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: Comedians, Cars & Coffee Edition

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There are numerous shows that I should watch but then I gravitate towards something completely out of left field. The HBO special, Talking Funny, was a wonderful look into the minds of comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock. I wanted more of that kind of insight to these funny men and stumbled upon Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. It’s a wonderful web series that gives insight to comedians, classic cars, observations on modern society. It’s also a strangely calming series that gave me an appreciation for coffee ritual.

I don’t do coffee. I enjoy the occasional latte or cappuccino on a date but I’m not one to go out with an old friend to catch up over coffee.

We’ve covered the comedian and the coffee but what about the cars? I don’t have a reverence for cars like Jerry does. I’m at the opposite end of the car spectrum with my electric vehicle. I don’t have a joy or appreciation for driving like others do. I don’t need to hear the rumble or roar of an engine; I prefer the silence and being surrounded by the cushion of technology. Still, it’s captivating to hear others revere the classics.

The game of summer 2016 continues with Overwatch.

Checkpoint: Fitness Edition

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I have this weird relationship with fitness. There’s a clear cut “best route” to take but I refuse to embark on it. I know what I want to achieve and there are superior ways to achieve it but I just refuse to simply go out and jog, follow a P90x routine, hit the gym, lift weights or just go down the well worn path to success. It’s not that I don’t believe those methods are not effective — they just sound incredibly mundane, boring and too much work for me. I needed to buy into a system that worked for me.

I needed a system that worked for me and on my schedule. I started to do push-ups and crunches while watching Pardon The Interruption on TV. It was a 30 minute program and so I would do alternating sets until the program ended. Then I saw a Wii Fit U on sale for $25 or so and was reminded of the benefits of Yoga and I thought to myself: “Why not?” I really enjoyed using it because it provided instantaneous feedback. It was up to me to be honest in my efforts and it required some careful calibration but I genuinely enjoyed using the balance board to measure my improvements.

Now my daily workout shifted from being a 30 minute thing to 50 minutes. I’m watching daily video content from GiantBomb and other Youtube channels of interest. I was going to watch these anyways so why not watch/listen to a few videos while I’m working out.

I also purchased a pull up structure a couple years back in order to do some weightlifting. My goal was to be able to lift my own wait comfortably and I figured this was a great way to see the progress first hand.

As you can see, there are common themes and trends throughout my workout regiment. It had to be relatively easy to work into my daily life without dedicating a lot of time to it. There has to be some form of feedback or progress tracking. And finally, it had to be relatively affordable.

This brings us to my latest purchase: a fitness band. I noticed my brother toning and losing weight after following the activity tracker on his Apple Watch. I don’t like the look or price of the Apple Watch but I wanted the fitness benefits so I looked at fitness bands.

After looking around I landed on the Garmine Vivosmart HR which was a nice blend of features and price. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of smart watch so something like the Vivosmart HR’s screen and notification features fit the bill nicely. So far it’s done everything I wanted but if I were to do it all over again with what I know know, I would have picked up the Fitbit Alta instead. The only criticism I have with the Vivosmart HR is its bulk which can be attributed to the inclusion of the heart rate monitor. While nice to know, my heartrate isn’t something that I need to know to get healthier. If I continue follow the daily activity goals, I’m going to see an improvement regardless.

I’m used to it now but I would have liked to see the Vivosmart HR 5mm thinner. Thankfully it’s light because if it wasn’t, I would have sent it back. It’s supposed to do sleep tracking as well but because of the bulk, I remove it every night before going to bed.

But how has it been as a fitness tracker? I’m well aware of the fact that I didn’t move around nearly enough throughout the day. The regular reminders to get up and move was welcoming and gave me an excuse to just get up and do a lap around the floor to clear the “move bar”. I’m finding excuses to take less efficient routes in order to “get my steps in”. I’ve also forgone sitting around at my desk after eating lunch for a 30 minute walk outside.

Am I seeing the benefits? I’ve owned the fitness band for about a week and half now and I would say yes. I’ve lost about 2 lbs and have the nicest tan in years because of all this walking.

The Pokemon Go app sucks. It’s a bad app that drains my phone’s battery and heats up the case like no other app I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t help that the servers are wonky. But the game itself is fine for what it is. I try to capture some Pokemon while I do my walks but that’s about it. I haven’t done any battling because I don’t care about the battling or claiming territory in this game. I’m trying to keep my phone from dying before the end of the day so it’s not wise to invest so much time in Pokemon Go.

Other than checking out that phenomenon, I’ve been playing daily rounds of Overwatch. What a great game.

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.

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