Overwatch PS4 Review

Overwatch PS4 Review

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Companies such Apple, Nintendo and Blizzard were cut from the same cloth. Their ideas aren’t unique or original but the way they re-imagine and implement those ideas is what makes them special. As such, Blizzard’s latest game, Overwatch isn’t an original idea; it’s a culmination of many ideas formed into one of the best multiplayer first person shooter experiences to date.

Blizzard brought their their production values and their creative flair to the Team Fortress 2 formula. Instead of nine characters filling specific roles, Blizzard expanded the roster to 23 heroes categorized into one of four roles. Many heroes shared similarities to those found in Team Fortress 2 but their game changing Ultimate abilities allowed each of them to impose their identity onto a match.

Most (if not all of) Team Fortress 2’s success was on the PC. Team Fortress 2’s console counterparts were abandoned after Valve couldn’t update as frequently or as their Steam version due to the console manufacturer’s red tape. But times have changed and companies like Blizzard can now update with more regularity. This is important because Blizzard are offering characters, maps and other items for free. Aesthetic items such as skins and emotes can be found in chests aka Loot Boxes as Blizzard calls them. The only form of monetization from Blizzard thus far is the opportunity to buy additional Loot Boxes for cash. I don’t mind this kind of monetization if it keeps the community together.

There are 23 heroes and only a handful of maps and modes but it’s the heroes that give the game its dynamism. The maps are fixed and lack game changing alterations opening opportunities for players to commit them into memory. Knowing the location of a health pack can determine life and death. Different heroes offer different mobility issues which could mean the map that I knew inside and out from one hero’s perspective is incomplete as another.

People will approach the heroes differently. Some will focus on one that they like an attempt to master it while others like myself have picked one or two for each role. I will switch roles and heroes as the situation dictates. I’ve found stubbornly trying to will a certain hero into every situation may not work with every team composition or situation. Being adaptable has its benefits in this game.

Voice chat is available on consoles but finding people using it in public matches is a rare occurrence. Thankfully, informative automated callouts warn teammates of enemies behind them and even the presence of a teleporter (which I argue is too helpful for teams and narrows the opportunity of the teleporter’s usefulness too quickly). A built-in radial menu contains additional voice callouts like “Need Healing”, the status of Ultimate abilities and the request to “Group up”. It was surprising how little voice communication was necessary to function as a unit in public games. Voice chat will undoubtedly help with the speed and accuracy of calling out flanking enemies or more complex situations but I felt Blizzard did a remarkable job facilitating team play without voice chat. In fact, I’ve played in games where voice chat actually hurt a team where arm-chair Generals try to dictate team compositions or too many people responded to a single flanking enemy.

Overwatch is the first Blizzard title that I see myself following from its launch and onwards. (I played Diablo III early on but fell away until the PlayStation 4 release.) Ongoing free support is ingrained into Blizzard’s DNA and witnessing the rollout of Competitive mode, a new character, balance changes and a seasonal event like the “Summer Games” has been very interesting. I don’t always agree with their implementation or decisions but Blizzard have done a stand up job communicating intent and delivering on those intentions.

What makes Overwatch stand out from its competition in the shooter space is the art direction; it’s lighthearted and colorful with a style that will age gracefully with time. The game runs at 1080p and 60FPS on the PlayStation 4 but there’s still room for improvement in texture quality that I would like to see. But those graphical criticisms fade into the back of my mind in the midst of the action.

For me, the most surprising aspect of Overwatch was its controls and how customizable they were. Each hero has his or her set of abilities. Some were straight forward with a standard outfit of two abilities and their Ultimate while others featured weapons with alternate fire modes on top of the standard outfit of 2 abilities. I quickly realized Overwatch was a game that benefited from mapping the jump function to L1 (aka Bumper Jumper configuration). Being able to jump/float and shoot was crucial to playing the rocket pack wearing hero, Pharah. I don’t know how effectively play as her otherwise. Being able to customize each hero’s button configuration was essential to learning each hero played and how they best fit my style.

Blizzard de-emphasized the kill-death ratio metric prevalent in so many multiplayer first person shooters. I love how the end of match screen highlights contributions by healers, defensive units along side eliminations and elimination participation. Healers may have a negative kill death ratio but it doesn’t matter when they’ve healed away a third of the opposing team’s damage.

Overwatch is a feel good shooter. There is a tough and deeply competitive team based shooter buried in it as well but it’s possible to never interact with that side of the game. Blizzard spends time trying to matchmake players of a similar skill level so that players can just hop in pick one of the nearly two dozen characters that I resonate with them and not get destroyed on a regular basis. It feels great to play, it looks and runs fantastically but so do many other games out there. What I appreciate most about Overwatch: the sense that Blizzard cares about making a game that embraces quality over quantity.

Verdict:
I love it

Ratings Guide

Checkpoint: Overwatch Competitive Edition

Checkpoint: Overwatch Competitive Edition

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Overwatch attracts a lot of new comers to the game and it becomes readily apparent when you see people gripe about the game’s newly added competitive mode. It’s not perfect by any means but I can tell by the way certain people play and complain, that they’ve never played a game with ranking.

There are issues such as the manner in which they’ve presented the ranking system, the implementation of sudden death and the lack of severe penalty for people who leave a game early. Other games such as Rocket League have already solved these issues which makes it puzzling to see Blizzard and Overwatch take these missteps.

Ranking

Blizzard should have gone with a tiered system (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum etc) instead of the 0 – 100 rank system where players are seeing their levels rise and fall after every match.

Sudden Death

Both teams should have the opportunity to defend and attack in Sudden Death. It should have been a stopwatch style game mode instead of leaving the losing team wondering what could have been if they were on attack or defend.

Punishing Leavers

I’ve only witnessed 1 person leaving a match early but c’mon Blizzard. They should force players who quit early to sit out for 10 minutes or so like Rocket League. I understand there is a risk of being banned for the season but that’s obviously not enough of a deterrent to even stop people from quitting more than once.

A Start

After my placement matches, I ended up on 58 but after a night of rough games with fellow GAF players who aren’t as good as I thought they were, I fell to 52 or so. I don’t mind losing the ranks; it happens. But I am bewildered by how the approach of some teammates. The same issues found in early level public games were found here as well. I’ve played with some of these people so I was surprised to see them exhibit these tactical/strategic errors but then again they are just people.

Checkpoint: Feel Good Shooter Edition

Checkpoint: Feel Good Shooter Edition

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I picked up Overwatch and I’m enjoying it wholeheartedly. I love it’s coloful style and inconsequential nature. But what’s really fascinating is the hold it has on people. I saw folks on my friends list play for 10+ hours on Saturday. I logged on to play some Ratchet & Clank and they were there. I went away and came back several hours later, they were there. We’re not on some kind of synced schedule here, their parties have been running for 3+ hours straight.

What makes it so addictive though? Is it the drive for getting their favorite costumes? The drive to win more matches? There are no weapon unlocks whatsoever. It’s a quality game and I enjoy it but I haven’t found the desire to play it for such long sessions. I’m certain those blind boxes play a big part but this isn’t the first game to implement them and I haven’t seen so many people in so deep like this.

Perhaps it’s also the obfuscation of traditional shooter performance metrics. I cannot tell if I’m the weak link on a team and there’s no way to really point out that one person who isn’t pulling their weight and thus nobody is going to quit out of frustration. There’s a win/loss percentage in the career profile but it’s stashed way in that profile page and unless you’re going out of your way to check it out, there’s really no indicator of your poor performance. Blizzard will happily highlight your successes though.

What an ingeniously designed game.

LTTP: StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

LTTP: StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

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Hell, it’s about time.”

Recalling that StarCraft II announcement trailer warms my heart. I followed the media rollout for StarCraft II but when I discovered the entire StarCraft II saga was split into three titles, I decided to wait for the inevitable Battle Chest. I bought StarCraft and Brood War that way, so I figured it made sense to do the same for StarCraft II.

But low prices are tough to ignore. So when I saw StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and the Heart of the Swarm expansion were available for $9.99 each, I couldn’t resist.

I like StarCraft but I never played them “properly”. It’s a numbers game and yet I try to play it like a quality over quantity game like Company of Heroes or WarCraft III. I usually start off well but never manage to keep up with my ever expanding source of minerals. I also tend to diversify my armies way too much and never focus on doing one thing well. It’s why I had to bump the difficulty from Hard to Normal for the final bout against Kerrigan.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty introduced conveniences that I’ve come to expect in a modern game let alone a modern real-time strategy game. Checkpoints and adjustable difficulties make it convenient to cater the experience to my skill level. Embedded tooltips demystify the resource gathering enigma and ensured novices knew how many SCVs to employ for optimal rate of return. All these player aids gave me a false sense of confidence going into the game.

I decided to play StarCraft II on Hard and was quickly reminded how out of touch I was. I had to restrict myself and pick one or two things to exploit and not stretch myself thin. I successfully made my way through the 25 or so missions but couldn’t conquer the Queen of Blades herself. Blizzard eased the need for duplicate Terran buildings by offering upgrades that enabled them to pump out multiple units simultaneously but I found that reinforced bad habits.

Although it was a bit disheartening to finish the game with a conceit, I was still very away with what I played. Blizzard did an outstanding job modernizing StarCraft and its style of realtime strategy. I expected them to introduce new units and a continuation of the story. I didn’t expect them diversify the missions like they did. I didn’t expect to play a mission that focused on the Terran ability to relocate their structures by fleeing a fiery wall of death. I was amused by their clever take on the capture and hold missions where I was defending and using a giant laser drill to access an ancient vault and fend off oncoming Protoss who were none too pleased by our presence.

Upon further reflection these missions weren’t as unique as I originally thought but the window dressing and setups made them standout. At the end of the day, I was still plopping Marines into bunkers, building Supply Depots and upgrading my troops’ abilities. It’s a shame that they weren’t able to permanently outfit their troops with better gear. You’d think that would be possible with all that technology.

I love the Mass Effect series for giving us the freedom to choose missions and development paths of its crew. I’m guessing Blizzard shared my sentiments because I love their integration of those ideas into StarCraft II. I played as Space Sherriff turned Rebel, Jim Raynor and was in command of his Battlecruiser, the Hyperion. Every mission on the Star Map had its rewards in the guise of new units, credits and Research points to enhance and customize units to my liking. I was able select missions based on my needs at the time. For example, I wanted ways to fend off the primary antagonist, so I decided to focus on the Zerg centric improvements first.

Unfortunately, this is where StarCraft’s past and present were at odds. On one hand, I was interacting with key characters and making unit defining decisions. On the other hand, I was still starting from scratch most of the time by building barracks and pumping out faceless units. It brings into question the logistics and priorities of Jim Raynor and gang. Apparently, Kerrigan means everything to Jim and she’s worth sacrificing countless of those criminals turned Space Marines to rescue.

The game wasn’t sailing at 60FPS but I was fine with the in-game performance on my PC. I was irked by the long loading times which I would have mitigated with an SSD install if I had known. They were surprisingly long compared to more technically demanding titles.

Admittedly, picking and choosing missions simply meant I was reordering them. There were only a couple of instances where my choice of mission would lock out an alternate mission. The decisions weren’t tough to make and I could see the difference in outcomes were relatively minute but I still appreciated the fact that they offered choices. I would love to see Blizzard take this idea further resulting in players making tougher choices.

After five years, I finally finished StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. I’ll take a brief break before tackling Heart of the Swarm but I am looking forward to manipulating the moist and terrifying units that are the Zerg. I’m very curious what Blizzard installed in the place of the Terran Hyperion ship. Am I inside a giant Overlord? I’m also very curious how they’ll handle the characters, news feeds and even music for the Zerg. Will I be chatting it up with a Zergling? I can picture the Protoss’ take on the Hyperion but I can fathom how Blizzard will handle these insect-like creatures. Fortunately for me, I don’t have to wait three years to find out.

Verdict:
Must Play

Ratings Guide

For more information on StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, visit the official site.

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