Game of the Year 2016 #2: Overwatch

Blizzard's newest team-based shooter is one of the most popular games of the year, and with good reason.

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Cassidee Moser: One of the reasons why I love Overwatch so much is the sheer depth it makes available to the player. It's a shooter, but only in the loosest sense. Sure, you can select Solder 76 and run around playing it like it's Call of Duty, but there are so many other options you have to choose from. 

That's also one of the reasons why I think it has taken off as much as it has. In games like Call of Duty, Battlefield, Star Wars Battlefront, etc., a lot of the skill is largely twitch or reaction-based. In Overwatch, you don't have to be the fastest, the strongest, the most accurate; you just have to have a fundamental understanding of your character's job and be able to execute on it. 

Incentivizing multiple strategies and accommodating for multiple play styles is a difficult balance to hit, and they've done so in classic refined Blizzard fashion. 

Steve Watts: Yeah, you really hit the nail on the head. There have been lots of multiplayer shooters, but a few things set Overwatch apart. One of them is definitely its sense of balance, not just between classes and team composition, but with tools built explicitly to reward lots of different play-styles. Shooters are usually pretty focused on K/D ratio, and even some class-based shooters haven't really found ways to emphasize the whole-team dynamic. Overwatch does, and that makes everyone feel like they're contributing regardless of their ability to squeeze off precision shots.

The other part, of course, is its sense of personality. These are characters first and foremost, complete with their own stories and motivations and personalities. There's a reason the animated shorts regularly get views in the millions on YouTube while supplementary material in other games is largely ignored. We can connect with these characters and there's a craving in the fan-base to learn more about them.

Josh Hawkins: I think Overwatch really excels for one vital reason. It has that Blizzard polish. This really expands to cover quite a lot of what you guys mentioned above. The team-based heroes, the abilities that correspond to one another, and just overall the feeling that each match is won based on how your team does as a whole, not just how you do. While I like to joke around and say that Overwatch is a blatant copy of Team Fortress 2 (the ideas are the same), it's really not. There's so much more flesh to Overwatch, and the heroes really work off of each other a lot more. 

I think that one of my favorite things about Overwatch, though, is the fact that you have to know your characters. You can't just choose one guy and constantly go in and wreck shit. That's not how it works. Each hero has their own weaknesses and strengths, and if you really learn to use those strengths and weaknesses, you have the potential to always come out on top. It's a game that rewards people for knowledge about who they are playing, not just knowledge about the maps. For me, that's the number one thing that draws me back to the game when I'm looking for an FPS to dig into.

Steve: You're right, Josh. This is what Blizzard does best. The concept has been done before, but Blizzard consistently finds a way to simplify and distill it into a very approachable and sharp version of something that already works. We saw it with Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, which shook up the MOBA and CCG genres, respectively, for the same reason. Overwatch is already having an impact on multiplayer shooters in the same way.

Speaking of knowing your characters, though, that raises another of Overwatch's particular strengths and, oddly enough, one of its only weaknesses. These are characters more than classes. They all have powers and weapons that are balanced carefully against each other, sure, but they also have personalities that are consistently expressed through their variety of voice lines, victory poses, and so on. It didn't take long for the community to start writing fanfiction and comics, because they have such defined character traits. 

All this plays into the myth-building of the world of Overwatch, which is incredibly intriguing but underserved in the game proper. So far Blizzard seems content to tell its story through supplemental materials like those beautiful digital shorts, but I'm hopeful the long-term plan for the game includes story missions to develop this world. It's such a great premise I want to spend more time in it, experiencing it for myself, instead of only watching it on YouTube.

Joshua: I think that there is definitely a lot of lore and story for Blizzard to work with on Overwatch. I mean, just look at the things that the fans have come up with along the way, and then look at how detailed and beautiful those shorts you mentioned are. There is a lot to the story that we aren't seeing, and I think, to a degree, Blizzard is missing out by not capitalizing on that story. Of course, they could also prefer to let the fans tell the stories, which could explain why they haven't done more shorts than they have. If you haven't noticed, those shorts always give us just enough about the characters to instill more questions within us. This, in turn, pushes some players and fans to create their own stories to help answer those questions, and maybe at this point, Blizzard realizes that by taking that creative control back into their own hands, they'd be essentially killing off one of the greatest fan-fiction communities on the planet.

I think, with a game like Overwatch, with a game that offers such unique characters with so much possibility for back story and everything, that sometimes not telling the whole story can be just as good, if not better, for the community than making sure you answer all their questions. I hope that makes sense. That being said, though, I'd love more Overwatch story. Hell, I'd take a full feature length movie over story missions, if I'm honest. It seems like Blizzard has a solid hold on how to tell a story through video, and if we're honest with ourselves, FPS games can oftentimes struggle to really tell the story the way it's meant to be told.

Cassidee: Overwatch is the one game that came out this year I continue to play regularly. In its very first year, it has only improved through the addition of new characters, new maps, and the various changes and balance tweaks Blizzard has implemented into the gameplay. Add to that the fact that all of the characters have their own distinct identities, the amount of backup and supplementary fiction available, and the possibilities for the game's future, and we have reason to be extremely optimistic about the game Overwatch is and will evolve into. 

For more on team-based shooters and quirky characters, read our official Overwatch review.

2016 Game of the Year Countdown: 

Contributing Editor

From The Chatty

  • reply
    December 29, 2016 12:00 PM

    Cassidee Moser posted a new article, Game of the Year 2016 #2: Overwatch

    • reply
      December 29, 2016 12:01 PM

      What in the actual fuck.

      Someone put their hand on the scale, I demand a recount!

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      December 29, 2016 12:03 PM

      Asif won!

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      December 29, 2016 12:03 PM

      Obviously Shacknews has had russian meddling in the polls.

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      December 29, 2016 12:04 PM

      Thank you for doing the right thing

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      December 29, 2016 12:08 PM

      I loved the fuck out of Dishonored 2, but I'm okay with this top 3. Honestly, they're all great GOTY choices, outstanding achievements in visual and gameplay design albeit in very different ways. We're damn lucky to get 3 all-time greats in one year. Also all available on PC!

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      December 29, 2016 12:08 PM

      This website is trash

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      December 29, 2016 12:11 PM

      Nice try, Blizzard..you would have won if you went full-TF2 ripoff and had added hats.

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      December 29, 2016 12:30 PM

      Thanks, electoral college.

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      December 29, 2016 12:31 PM

      Please understand.

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      December 29, 2016 1:07 PM

      I think the games super fun, but I don't think its the greatest thing since sliced bread, I honestly don't understand the HUGE fan Appeal. Also it's hard to judge a blizzard game since so much Money is spent on marketing and eSports.

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        December 29, 2016 1:16 PM

        It's the best shooter since Q3A. A decent volume of the pro and high end competitive folks have moved over from Q3A / QL, CS:GO, and TF2 since the game's weapons, heroes, engagements spaces, etc. are heavily influenced by many favourite maps, weapons, abilities, etc. of other old school shooters and it's glorious because of it.

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        December 29, 2016 4:35 PM

        Maybe it should be a top ten list.

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        December 30, 2016 5:17 AM

        Because it's really fun

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      December 29, 2016 1:08 PM

      l e l

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      December 29, 2016 1:11 PM

      you mean BastionWatch or HanzoWatch

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      December 29, 2016 1:30 PM

      Unagreed

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        December 30, 2016 7:17 AM

        Oh! My unagreed is that this should be way lower, NOT that it should be #1.

        Don't want to put myself in that category.

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      December 29, 2016 1:37 PM

      It's gonna be DO4M you foolz!

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        December 29, 2016 3:43 PM

        lol biased shack is biased.

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      December 29, 2016 3:18 PM

      Doom seriously won? lol wow

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        December 29, 2016 3:33 PM

        It could be Pokémon Go

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          December 29, 2016 6:26 PM

          I fucking knew it

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        December 29, 2016 3:52 PM

        what's funny about the best game of the year getting goty?

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        December 29, 2016 4:02 PM

        I mean the results were never going to be anything but doom at #1 on this site. Given how old everyone is here and the sites roots, it was a given.

        I only managed to play for 4 or 5 hours and I guess it was ok. Definitely not as enjoyable for me as for the rest of the site.

        Plus, the votes were obviously stacked given how hard briefcase campaigned for it.

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        December 29, 2016 4:38 PM

        I enjoyed it infinity more than Overwatch :(

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      December 29, 2016 3:22 PM

      I'm okay with this.

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      December 29, 2016 3:54 PM

      doom is everyone who stopped playing video games's favorite game

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        December 29, 2016 3:56 PM

        what

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        December 29, 2016 4:39 PM

        Wut

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        December 29, 2016 4:57 PM

        Gtfo

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        December 29, 2016 4:58 PM

        lol sad and wrong

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        December 29, 2016 9:43 PM

        It was a decent game, good even, but not nearly as good as people here seem to believe.

        I'd argue that Titanfall 2 was a better FPS, with a comparable single player and a mutliplayer that is better than dogshit.

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        December 29, 2016 9:50 PM

        I stopped playing other video games after it came out if that's what you mean.

        In fact I bought the season pass so that I could pay them twice.

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        December 29, 2016 10:34 PM

        More like anyone who doesn't give a shit about MP games.

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      December 29, 2016 4:19 PM

      doom was shit. what a crock

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        December 29, 2016 4:24 PM

        hmm actually it was good

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        December 29, 2016 4:43 PM

        lol

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        December 29, 2016 4:53 PM

        This level of extreme violence shouldn’t be considered normal. It's not an excuse to say it’s expected because DOOM. That’s the problem.

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          December 29, 2016 8:24 PM

          Comical over-the-top violence is comical and over-the-top.

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          December 30, 2016 4:27 AM

          Thanks for the update Anita, we really appreciate it. Do you have any other commentary on gaming? Don't tell me wipeout is too fast and promotes street racing and battle chess is about the patriachy or something?

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      December 29, 2016 4:21 PM

      Thank god, the shack still has some moral groundling

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      December 29, 2016 4:27 PM

      Gross.

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      December 29, 2016 4:29 PM

      All of the haters here mad about DOOM should strongly consider just stopping breathing forever.

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      December 29, 2016 4:32 PM

      Why are people upset?

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      December 29, 2016 4:38 PM

      Where is the list of the other games?

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      December 29, 2016 4:55 PM

      I'm okay with doom winning, but didn't vote it since I haven't played the 2016 version

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      December 29, 2016 5:07 PM

      Lotta crying in this thread.

      The following games were all better than Overwatch in every way but hype:

      DOOM
      Blood & Wine
      Planet Coaster
      Inside
      Dishonored 2
      Hitman
      Titanfall 2
      Total Warhammer
      Clustertruck
      Factorio

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        December 29, 2016 5:19 PM

        You heard it here first folks...overwatch, which sold 20m+ copies (probably more than half of your list combined), did it purely on hype.

        A multiplayer game can win awards too, especially one that is as good as overwatch is.

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          December 29, 2016 10:16 PM

          Pokémon Go has been downloaded more than Overwatch. It might be game of the year.

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            December 30, 2016 3:57 AM

            That's not the point. Games, especially paid ones, don't sell that many copies on hype alone. Saying any of those games are "better" is a silly argument anyways, because it's near impossible to compare them and that's not the point of goty in my opinion.

            Saying that it's only merit is hype is a disservice to the game and the people that worked on it.

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        December 30, 2016 5:20 AM

        1) lots of people buy game and love it
        2) lots of people talk about how they enjoy it
        3) "it's all just hype guys"

        Hype doesn't tend to stay around months after release.

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      December 29, 2016 5:16 PM

      Man, I'm gone for one year and the list goes to hell.

      (I'm kidding. We all know the real Game of the Year was Titanfall 2, amirite?)

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      December 29, 2016 5:52 PM

      Calling it now: Shacknews game is the year is STARDEW VALLEY! Good job everyone!

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      December 29, 2016 6:29 PM

      All anti-DOOM complaints are from primary console/controller gamers. My assertion cannot be disputed.

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        December 29, 2016 6:40 PM

        Doom was fun, but not goty for me. I got bored 2/3 into the game, each level being a repeat of waves of the same types of monsters. did not care about the story at all. MP sucked.

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          December 30, 2016 4:07 AM

          How ripping and tearing monsters ever gets old!!! I spent like 60 hours so far and I still enjoy it so much

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      December 29, 2016 7:40 PM

      here's the thing. People expected Doom to be terrible given id's track record over the last 15 years. Remember all the articles/threads discussing how much Doom was going to suck when footage of the MP beta came out? So you went in expecting to be hugely disappointed. Id just didn't understand what made Doom Doom. They were going to ruin your childhood memories (again). You were gonna play "Call of Doom", etc. When it turned out the game wasn't a hot pile of garbage, but in fact was pretty great, everyone was surprised and gave id the kudos they rightly deserve.

      Look at expectations for Overwatch. Over the last 15 years Blizzard has released one mega blockbuster after another. World of Warcraft, Starcraft 2, Diablo 3, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm... These all sold millions of copies and received critical acclaim. How high were expectations going to be for any new Blizzard game? Now how about for their first new IP in 17 years? And how about for their first FPS ever? Considering these insanely high expectations, it's a miracle that Overwatch has been so well received. I'm not just talking about 20+ million players in six months or the half a billion dollars in revenue on PC, but also a vibrant new competitive e-sports scene, characters that have already become part of gaming culture, etc. The game is a massive achievement by more than one measure. But you know, we're talking about Blizzard. This is what they do. It's par for the course.

      I'm going to be more than a little unfair here, but id with Doom is kind of like the handicapped kid who managed to count to 100 without swallowing his own tongue. Blizzard with Overwatch is like the master surgeon who performed yet another septuple bypass surgery... Cool accomplishment, maybe just not quite as remarkable :)

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        December 29, 2016 7:49 PM

        It's the kid who always gets D getting an A+ compared to his little sister who is always a straight A student.

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        December 30, 2016 4:59 AM

        Maybe, although Blizzard had never done an FPS whereas they're all id has done for decades. I love both games, but saying "Meh, of course Overwatch was great, it's Blizzard" is doing it a massive disservice.

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          December 30, 2016 5:12 AM

          Blizzard has basically *never* released a bad/disappointing game (IMO), whereas id released Doom 2016 after literally 20 years of mediocrity (again, IMO).

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      December 29, 2016 7:53 PM

      This obviously leaves No Man's Sky to take the crown.

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      December 30, 2016 4:54 AM

      Overwatch doesn't belong in the top 3, it's a fine game, but it literally just took Dota 2 or hots, made it first person, stole every game mode from TF2, and brought along all of the usual problems associated with MOBAs. It's fun and not a bad game by any stretch but best game of the year? Lol no

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        December 30, 2016 5:22 AM

        Of course it belongs. Overwatch is the biggest phenomenon in gaming this year. It's insanely popular, well made, deep and just flat out fun.

        And attempting to discount it for taking ideas for other games is just silly, especially considering the game that will win goty here is a remake of a 20 year old game with fresh graphics on top.

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        December 30, 2016 9:01 AM

        I totally agree. It's fun enough, but in no way is it game of the year, or close to it. I like to play casually but there were way better experiences this year.

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      December 30, 2016 5:17 AM

      A 24hr ban should be applied to all accounts who believe/defend Overwatch being GOTY over DOOM. Just enough time to give their misinformed idea another look over.

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        December 30, 2016 5:42 AM

        Other way round, bro.

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        December 30, 2016 5:43 AM

        There's a reason why doom won't crack top 5 of many other lists.