Overwatch is a first-person team-based multiplayer shooter video game, released by Blizzard Entertainment in 2016.
The game is set about 60 years in the future. Previously, an army of robots (called Omnics in gamelore) fought a worldwide revolt against humanity before a group of skilled soldiers, scientists, adventurers, and oddities teamed up to help suppress the revolution. Afterwards, they stayed together and recruited more agents to become Overwatch, a global peace-keeping and scientific organization. Overwatch was eventually brought down by corruption from within and attacks by a shadowy terrorist cabal called Talon. But new challenges to world peace have arisen, and a new Overwatch has risen from the ashes of the old.
As a team-based shooter, Overwatch has received a number of comparisons to Valve Software's Team Fortress 2. There are a number of similarities in the objectives, but escort, control, and assault missions have been pretty common fare for almost every shooter, but beyond that, there are significant differences in art design, character classes, play styles, and more.
The main point of similarity with Team Fortress 2 has been the decision to fill out a lot of the world and character backgrounds through animated videos. Where the TF2 folks have mainly kept their videos light-hearted with their endlessly fun "Meet the Team" videos, Overwatch videos have been a great deal more dramatic. They're exceptionally well-made -- but that's to be expected from Blizzard, which has been making amazing game videos and trailers ever since the first Diablo game.
Overwatch features a staggering 30 characters to play, generally separated into Damage characters (the majority of characters, previously subdivided into Offense and Defense classes, who are able to dish out lots of damage), Tanks (who have lots of hit points and the ability to shield teammates), and Support (who deal in healing, buffs, and debuffs). Each character has a unique ultimate ability (commonly called an "ult") which provides a powerful boost to the player's team, either through increased damage output or through improved defense or control abilities. Ultimate abilities only become available after a certain amount of time, which can be sped up through the use of their attacks and powers, and each is accompanied by the character saying a certain phrase, which also gives the opposing team the opportunity to get out of the way of the attack or to eliminate the player before the ult can be triggered.
- Ashe: The gunslinging leader of the Deadlock Gang, this Western femme fatale wields a rifle called the Viper that can be fired from the hip or down the scope for extra accuracy and damage. She also carries a Coach Gun that knocks back enemies and also propels Ashe farther away from foes -- not to mention sticks of Dynamite she can throw to cause explosion and fire damage. Her ultimate ability is B.O.B., her massive robot butler/sidekick, who charges in, knocks enemies into the air, and shoots everyone with his arm cannons.
- Bastion: An Omnic robot that went dormant after the Omnic Crisis and then unexpectedly reactivated with a more peaceful attitude, Bastion has three modes of attack. In Recon mode, it can move around and attack with a machine gun. In Sentry mode, Bastion is stationary but possesses a wonderfully powerful gatling gun. Its ultimate ability is Tank mode, in which it fires explosive shells from a cannon.
- Cassidy: An honest-to-Wyatt Earp cowboy and bounty hunter, Cole Cassidy shoots foes with his Peacemaker revolver and tosses flashbang grenades to stun enemies. His ultimate ability is the Deadeye, which lets him hit every enemy in his visual range with a devastating killshot. (This character was originally named Jesse McCree, after a "World of Warcraft" developer. The character was renamed after his namesake resigned for being a rapey son-of-a-bitch.)
- Doomfist: One of the leaders of Talon, this Nigerian cyborg believes conflict is the only way mankind can advance. His primary attack, the Hand Cannon, fires from one hand, but his most powerful abilities originate in his gigantic gauntlet, including the Rocket Punch, Rising Uppercut, and Seismic Slam. His ultimate ability is the Meteor Strike, which allows him to leap high into the air, then smash his fist into the ground, dealing high damage to enemies within range.
- Echo: A sleek, graceful robot, Echo attacks with Tri-Shots and Sticky Bombs, as well as a Focusing Beam that deals increased damage to foes with less than half their health. She can also fly and glide. Her ultimate ability is Duplicate, which allows her to mimic the appearance and abilities of any opponent -- and the rate that she builds to an ultimate ability is also vastly increased, allowing her to activate a duplicated ultimate very quickly.
- Genji: A cyborg ninja and estranged brother of Hanzo, Genji attacks with shuriken and a katana, is able to climb walls, and can deflect projectiles with his sword. His ultimate ability is the Dragonblade, which greatly increases the damage he deals with his katana.
- Hanzo: Archer without peer and estranged brother of Genji, Hanzo has a number of attacks he can accomplish with his bow, including long-range sniper shots, fast-firing Storm Arrows, and a sonic arrow that reveals where opponents are. His ultimate ability is the Dragonstrike, which summons gigantic spirit dragons that devour any foes who get in the way.
- Junkrat: A mad Australian bomber, Junkrat's main weapon is a grenade launcher, but he also attacks with an oversized bear trap and a concussion mine that he can trigger to blow up enemies or to launch himself into the air. His ultimate ability is the RIP-Tire, a motorized, remote-controlled tire packed full of powerful explosives.
- Mei: A Chinese climatologist, Mei attacks with an Endothermic Blaster that chills foes with a frost beam or shoots deadly icicle projectiles. She can also create ice walls and encase herself in ice to heal. Her ultimate ability is the Blizzard, a weather-control drone that creates a wide area of extreme cold that can freeze opponents solid.
- Pharah: A former member of the Egyptian Army, Pharah wears advanced battle armor. Her jet pack allows limited flight, and her wrist-mounted rockets provide plenty of damage. Her ultimate ability is Barrage, which launches a hail of powerful rockets over an area.
- Reaper: Gabriel Reyes, former Overwatch leader turned traitor. Now a skull-masked terrorist, he attacks with his high-powered Hellfire Shotguns. He can also teleport, take on an intangible wraith form, and heal himself with the lifeforce of defeated enemies. His ultimate ability is the Death Blossom, in which he unleashes massive damage with his shotguns on everyone around him.
- Sombra: A devious hacker working with Talon, Sombra attacks with a simple Machine Pistol, but has a number of unique abilities that let her have limited control over enemies. She can Hack enemies to make them unable to use their abilities and can even Hack first aid kits so that enemies can't use them. Her Thermoptic Camo allows her periods of brief invisibility, and her Translocator lets her throw a beacon into an area and then teleport back to it at any time. Her ultimate ability is the EMP, which allows her to hack and disable all opponents and shields near her.
- Soldier: 76: Jack Morrison, former idealistic Overwatch commander, current embittered mercenary. He can attack with his Heavy Pulse Rifle and Helix Rockets, and he has an area heal for himself and his allies. His ultimate ability is the Tactical Visor, which gives him perfect aim for a few seconds.
- Symmetra: An Indian architect who uses light-manipulating technology, Symmetra can fire a damaging beam from her Photon Projector, toss small Sentry Turrets around the battlefield to slow and damage enemies, and place Teleporters around the map to improve her allies' mobility. Her ultimate ability is the Photon Barrier, a gigantic, map-spanning energy shield that blocks ranged attacks from the other team.
- Torbjörn: An extremely short but impressively bearded Swedish engineer, Torbjörn specializes in automated defense. His automated turret is a terror on the battlefield, and his Overload ability lets him briefly supercharge his armor, damage, and speed. His ultimate ability is the Molten Core, which let him create highly damaging pools of molten slag on the battlefield.
- Tracer: A time-displaced British pilot, the relentlessly cheery Tracer fires twin Pulse Pistols, can teleport short distances, and is able to shift herself backwards in time to heal herself and get out of rough situations. Her ultimate ability is a Pulse Bomb she can throw to cause massive damage.
- Widowmaker: This brainwashed French assassin is armed with Venom Mines, a grappling hook, and her deadly Widow's Kiss rifle, which can switch from sniper rifle to machine gun at a moment's notice. Her ultimate ability is Infra-Sight, which allows her and her teammates to track opponents through their thermal signatures.
- D.Va: A South Korean pro gamer with her own battle mech, D.Va's mech has fusion cannons, micro missiles, a rocket booster, and a defensive shield. Her ultimate ability is Self-Destruct. She ejects herself from her mech as it's primed to explode, causing tons of damage to her opponents. Luckily, she can summon a new mech almost any time.
- Orisa: A friendly, four-legged omnic built by 11-year-old robotics genius Efi Oladele to protect her home city of Numbani after an attack by the villainous Doomfist, Orisa attacks with a Fusion Driver and can drop a stationary Protective Barrier to shield teammates. She can also Fortify herself to reduce the damage she takes, and her Halt! attack fires a gravity pulse that pulls opponents out of their positions. Her ultimate ability is the Supercharger, a device which increases the damage her allies can deliver.
- Reinhardt: An elderly, bombastic German wearing a massive suit of battle armor, Reinhardt carries a gigantic Rocket Hammer and can create a large energy shield -- he can't attack while the shield is up. The rockets in his armor let him launch himself forward at high speeds, flattening anyone in his way. His ultimate ability is his Earthshatter -- he slams his hammer on the ground knocking down anyone in front of him.
- Roadhog: An obese Australian thug in an ominous gas mask, Roadhog attacks with his Scrap Gun filled with chunks of metal shrapnel. He can also throw his Chain Hook at targets to pull them close to him. And he has a health pack he can plug into his gas mask to heal himself. His ultimate ability, Whole Hog, lets him blast out high-damage shrapnel that drives foes backwards.
- Sigma: A dangerously deranged scientist granted gravity powers in a failed experiment, Sigma can defend allies with his floating Experimental Barrier and his Kinetic Grasp, which lets him stop projectiles in midair. He attacks with a pair of Hyperspheres; he can also use his Accretion ability to telekinetically gather debris and fling it at foes. His ultimate ability is Gravitic Flux, which lets him lift all enemies in an area and then slam them back to the ground.
- Winston: Well, he's a hyper-intelligent science-gorilla wearing powered armor and a pair of nerdy glasses. And he lives on the moon! Winston shields allies with an energy-based Barrier Projector, makes astounding leaps with his Jump Pack, and zaps foes with his Tesla Cannon. His ultimate ability is Primal Rage, in which he goes berserk and pounds the stuffings out of his opponents.
- Wrecking Ball: Hammond is a genetically-engineered hamster piloting a ball-shaped mech. He was friends with Winston on the moon, and he fought in the mech arenas in Junkertown in Australia. He attacks with Quad Cannons and can convert his mech to roll much faster. While rolling, he can activate his Grappling Claw to swing around the battlefield, even smashing opponents with a Piledriver when he builds enough speed. His ultimate ability is the Minefield, which deploys mines over a large area.
- Zarya: This pink-haired Russian weightlifter attacks enemies with her gigantic Particle Cannon and can apply temporary shields to herself and allies -- damage absorbed by the shields increases the damage of the Particle Cannon. Zarya's ultimate ability is the Graviton Surge, a gravity bomb that sucks in the opposing team.
- Ana: An Egyptian sniper and Pharah's mother, Ana was thought dead for many years after Widowmaker had shot out her eye on a mission. Ana uses a biotic rifle and biotic grenades that simultaneously heal teammates and damage foes. She also has a dart pistol that will put enemies to sleep for a short period. Her ultimate attack is the Nano Boost, which temporarily makes one of her allies stronger, faster, and less prone to injury.
- Baptiste: A Haitian combat medic on the run from his former employers in Talon, Baptiste carries a Biotic Launcher which fires standard bullets as well as healing grenades. His Regenerative Burst lets him heal himself and allies over time, and his astonishing Immortality Field actually prevents allies from dying while they're inside its area. Plus he has Exo Boots that allow him to jump high to get a wider view of the battlefield. His ultimate ability is the Amplification Matrix, which creates a rectangular zone which vastly increases the damage and healing of projectiles fired through it by allies.
- Brigitte: Daughter of Torbjorn, Brigitte is a Swedish engineer who served as her godfather Reinhardt's squire for many years before deciding to join him in the field. She wields a Rocket Flail that heals allies as it damages enemies. The flail also comes equipped with a Whip Shot to enable the occasional long-range attack. Brigitte carries a high-tech Barrier Shield for protection -- and to stun enemies with a quick Shield Bash. On top of all that, she can provide healing and armor with Repair Packs. Her ultimate ability is Rally, which lets her move faster and provide armor for all nearby allies.
- Lúcio: An upbeat Brazilian musician with a high-tech sonic gun, Lucio attacks with sonic projectiles, but his primary abilities use his music to either heal or increase the speed of his allies. His ultimate ability is the Sound Barrier, in which he gives his teammates sonic shields.
- Mercy: A doctor outfitted in a suit of angelic winged powered armor, Mercy has limited offensive ability, with most of her abilities focused on healing. Her Caduceus Staff can heal or empower allies, she has limited flight capabilities, and she can Resurrect fallen allies. Her ultimate ability is Valkyrie, which boosts all of Mercy's powers, as well as allowing her full flight abilities.
- Moira: A courtly Irish mad scientist working with Talon, Moira uses biotic technology to heal allies and harm foes. Her main attack is Biotic Grasp, which can be used for both damage and healing. Her Biotic Orb bounces a ball of energy around the battlefield to either heal or damage players. She can also teleport over short distance. Her ultimate ability is Coalescence, a long-range blast of energy that does tremendous damage to enemies and provides powerful healing boosts to teammates.
- Zenyatta: An Omnic monk seeking enlightenment, Zenyatta's abilities are largely tied to the metal orbs surrounding him. The Orb of Harmony heals allies, the Orb of Discord amplifies the damage opponents receive, and the Orb of Destruction is his primary means of attack. His ultimate ability is Transcendence, which makes him faster and immune to damage while healing nearby allies.
Mission types are pretty standard: Assault, where one team tries to capture two points on the map in succession; Escort, where one team must escort a payload from one end of the map to the other; Hybrid, which requires one team to capture a point and then escort a payload to its destination; and Control, where both teams compete to control a map point. Maps are from all over the world -- London, Mexico, a dead-end town on Route 66, a Chinese skyscraper complex, a Greek resort, a Russian factory, a deserted castle in Germany, a beautiful African metropolis, a Hollywood studio backlot, a moonbase, and even an amusement park themed around Blizzard's other video games. The worst thing about all the maps is that you never have time to explore them in depth.
Player experience and advancement play out a little differently than in other games. You do receive experience points for your matches, whether against other players or against computer-controlled bots, and you do level up. But gaining a level doesn't improve your skills, damage, or anything else. Instead, you receive a Loot Box, which contains four items which can be used to personalize individual characters. This may include voice lines, emotes, sprays (like a quick grafitti tag you can spray on any surface), appearance skins, credits that can be used to buy new customization options, and much more. You can also purchase extra Loot Boxes with actual money.
Some of the most cherished game rewards don't offer any experience points at all. One is the Play of the Game -- at the end of every game, a player who enjoyed an exceptional moment of gameplay will be spotlighted with a cool intro, followed by a replay of their best moment. This is usually a high kill streak, which means characters with low offensive capabilities nearly never get PotG. The second is the card system. After the Play of the Game is played, up to four stylized playing cards will be displayed on the screen with four players who had the best performances -- defensive and support characters are just as likely to appear on the cards as offense players. Everyone has a few seconds to vote up one player who they felt did a great job and deserves recognition. Neither the Play of the Game nor the cards offer any benefit beyond ego boosts for a few players, but they're often hotly debated by players who thought, for instance, they deserved the PotG the most.
The game has gotten excellent reviews, and not just from the video game press. Character design has gotten a lot of praise, particularly for the diversity of the cast. They come from just about all races and from all over the globe. There's a decent split of male to female characters, and Blizzard has suggested that multiple characters are LGBTQ.
A sequel to the game, Overwatch 2, was announced in 2019. At this point, most development and updates aside from some seasonal skins were halted, and the game essentially went into standby mode. It took clear until October 2022 for the sequel to be released, with the original game's servers being deleted a few days before the sequel launched. Personally, I gave up on this game sometime in 2020 -- there was no development being done, and the game looked like it was starting to spiral down to a permanent closer. Plus Blizzard Activision was revealed as the kind of aggressively and unapologetically abusive, sexist, anti-labor, rape-happy hellhole that no consumer should support. I enjoyed playing these characters. But I can entirely live without the sequel.