What The Tom's Team Played This Weekend: 'Overwatch'

Do you know someone who goes to watch a movie, gets through about 15 minutes, pauses it to do something else, and then repeats this cycle until the credits roll? It seems like that would get frustrating after a while and completely ruin any sense of immersion the movie was trying to create. I'm the same way about games--it feels strange to play for a few minutes, pause the game, and then come back for another few minutes. Because I often find myself stealing game time away from my actual responsibilities, that means I need something I can play for a little while and then abandon for a bit without having to feel guilty for ruining the pacing of the carefully constructed sequences found in many games.

Enter Overwatch. Blizzard's competitive first-person shooter has become my latest obsession in large part because of my ability to drop into a game, enjoy it, and then wait to queue for another while I do housework or run errands. Overwatch doesn't expect you to sit through 20-minute cutscenes and then make your way through a long level before a surprise boss fight taunts you for thinking you'd be able to leave the game so soon. Nope. Overwatch has me wait a few minutes to find a game, play for five to 20 minutes, and then decide when I'm ready for some more. If I want to play for hours on end, I can. (And have.) If I just want to engage in a little deathmatch before work, well, I can do that too.

Surprisingly Deep

But the on-demand shots of dopamine Overwatch provides aren't its only draw. The game also has a surprising amount of depth: It features 27 heroes (and counting) who all have unique mechanics and must be assembled into six-person teams. (With good synergy--I see you, people who pick Hanzo when we already have a Widowmaker.) Each team is then plopped onto one of 17 maps across four game types, each of which has its own set of rules and win conditions. Where many FPS titles would emphasize learning a gun's spray or becoming familiar with a few different maps, Overwatch requires anyone who takes it seriously to understand an intricate web of mechanics, strategies, and rules.

All that depth feeds perfectly into my addictive personality. It's easy to watch high-level players stream to pick up on how certain heroes should be played, or to see coaches break down what went wrong in someone's previous games by reviewing their VODs. New tools have also debuted to help you analyze your own gameplay with machine learning, for example, or work through various strategies on all of the game's maps. Even when I can't play Overwatch, I can think about it, and that can be a welcome distraction when I'm cleaning the house or running some errands. And, of course, there are always previous Overwatch League matches to watch if I want to see professional gameplay on the big stage.

Gaming With Strangers And Friends

There's also the social aspect. Queuing into games with up to five random people is always a bit of a crapshoot. Just as with any online game, Overwatch has its fair share of trolls, griefers, and plainly unpleasant players. But it also has many people who can be funny or who take the game just as seriously. Playing with friends is even better--now instead of wondering what we should play, we can hop into Overwatch to have a shared experience without competing against each other. (Some people don't handle losses well; at least on Overwatch you're on the same side.) Things can get lonely here in the frozen tundras of upstate New York, so online games help me socialize without freezing my body parts off.

Of course, none of this would matter if Overwatch wasn't fun. Besides the satisfaction of figuring out the game's intricacies, it's also just plain fun to hook someone into Roadhog's scrap gun, click on heads as McCree, or slice the enemy team apart with Genji's katana. Balancing that bloodlust with each mode's objectives--which require you to capture an area, push a payload, or perform some variation of those two--makes everything fast-paced and exciting. Sometimes things can get a little too hectic, and playing with a tilted or toxic teammate can suck the life out of the game, but for the most part Overwatch simultaneously appeals to my desire for action with my love for strategizing.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.

  • Soda-88
    Hanzo/Widow is (pro) meta on Junkertown (and sometimes on Gibraltar)

    Nice failed meme attempt

    Also, it's odachi, not katana (big size difference)