23rd Oct2019

‘Overwatch: Legendary Edition’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Chris Thomas

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If you have somehow missed it, Overwatch is a team based multiplayer shooter that has been very popular for about 3 years. It comes from Blizzard, so you know it seems simple but has been obsessively designed. It is now up to something like 31 playable characters, which are all wacky cartoons that really do their best to cater for everyone. Furthermore, the characters have multiple fun abilities too; and the character designs are also very cool and make it very clear exactly what play style a character is going to have.

Important to note, there is no single player campaign (I would have loved a Gears of War style “horde mode” at the very least). This game lives or dies on the strength of its multiplayer and its multiplayer community. This has got particularly murky of late, as famously a professional Hearthstone player has been reproached by Blizzard for expressing support for the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

I sometimes imagine the design meetings for the tabletop game “Malifaux” to be extremely scattergun. Why decide what genre of game we want, when we can just throw everything together and just let people pick what they like (cowboys, robots, steampunk, horror, monsters, Japanese style…). Overwatch takes the same, random approach. Intelligent apes? Robots? Cowboys? Death? Sure, throw it on the pile. If it is fun, it is in. There is nothing wrong with that. In the increasingly dark, and murky world we live in something that is just “fun” has intrinsic value to me.

There are three broad types of characters to play from – tanks, damage dealers or support and, the best teams tend to be a fine balance of different approaches and play styles. Certainly, some characters are easier for beginners (I found Bastion, the minigun turret robot or one of the healers, like Mercy simple to get my head around as a n00b).

As a new player who doesn’t know anyone involved in a game the game can be harsh. No matter which character you select, if you wonder off on your own hoping for the best you are probably in trouble. There are characters (like death, or the snipers) who can be effective on their own, but these tends to be characters with a steep learning curve. If you are at the bottom of that learning curve, you had better stick with your team mates and try to be helpful. Having said that, for a competitive, popular first-person shooter it is no Counter-Strike. It is relatively rare to get one shotted by something, albeit the exploding mech seems to get me from quite a long way away and that can be frustrating when it is not clear exactly where it is. However, If you stick to what your character is good at, and work with your team mates the game can be thrilling. It is extremely satisfying when everything clicks.

I am not deeply into Overwatch but I have played it on PS4 (the non-pro kind) and on PC for perhaps 50 rounds. I play to have fun, but as someone who was only ever any good at Left 4 Dead or Halo (Swat mode) among the many FPS games I have tried, I find I tend to get more kills then deaths at Overwatch. I hadn’t played in about 12 months, but I jumped in for my first game with the new hero “Baptiste” who is a healer with a rifle. I managed to walk away with 2 deaths to 12 kills, much to my surprise. There are also apparently now 17 maps included in Overwatch, and they are very well designed to create fun and balanced objectives.

Is the Switch version the one I would recommend to everyone? No. The game runs with the best performance on my decent gaming PC, with the prettiest visuals and the best frame rate. On PS4 the frame rate is still high enough to give a smooth experience, and if you are someone who takes their competitive shooters seriously a smooth experience is not simply visual, it will affect your performance in game. If you are this person, you will know that the PC is where you should be playing, with a fancy mouse and keyboard and a mouse mat made of military grade Kevlar.

On the Switch the frame rate aims (and sometimes fails) to hit a modest 30 frames per second (FPS). In that sense the Switch version undoubtedly gives the worst experience. If you are competitive, stay away from this experience. I would also say that the Switch version when docked and playing with a pro controller is a bit choppy, and again, for a competitive shooter this is not ideal. When each round starts I notice that my character seems to lurch around a bit, not a lot, but more than you would want if you are taking this seriously.

However, what the Switch version does give you is flexibility. If I want to sit on the sofa, while my wife watches Downton Abbey on the telly I can do that with the Switch version. If I want to go to a café or play a few games before bed I can. The experience on Switch is not so bad as to write it off, the performance is “OK” and the game is still fun. Really fun.

Would I recommend the Switch version of Overwatch? Well, I already have 2 versions of the game (I paid for all 3 versions with my own money FYI) and I still see value in the Switch version. It is however important to understand that getting this on the Switch comes with pros and cons. For other people it might not be the right decision to pick this up on Switch, rather than PC or one of the more powerful home consoles. If you want to sit at a desk or at a TV to play Overwatch, the Switch version is not right got you.

I am not playing to win in any serious way, I am playing for fun. And on the Switch, this game is fun.

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