s the last thing I see on the end screen. What I do see first are my achievements allowing me to end the match feeling positive. “Play of the game” and its voting system also allow for positivity and team strengthening after a match is over. I may not have gotten play of the game, but I am always impressed by those who do. What’s great is that even though you might have played a supporting character, you still have a chance to get play of the game. Afterwards, everyone votes for who they think was the strongest player; you can cheer on your teammates or even vote for the other team if you feel they were better!
It’s a blast!
If you hate first-person shooters like I do, I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised by what Blizzard has brought with Overwatch. Not only is it absolutely beautiful to look at, it has a great story too! You feel personally invested in helping save the future of these vibrant and positive characters. Death to kill ratio does not matter within the game, what really matters is working together. I never found myself truly “sucking” throughout a match; I always felt as though I was helping my teammates so together, we could achieve our goal. This helped ease my anxiety as I never found I wasn’t good nor had people really yelling at me. Overwatch’ setting, plot and enforced teamwork leave me feeling excited and happy after every game – even the ones that ended in defeat. I believe that the reason there is such an Overwatch hype is because the game leaves everyone feeling this way. Thank you Blizzard for opening my eyes to how fun an FPS can be!