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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.

The Reaper, for instance, can go all Gun Kata (warning: violence) on enemies, firing all around him at different angles. Characters also have a passive ability, such as The Reaper's ability to regenerate health from kills, and then an Ultimate Ability, which is charged over time by dealing out damage or fulfilling other conditions.

For instance, Mercy is one of the Support characters. She's an angel-style character and functions as the game's healer. Heal enough of your teammates and Mercy's Ultimate Ability unlocks, giving her the power to resurrect a dead teammate. Used at the right time, it can completely change the tide of a battle.

Then you've got Hanzo, who wields a bow and arrow, and Bastion, a robot that can transform from a mobile assault rifle class to a stationary turret. And again, these are just the four I got my hands on. There are over a dozen characters in the game right now, from an enormous spectacle-wearing gorilla that punches enemies in the face and generates shields for teammates, to a fast-paced teleporting pistol-user, to a robot that (as far as I could tell from watching over someone's shoulder) buffs enemies and karate-chops the air to shoot.

It reminds me of what Blizzard has done with Heroes of the Storm — looking at what Valve has done with Dota 2 and then making a more streamlined, accessible version of the game. In this case, Overwatch feels like Team Fortress 2 but without years and years of add-ons, expansions, hats, and baggage. That's not going to appeal to everyone. Some people really love the complexity inherent to Team Fortress 2 at this point.

What I played of Overwatch was fantastic, though. It's gorgeous, it's as responsive as you'd hope for a PC-exclusive shooter, and the way the various characters synergize and complement each other is seamless at the moment without feeling overwhelming to simply jump into.

In other words, Blizzard is making a shooter, and it seems good. Count me surprised. This is honestly the last thing I would've expected from them, but Blizzard's come out with all the grace and competence of a veteran shooter developer. I guess all those years developing the now-canceled StarCraft: Ghost and Project Titan (the DNA of which is in this game) came in handy.

Look for the beta sometime in 2015 — I think you're going to like it.

 

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