Shooters are not prone to positivity. Whether it's a grim illustration of objectivism as a societal foundation in BioShock or a striking commentary on senseless violence in Spec Ops: The Line, the genre typically doesn't have settings, characters, or themes that are uplifting. A fallen world makes way for endless scenarios for shooting stuff up to stop bad things, but instead of worlds where entropy reigns and snuffs out life, what if one were filled with people, places, and stories that inspire? What about a world worth fighting for from the start that portrays a better tomorrow? Overwatch strives to address this void, but instead of merely filling it, it overflows with streams of joyful imagination.
That's not to say that conflict and tension don't permeate this universe. Bitter rivalries, worldwide conflict, and a spin on racial equality with "omnic" robots fighting for their rights alongside humans have seen to events like the tragic destruction and criminalization of the Overwatch organisation. Despite valiant heroes retiring and falling from grace as a result, the game exemplifies that hope, redemption, bravery, peace... Such things can and will survive. The game's intriguing lore, wondrous universe, and charismatic characters have seen to this.
"Just as its themes emphasise the power of positivity, Overwatch's direction indicates a future that shines bright"
Nowhere will you find a more diverse, memorable cast to play as on thoughtfully designed maps around the world. Each and every character represents nationalities and personalities that are as idiosyncratic as their mechanics and abilities are. Snappy, intuitive controls make playing easy to learn but hard to master with varying elements of multitasking, precision, and more required to play effectively. You can find a character with a play style that resonates with you and vice-versa, but either way, no one can escape the natural inclination to play as everyone over time since they are all utterly compelling and unique.
Since team compositions and different maps and modes demand adaption on the fly, you'll find yourself fluctuating between roles not just between matches, but during them as well. You do what's necessary for optimal teamwork, for this is a rare multiplayer shooter that necessitates selfless cooperation. You play outwardly rather than inwardly, so if anyone looks out for themselves, defeat will be assured.
While there may only be three modes, the outcomes and ways in which matches play out eliminate concerns of repetition. Analysing enemy locations, altering roles, and switching strategies consistently engage your intellect and awareness, and the same goes for watching out for and communicating with your team. You'll never feel a more complete sense of belonging and camaraderie than you will in any other multiplayer shooter than Overwatch. Your team is counting on you for victory. A single person can turn the tide of a match. You and others will feel the weight and excitement of that as you naturally clamor to work together.
It helps that the game's incredibly balanced as it is, and even when it's not, Blizzard is always on top of adjusting stats and rules to refine the experience. A steady flow of seasonal events, characters, maps, and more have all but solidified the studio's passion and sincerity to do right by the community and the universe it's building. The game seems endlessly engaging with new content and changes adding to its depth, and with an ever-growing community to boot, it can only go up from here. Just as its themes emphasise the power of positivity, Overwatch's direction indicates a future that shines bright.
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Do you reckon that Overwatch deserves the Play of the Game in this year's Best Of list? Pick your hero in the comments section below.