Overwatch is all the rage. I was skeptical at first, but I eventually succumbed to the hype. In the first couple of hours, I didn’t get it. This didn’t feel like a competitive first-person shooter, a genre I’d grown to love. However, Overwatch gradually changed me. It challenged my expectations and assumptions in regards to the FPS genre and I suspect will have a lasting impact on those that follow it.
I first jumped into the game thinking, “it’s a first-person shooter, I know what I’m doing.” I was partially right; Overwatch is technically a first-person shooter. But it’s also a hero shooter, which meant I absolutely, totally, one-hundred percent had zero idea what I was getting into. I therefore got my ass handed to me, repeatedly. I’d go into every battle head on, always hitting shift to sprint (stupid) and unsurprisingly, losing a bunch and angering my teammates. Instead of thinking I was doing something wrong, I naively assumed that I was not meshing with this game. Put simply, I became doubtful that this was a game that suited me.
But then something clicked. I watched how others played, I got some tips from my friends and all of a sudden things began to make sense. With Tracer and Lucio, I needed to move just as much as I shot; with any support character I always needed to keep something between me and the enemy and concentrate my fire on my allies; with Torbjorn I needed to hang back, dropping turrets and taking potshots; and with Reinhardt I could simply sit at the objective with a shield up and bash away any enemies that dare come close.
Realising I didn’t have to always hunt down and kill enemies, I found satisfaction in playing to the characters strengths, ignoring my personal stats, contributing to the team and playing the objective. This caught me by surprise. See first-person shooters have – until now – conditioned us differently.
I’ve played competitive online shooters extensively, probably consistently since Halo sunk its hooks in me. My play time in Modern Warfare 2 was eventually counted in terms of weeks. Since them, most annualised, mainstream, triple-A shooters have been the same. Regardless of which character or loadout you selected, the aim was the same; kill as many people as you can. We’d aim for a low K:D ratio above all else.
But Overwatch expects more, it expects better. It asks you to think and play intelligently, actually focusing on the objective (justifying differences in game modes). It seems oddly weird to actually concentrate on winning games for a change, rather than managing personal stats. Overwatch has essentially rewritten the FPS rule book I’ve lived by for the last ten years.
Contributing to every elimination, every objective score and every victory is made incredibly satisfying due to Overwatch’s exceptional game design, incredibly diverse characters and complex balancing. It’s totally challenged my expectations of an FPS in a genre traditionally saturated by more formulaic iterations of established franchises.
Overwatch’s finest achievement may be its mass appeal. Gameplay is paramount and in it exists a game for everyone.