EXPeriencing Overwatch (and Why It’s Better than Team Fortress 2)

Last year I wrote about watching the amazing cinematic trailer for Overwatch. I also noted that while it was an awesome trailer, it looked like a Team Fortress 2 ripoff. I am here to report that after playing Overwatch in its first week, it may have similar elements to TF2, but it’s not a ripoff. In fact, I am having a blast playing Overwatch—more so in its first week than any time I’ve spent playing Team Fortress 2 in the past three years.

My husband will say I haven’t enjoyed playing Team Fortress 2 because I didn’t give it a chance. However, just like books, if a video game doesn’t hook me after a few hours, what’s the point in continuing? There are too many other good books/games out there to slog through one you don’t enjoy. And in TF2′s case where there is no story, no character development, and no objectives beyond obtaining silly hats and winning five-minute match, there was nothing to keep me playing it. (This is why I haven’t logged onto Steam in over a year.)

Enter Overwatch. There are 21 playable heroes in the game, eight of which are women (as well as two robots and one genetically-enhanced gorilla). It may not be perfectly even, but compared to TF2′s all-male line-up—and almost any other video game’s character pool, particularly shooters—this is something to get excited about. The women (and men) also all come in varying ethnicities and body shapes.

On top of that, each character has an in-depth background. Several have received cinematic shorts à la the trailer (such as Genji and Hanzo and Soldier 76), and some have even gotten comics sharing their background in the Overwatch program (like Torbjörn). These shorts and comics create another layer to Overwatch outside of the game itself that not only create more content to consume, but make you want to play these characters and get to know them in-game, too. Sure, “getting to know them in-game” equates to “what fun voice line can I unlock for 250 credits?” and “what does my left shift button do for this character again?” But this creates a good balance between throwaway characters and Hodor-level devastation when you get shot out of the sky by Bastion in turret mode.

One of the things I like most about Overwatch is that it gives you the tools to be good at it—or at least not completely terrible. You can play against AI and try out different characters and get their abilities under your fingers before you face real people. Nothing shakes my self-confidence quite like getting my ass kicked by other people in video games, so the fact that Overwatch has provided me an arena where I can learn how to not suck at all the characters is a nice touch. And with 21 characters, that’s a lot of abilities to get a handle on.

The game is also built on team collaboration. Unlike Team Fortress 2 where you more or less blindly pick a character and run in, Overwatch helps you compose the perfect team. It tells you if you have too many snipers or not enough support or low team damage. And, the best part, is that people actually pay attention to it. I haven’t witnessed many teams where one or two teammates haven’t switched to different characters after the game says the team composition is off. Every once in a while I’m stuck with a mediocre Hanzo and a crappy Widowmaker and we’ve done poorly, but I’m happy to report that’s rare. (P.S., I’m the crappy Widowmaker.)

My favorite thing about Overwatch, though? It’s just plain fun. As this article from Forbes details, even losing can be fun. Or at the very least, not devastating. Often when playing TF2, because I had no idea what I was doing, losing sucked even more. I was fumbling around, dying all the time, and ultimately letting my team down. In Overwatch, though, even if I really suck, I’m not shamed for my terrible kill-to-death ratio or for not having a bunch of solo kills. Sometimes, sometimes, I even get the play of the game! That’s really fun and makes me feel special, important, and like I contributed to the team.

If you’re at all curious about checking out a new team-based first-person shooter, I would definitely recommend Overwatch! I play on PC, so I can’t speak to the console versions, but shooters are always just better on PCs anyway. Happy shooting!

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