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Overwatch hands-on: Blizzard's shooter is a weirder, more accessible Team Fortress 2

Hayden Dingman | Nov. 10, 2014
If you missed the news this morning, Blizzard is leaving its real-time strategy wheelhouse to develop--I swear--a first-person shooter titled Overwatch. "Wait, the Blizzard? Of Diablo and StarCraft and WarCraft fame?" Yeah, that Blizzard is making a shooter. Prior to this morning's keynote, I even tweeted about the possibility as a joke. That's how remote the idea seemed. And then it happened.

If you missed the news this morning, Blizzard is leaving its real-time strategy wheelhouse to develop — I swear — a first-person shooter titled Overwatch. "Wait, the Blizzard? Of Diablo and StarCraft and WarCraft fame?" Yeah, that Blizzard is making a shooter. Prior to this morning's keynote, I even tweeted about the possibility as a joke. That's how remote the idea seemed. And then it happened.

Moreover, the game is surprisingly good.

Keeping the peace

We don't know much of the lore behind Overwatch yet. Judging from the trailer, it seems that the titular Overwatch was a band of heroes that restored peace to Earth after a period of extended warfare. For whatever reason, Overwatch was eventually disbanded, with the various heroes turning into mercenaries.

Now they're back and fighting. From Blizzard's Overwatch panel this afternoon it seems like each character has an extensive background. Because this is a fully multiplayer shooter, however, there's no telling what form the "story" will take in the finished product, especially since characters can fight on both teams simultaneously — there aren't identifiable factions in the game as it currently stands.

There are already more than a dozen characters to choose from in the demo here at BlizzCon, each with unique abilities and guns. Characters are split into four different groups: Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support, though according to Blizzard these groupings are "loose" and are only there to guide players toward a specific play-style.

The demo consists of two rounds, one where your six-person team is on offense and one where you're on defense. There are two objectives you either need to capture or defend, with the attacking team racing against a time limit. Blizzard's also shown off a cart-push level, where one team has to get a railcar from one end of a level to the other by standing on it. Step off, and the car starts slowly rolling back to the start.

If Overwatch sounds a lot like Team Fortress 2, well, it is. It's a bit slower-paced than Team Fortress 2, but from the hyper-stylized and colorful art style to the various character roles, Valve's legendary shooter is a good touchstone.

Defenders have two minutes to prepare for the attack, while the attackers sit in a room and wait. You're able to see every character your teammates have chosen from the character select screen, allowing you to outline a plan and fill holes in your roster, but as far as I could tell every single person on your team could play the same character if they wanted.

Kill-streaking

I started off with one of the characters from the trailer — the masked Reaper, who wields dual guns, teleports, and is wreathed in shadow. To give you an idea how the game plays (for those who don't play Team Fortress 2), you fire your primary weapon with the left mouse button, but you can also trigger multiple special abilities by tapping the E, Q, and Shift buttons.

 

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