What is Overwatch Bringing to the FPS Genre?
If you haven’t been paying attention Overwatch, Blizzard’s attempt at an FPS, was announced at BlizzCon. This game picks up the pieces where TITAN, Blizzard’s unannounced attempt at a Sci-Fi MMO, had fallen when they announced that this project was scrapped. The announcement at BlizzCon came complete with gameplay footage, a teaser and a site that outlines a lot of the details of the game to come. We’re going to take a look at what information has been provided at face value and see if Blizzard is just capitalizing on a popular genre or if they plan on pushing the genre forward with this game.
What Is Overwatch?
Let’s start with what is known:
- Overwatch is a highly stylized, fast-paced first person arena shooter.
- You go into 6v6 matches choosing to play as a certain character with limited skills and weapons.
- Your character will have certain abilities built in that will help you kill enemies or provide support to your allies.
- There will be an array of maps to choose from and currently only two game modes announced: Payload and Point Capture.
- Payload is about escorting an objective through the map while the enemy team fights to keep you from advancing.
- Point Capture is about one team trying to advance to capture points on the map as the defending team fights to keep them from capturing the objectives.
- When your character dies you will have the option to instantly change to a different character.
That is about all we know honestly. We know it is going to be very similar to other arena games currently out like Team Fortress 2 or Monday Night Combat. I think it looks sort of like the love child between Team Fortress 2 and Firefall.
There are currently twelve characters planned for the game. Each character will fit into one of four roles: offense, defense, tank and support. Each character has different abilities and weapons in order to provide a unique style of gameplay for any player.
It is important to note that, while there isn’t an announcement that I know of, there appears to be plans for more characters in the immediate future. In the cinematic trailer you catch a screen that has all the important members of Overwatch. There are a lot of detailed characters here that we could potentially see. Even in the video the young kid in the yellow shirt names three additional characters we don’t know about: Soundquake, Fusionator and Doomfit (assuming I heard and spelled them right).
I’m on the fence about these characters. Some of them are straight up ripped off from Team Fortress 2 and popular cannon in a way to appeal to players. Mercy is Medic, Tracer is Scout, Symmetra might as well be Engineer, Widowmaker is Sniper and that isn’t even the worst of it. Hanzo looks like a ranged version of Mitsurugi from Soul Calibur who is based off of Miyamoto Musashi and Winston looks like he is from Planet of the Apes.
Let’s also point out Widowmaker’s catch phrase, “One shot, one kill.” As if I haven’t heard that a million times from any sniper trying to be a super badass.
Alternatively there are some seriously creative character ideas here. Zenyatta is a pretty awesome concept that I can’t think of any other game touching on and I like how Symmetra, while a pretty obvious mechanics rip, is a pretty original character in of herself. Also I love Reinhardt but I just have a thing for bad asses bringing a hammer to a gun fight.
I mean what can honestly be said here that isn’t totally obvious. Payload is Payload from Team Fortress 2 and Point Control is Attack/Defend. It is a high speed game that is more about cutting through objectives quickly than playing out a long term game.
I guess I can’t be too upset about the gameplay following standard, popular formats. The genre as a whole can’t be expected to do too much more than it has already done. You go with what works and you build it from there. The problem I’m having is how obviously and directly ripped from Team Fortress it seems to me. There could have been so many ways to make their Payload and Point Control unique but they just went with what has already been done.
As I stated before Overwatch is the outcome of TITAN being shut down. So what we have here are assets and ideas being reused and slightly revamped to fit into this genre of game. This is all well and good. I can’t expect Blizzard to throw those assets away and I’m glad we’re getting some new game from the pieces of TITAN.
What I’m disappointed about is that despite those pieces we are getting very little that pushes genre forward. I wanted something that made Overwatch stick out as a game on its own merits rather than just its style. I was hoping, after we saw Reaper spin around like a top for the third time, that they would show us that we could change weapons or use alternate skills or anything. Ultimate abilities are certainly interesting but it isn’t something we haven’t seen before.
Despite all this, though? I’ll play it. The game looks like a step forward, at least visually, from Team Fortress 2. That will get me in the door but I certainly hope they can do something to keep me engaged in the long term.