Overwatch is Team Fortress 2 done right. Despite the initial cartoony appeal of Valve’s class-based shooter when it was first released, a problematic pattern would surface itself on public matches repeatedly: deadlocks. Huge ones. Games could drag on for very long (even with a Medic’s Ubercharge), and most maps usually favour the defensive team. Give them time to entrench themselves with the right classes, and it could take several minutes for the attackers to make progress towards the objective.
Another design flaw of TF2 is that some classes, like the Spy and Heavy, are simply impractical for higher-level play. The Spy in particular, is designed to be a lone wolf who penetrates the enemy lines away from his teammates. The Heavy is just simply too damn slow. The Pyro only excels in close-quarters and is useless in medium to long range combat. This leaves us with only the Demoman, Soldier, and Scout — the only practical combat classes who can also push forward quickly as a team with their momentum boosts. Overwatch rectifies this problem by making each character viable, depending on the map and objective.
I was initially apprehensive about the ultimates in Overwatch. It felt to me like Blizzard was pandering too much to the MOBA genre with such skills. But that’s exactly what they are meant to be: powerful abilities designed to break deadlocks and disrupt defences. Matches also end much quicker compared to TF2, due to the shorter time limits for each map. Much like Heroes of the Storm for MOBAs and Hearthstone for TCGs, Blizzard has successfully streamlined the class-shooter into snappy, 10-15 minute sessions. Long enough to have a proper match, yet short enough to prevent any true tedium from setting in.
I also love how each of the different characters are catered to different playstyles. Everyone keeps talking about how Soldier: 76 is well suited to the traditional FPS gamer, but so are Pharah and Reaper. Splash damage rockets and jetpacks? Anyone who has played any Quake, Unreal Tournament, or Tribes game will be able to translate their skills learned from those games straight into Pharah. And any player skilled with hitscan weapons and circle-strafing will be able to dominate at close range with Reaper.
Yet, if you are absolutely hopeless in first-person combat, you can still contribute to the team with Lucio or Mercy. Lucio in particular, is an essential support character for any team. He’s also incredibly easy to use. Stay within proximity of your teammates to buff them with an AOE heal or speed boost. Keep yourself safe. Assist your teammates occasionally with some damage from your sonic projectiles. Use his ultimate to help push or defend an objective. Repeat. In fact, I would recommend Lucio over Mercy for newbie FPS players. Mercy requires some level of forethought and tactical judgment to use effectively. You need to know how to prioritise healing the right member in your party (hint: heal every other injured member before Reinhardt — he can survive longer with his shield) and you need to know how to heal safely while keeping yourself out of harm’s way, since Mercy needs to have line of sight for her healing beam to reach her target.
Every time I see another “Can Overwatch become an eSports hit?” article from the gaming media, I chuckle and shake my head at the futility of the question. ANY videogame can become an eSports title, you just need a community dedicated enough to demand one. I have spectated and reported on the highest levels of Team Fortress 2 competitive play before (for the World Cyber Games). Even Left 4 Dead had a highly competitive scene for the first six months of its release. If those games can have successful eSports runs then yes, Overwatch will become the next FPS tournament hit.