It's easy to look at Overwatch and write it off as just another attempt at cashing in on the YouTube crowd: the colourful sort whose claim to fame are Let's Play videos and Twitch channel overlays. Doing so, however, would mean you'd miss out on one of the most rewarding multiplayer experiences this side of Team Fortress 2. And that is indeed what Blizzard is channeling with its very first team-based first-person shooter. What is thus far the first absolutely essential FPS of 2016 breaks out with over 21 heroes, three match types, and one modus operandi: To keep you on the edge of your seat.
It accomplishes this with gusto, oozing polish through every pore. The roster itself is the stuff of class-based shooter fans' dreams. Rather than opting for played-out generic hero archetypes, Overwatch introduces a wealth of different personalities, all with their own unique abilities. Each retains four special skills with individual tools, such as Pharah's rockets, Tracer's speed, and Reaper's deadly Shadow Step.
There's no one-size-fits-all method to turning loose in Overwatch; you must get to know each of the combatants much in the same way you would in Riot Games' League Of Legends or Blizzard's own seminal MMO World of Warcraft. While Overwatch could very easily rely on a wealth of weapons or cliches to sell its brand of chaos, instead it lays out each character's abilities in blood-pumping, frenetic shootouts that call for team cooperation, planning, and more than a little bloodthirst.
Not only is each character endearing and palatable, but most of the challenge lies within figuring out which hero you want to go with for each battle. It encourages experimentation in ways that aren't usually seen in this genre, and when there's good reason to drift from Genji to McCree or from Zarya to Reinhardt, you're going to find yourself returning to the game as a whole, over and over again.
Overwatch is very much built on racking up the kills, rocketing toward victory, and doing it all over again, even in play modes that have been done before elsewhere. There's a finesse here in everything, right down to how hits feel when they connect with enemies, and it’s seen across the game’s four modes. Escort finds players protecting a special payload all the while enemies do their best to intercept. Assault is a capture-the-flag variation where both teams battle over control points. Control narrows things down to one single point, further simplifying things. Hybrid mode patches Assault and Escort together to keep things fresh. Despite only having 4 modes and 12 maps to tear through, it manages to remain inviting and engaging.
Blizzard has compiled some of its most brilliant and daring ideas for Overwatch, in the form of its innovative hero design, effortless matchmaking, and addictive nature. It's fast and furious fun, with an eye toward the future and heart set on making the improvements the genre needs to keep from further stagnating. If there's one FPS you hop online to play with friends this summer, this is it.