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Few things stir up the gaming masses like an open beta for a highly-anticipated new game, especially one from a developer with the pedigree of Blizzard. Such is the circumstance surrounding Overwatch, their new 6-on-6 team based first person shooter, who is free to play in open beta until Monday, May 9th on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. I’m not great at online first person shooters (see my Battlefield 3 review for more on that), but with Overwatch, there are a few mitigating factors that keep me coming back.

Overwatch - Reaper

Do yourself a favor and fear the Reaper

First off, the game is fun. The mechanics of the various heroes balance out well and for the most part just feel right. Whether you want to soak up damage as Reinhardt or Roadhog, deal it out as Reaper or Genji, mitigate it as Mercy or play a defensive role as Bastian or Torbjörn, there’s a part that you can play in every match. By just changing your hero, you can affect the match in many different ways. As an anecdotal example, when my team was being stymied at a choke point by a Bastian being healed by a Mercy in a Payload match (where the attacking team tries to escort a vehicle to its destination, while the defenders try to hold it back), I switched up from Soldier 76 – whose plasma rifle and rocket spiral weren’t doing enough damage in that situation to really help – to Reaper, whereupon I slipped behind enemy lines with his teleport to take the healer out. The balance seems solid enough that there is usually a counter for most situations.

The post-match Play of the Game does seem to feature some heroes more often than the rest, with multikills using an Ultimate ability being the most frequent plays shown, but it is a nice, polished touch. My one concern is its predilection towards kill streaks causing some players to skew towards focusing on those rather than the individual map’s goals. I also like the way four players get commended for their play at end of the game, and that you can upvote any of them to further boost them, but again people tend to skew toward big kill numbers over team-based ones, like healing or damage blocked. I guess there’s simply no putting the K/D ratio cat back in the FPS bag.

The Overwatch beta is open until Monday, and after that it will release at retail on May 24th.

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