Overwatch Features

We're about halfway through the first season of the Overwatch League and yesterday I was able to watch a few games in person at the Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles. Blizzard has always been a major player in the world of esports, but the Overwatch League, with its franchises and its plans for permanent stadiums in major cities around the world, feels different.

FeatureOverwatch the game versus Overwatch the esport

We're not quite all soldiers now.

Overwatch's lineup of colourful kooks is one hell of a departure from genre norms. Valve's Team Fortress 2 had industry-leading silhouettes, but it's hard to compete with special-forces granny and company. It wasn't surprising, then, to see Overwatch bring in crowds other shooters never catered to. It turns out the people really enjoy the diverse cast Blizzard has brought to play. Overwatch near abandons the idea of the typical gravelly white guy (the one present was turned into a "tough dad" by the fandom). And while the studio has a spotty history with representing different colours and creeds, with Overwatch, Blizzard appears to be making an effort to become the frontrunner for inclusion in the triple-A games space.

FeatureLetter from the meta: This week's top Hearthstone decks

Along with all the latest news from Metabomb.

A note from the editor: Metabomb is Gamer Network's specialist competitive gaming site with a particular emphasis on Hearthstone. Each week we're inviting the team to bring you a round-up of all the biggest news and events they've been covering.

FeatureLetter from the meta: This week's top Hearthstone decks

And all the latest news from Metabomb.

A note from the editor: Metabomb is Gamer Network's specialist competitive gaming site with a particular emphasis on Hearthstone. Each week we're inviting the team to bring you a round-up of all the biggest news and events they've been covering.

Sin City is the global capital of gambling. Casinos with colourful chips, well-postured croupiers and automaton pensioners plugged into slot machines. At first glance it might not seem sinister, but strip back the glamour and Las Vegas paints a sad picture - its denizens cogs in a billion-dollar machine fuelled by potentially addictive gaming. The novelty of the place can hide its true intentions.

Have you ever been sure that something was a fact? Perhaps something you 'know' to be an unequivocal truth, so you stroll to Wikipedia to look into it and upon getting there realise you were wrong. Perhaps you've even had a group of friends agree upon the validity of a statement, only to find you're all wrong. Now, imagine a huge cluster of seemingly unconnected people claiming something existed in exact terms, only to not be able to find concrete evidence of it. That's close to what a portion of Overwatch players are experiencing at the moment.

I've picked a hell of a time to pen a love letter to Mercy. As these words are being written, the Overwatch-playing internet is having kittens over the long-awaited arrival of Doomfist - Talon elder, social Darwinist and a pugilist whose right hooks show up on a seismograph. Doomfist is yet another damnably cool addition to a line-up of damnably cool characters, all of them worthy of a game by themselves. His most terrifying facet may be his passive ability, which applies a fresh layer of overshield for every punch that connects, allowing a rampaging player to weather the concentrated wrath of the other team. But he's still going to need a medic at some stage, particularly if he falls into Sombra's clutches, and who better to supply the juice than a cybernetic valkyrie from Switzerland.

A year on from launch, Overwatch is a struggling eSport

This time last year, it was almost unthinkable that Overwatch's eSports scene and the word failure could ever appear in the same sentence. But that is the situation we find ourselves in.

The first few months of Overwatch's eSports life were positive. Small scale LAN events were semi-regular, there were online competitions offering a few thousand dollars a couple of times a month, and big name organisations were picking up teams left, right and centre.

But then BlizzCon happened, and the Overwatch League was announced. Blizzard promised a big-money league with location-based franchises and no relegation, but that is about all they said. At the time this seemed like one of the biggest and most positive announcements the world of eSports had ever seen - but now, just a few months on, with no news on when the League will launch, it is often credited with decimating Overwatch's growing competitive scene.

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FeatureJeff Kaplan on the pressures of being Overwatch's game director

"Literally all night, every night, I'm thinking about the game."

The Overwatch community is infatuated with Jeff Kaplan. As Blizzard's first-person shooter has attracted a passionate fanbase from across the globe, so has its game director, thanks to his willingness to step in front of a camera, or jump into the forums to speak directly to players about the issues they care about. From sweeping hero redesigns to the removal of an overly-sexualised pose featuring Tracer's butt, Kaplan is almost always involved in the biggest conversations surrounding the game.

FeatureSay it in less

On the joy of leaving your mic off in multiplayer.

"Two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall," goes an aphorism penned by the French mystic and political activist Simone Weil. "The wall is the thing which separates them but is also their means of communication. It is the same with us and god. Every separation is a link." I doubt Weil would have been very pleased to see this sentiment applied to a video game like Rainbow Six: Siege - in which the only god is line-of-sight, and tapping on walls is a great way to get yourself shot in the ear. But I like to think she'd have appreciated how creatively players of such games reach out to one another through the simulation's constraints, especially once you remove direct speech from the equation.

2016: A year in review

2016 was a strange year for video games. Recent memory is dominated by a handful of high quality blockbusters that failed to excite people. But let's not forget earlier this year, when a handful of superb blockbusters definitely did excite people. And I'm not just talking about Street Fighter, either (don't @ me).

In researching 2016, I was surprised to find it jam-packed with video game stuff. Lots of things happened. Lots of people left developers. Lots of people joined developers. Some developers closed down. Some developers sprang into life. Lots and lots and lots of video games came out, mostly on Valve's ever-bulging Steam. Most were crap. Some were good. But in the pursuit of some kind of meaning, some kind of trend, I was left frustrated. Video games continue to be very good, even though 2016, at its close, feels a little less groundbreaking than I'd liked it to have been.

January, typically a quiet month for video games, saw a number of high-profile developers move on. Marc Laidlaw, lead writer of the Half-Life series, retired from Valve. The move was seen as further evidence, not that it's needed at this point, that Half-Life 3 is just not happening. Then we learnt Leslie Benzies, long-time leader of Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar North, had left the company after a 16-month sabbatical. He later sued Take-Two for $150m in a move that's already aired a basket full of dirty laundry. Will the parties settle? I kind of hope not.

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FeatureEurogamer's game of the year 2016

This old dog still knows a few tricks.

You might not have known it from all the drama going on elsewhere, but 2016 was a mighty fine year for video games. Going through the top 10s submitted by Eurogamer contributors that led to our final verdict for game of the year - democracy is still live and kicking here on this website - it was amazing to see the diversity of choices made. Truly there was something for everyone in 2016, and it goes to show how broad this church that is video games has become.

FeatureOverwatch has become my favourite tawdry soap opera

On the family squabbles, romances and gags that make a great shooter feel special.

Overwatch is a game of Pixar movie sets, complex yet digestible hero classes and chirpy bastard robots who spew bullets into chokepoints till they're eaten alive by Oriental dragons. But above all else, it's a game about family - a family that lives at the intersection between official Blizzard canon and the crude, loopy or touching sitcom sketches, apocryphal romances and in-jokes thrown together by the most besotted Overwatch fans.

We're still enjoying Overwatch quite a bit, so these days it doesn't take much to convince us to jump back on for a livestream. That said, the latest patch brings with it an impressive festive offering, including frosty new skins, adorable emotes, sprays, victory poses, and a new 6v6 Arcade Brawl mode, Mei's Snowball Offensive. Located at Ecopoint: Antarctica, the mode sees every player using Mei, equipped with a snowball blaster that only contains one shot, though it can be reloaded at snow piles. Which is music to my ears, as I was never very good with Mei. Any items you unlock will be yours to keep, but the Winter Wonderland content is only available until 2nd January, so best hop to it.

What does the Overwatch PS4 Pro patch actually do?

There was some excitement when Blizzard announced that PS4 Pro support had been implemented for its superb shooter, Overwatch. This was quickly followed by confusion when it appeared that the enhancements added were minimal to say the least. Indeed, to the naked eye, improvements during fast-paced action seem almost non-existent. Well, after breaking down the new update, we think it's fair to say that it's certainly one of the least impressive Pro upgrades seen to date.

A pixel count of Overwatch video captured at native 4K shows that it's definitely still using a native 1080p resolution - really, far lower than we were expecting. We decided to get in touch with Blizzard itself for a statement on what exactly this Pro patch does, if anything, and a spokesperson replied:

"Primarily, Overwatch players can expect improved performance in 1920x1080 resolution on PlayStation 4 Pro. We've also made several minor improvements that take advantage of the console's capabilities, including better texture filtering and UI enhancements."

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The Eurogamer Podcast #20: Blizzcon and Barcelona

Aren't games a bit like big churches?

"Those who have not tasted his superbly creative bad taste are traitors." That's Salvador Dali, talking about the Sagrada Familia, which means that I've been looking things up on Wikipedia, which in turn means that this is the Eurogamer Podcast, where we talk about games, games, games! And my recent holiday in Barcelona. Have you been? You should definitely go. I had a wonderful time, and then I was quite brisk with an uppity lady at Gatwick, but hopefully Chris Bratt will edit that bit out.

There's no question Junkenstein's Revenge, Overwatch's new Halloween-themed horde mode, is good fun. Compared to the Brawl modes that Overwatch has had before, this is night and day, an introduction to the potential of Blizzard's multiplayer hero shooter as a co-op player versus the computer kind of game. But I'm happy Dr. Junkenstein's Revenge will soon go away.

I love Halloween. Seriously, ask anyone from my wonderful former hometown of Derry and they'll tell you: we take All Hallow's Eve very, very seriously. Over there, you'll feel left out if you aren't in costume. I'm fully expecting to see one or two Overwatch costumes in the crowds this year, which is funny - given some Overwatch characters won't exactly look themselves for the next 19 days.

Digital FoundryOverwatch PC performance graphics guide

The chase for 60fps, and the hardware required to get the job done.

Encouraged by how Overwatch runs on a budget PC - where an i3 4130 and GTX 750 Ti is all you'll need to run at medium settings - our sights now shift to setups further along the spectrum. Blizzard's hero-based FPS demands 60fps or better by its frenetic nature, and this is the base requirement for the cards in test today. Gladly, Overwatch's low GPU demands mean just about any modern GPU can run the game at this refresh, and in the case of the popular GTX 970 or R9 390, there's loads of headroom to spare for a locked 60fps experience and beyond.

You might have heard the one about Blizzard pulling a lot of X-rated fan-made Overwatch content off the internet recently. But did you know just how much of it is out there? I thought I did, but oh man it is really quite something - even after Blizzard's supposed nerfing of all things Rule 34 on PornHub and various fan sites and Tumblr accounts. I made a video in an effort to understand the phenomenon, destroying my internet search history forever in the process. I'm definitely on a few watch lists now, if I wasn't before.

FeatureOverwatch: Blizzard answers the big questions

Competitive play! Server tick rate! Balance! More!

The Overwatch launch appears to have been a phenomenal success. With more than seven million players having registered since launch, across three different platforms, Blizzard's first multiplayer shooter is already one of the largest in the world. But for this game to truly achieve its ambitions, it's going to need to hold on to that playerbase in the months and years to come. Blizzard has reached its payload, but there's a ways to go yet.

The Eurogamer Podcast - Overwatch, Doom and Total War: Warhammer

This is a really good week to talk about video games.

Right, yes. This should have gone up on Tuesday, but I was a little busy freaking out about giving Overwatch an Essential badge. Donlan likes to tell me that when we do give a game the big golden sticker, the review has to feel like an event. An event. That really adds to the pressure of writing the thing.

FeatureAbout that Sombra Overwatch character, and other things besides

An interview with senior gameplay designer Michael Chu.

Blizzard didn't unveil a new Overwatch hero in its Soldier 76 'Hero' animated short yesterday - didn't do anything of the sort. I wasn't the only one fairly convinced Blizzard would throw back the curtain on a character called Sombra who would turn out to be Pharah's mother Ana Amari, an original Overwatch member whose whereabouts are unknown.

There's a story in Overwatch. It isn't rammed in your face, it doesn't get in the way of the action, but it is there. I didn't know much at all about it after 20 hours or so of playing but now I do, I wanted to share it with you, because knowing a bit more about adds a certain je ne sais quoi. It's cool, all right?

Hello again! Listen, I said there was going to be a podcast the week after EGX Rezzed and there wasn't. That's on me. Completely my fault. 100%. I've let you down. That being said, there was also a bank holiday last week, which didn't help. And I had to go and visit my family before that as well. So yeah, technically it's my mistake. But also perhaps the bank's? Or my parents'?

Feature15 tips to get you started in Overwatch

Pharah more enjoyable experience.

I'm smitten by Overwatch and played feverishly through closed beta, and I learned a few things along the way. I thought I'd share them here - a few tips, if you like, to help with the open beta, which begins today (and runs until Monday 9th).

I love Play of the Game in Overwatch, that clip of someone doing something extraordinary during the battle you just had. I love the nervous little wait before you find out whose play has been picked. Will it be yours? Some games you know it won't because you had a stinker, but in other games - sometimes the stars align and enemies clump together like cat litter as your finger reaches for your ultimate ability. You think it's enough but has someone gone one better? Then there it is! There you are! The chosen one! Name in lights. Validation and recognition all in one smug lump.

Performance Analysis: Overwatch beta on PS4 and Xbox One

A Blizzard game at 60fps: we wouldn't have it any other way. Thanks to a recent preview event showing PS4 and Xbox One beta versions of Overwatch, it's clear the developer's new hero FPS is a strong performer on console. All three versions (including PC) are slated for a May 24th launch, and 60fps is a very viable target on Sony and Microsoft's machines - something borne out in our tests below.

Blizzard has already confirmed both PS4 and Xbox One run at native 1920x1080 too, albeit with a dynamic resolution system in place. It means Overwatch can lower its pixel count when the action heats up, but this does ensure gameplay performance is always smooth (a trade-off we can fully get behind based on the results seen here). Despite this, we've yet to notice any visible hit on image quality, and we suspect its resolution scaling logic is very rarely put into effect on PS4. Even in heavy battles - taking the explosive Junkrat character for a spin on the Hanamura map - the game remains sharp at all times. Based on PS4 tests so far, we're sticking at a true 1080p for the majority of play.

Letting loose with this hero's explosive mines and grenades, PS4 isn't troubled in its pursuit of 60fps either. This is exactly how it should be for a competitive shooter - a locked 60fps line, with almost zero hitches throughout. The only moments we see a momentary hiccup is when the camera switches to the kill-cam view, incurring a minor blip. But during actual gameplay, the worst on record is a single torn frame on PS4 once - as we rev up Junkrat's ultimate ability. Even with all action congesting in the centre of a dojo, there's simply no slip from that top 60Hz refresh.

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FeatureSelling loot boxes and the trouble with ranked play - Blizzard on Overwatch

"I think players who claim they want competitive play are often not agreeing on what 'competitive play' actually means."

The Overwatch beta is back and it's brought with it a levelling system that never really stops. If players keep playing, they'll keep on levelling, and Overwatch, in turn, will continue to reward them with lovely glowing boxes full of loot. Inside you'll find new character skins, animations and spray paints (what is it with FPS games and graffiti, by the way?), some of which are considerably rarer than others. And because we're talking about Blizzard here, a lot of this stuff looks really, really great. Players want to own it.

The Eurogamer Podcast

We talk Overwatch, Firewatch, Homefront and Hitman.

Hello you lot! We're back with our every-other-weekly video games podcast, if you fancy giving it a listen. Oh gosh, please give it a listen. I really like recording it.

FeatureBlizzard: why we won't sell Overwatch heroes

"I totally get why players had apprehension."

It must have been a strange Blizzcon for the Overwatch team this year. On one hand, they'd just launched their closed beta and people seemed to be having a brilliant time with it. They had some big reveals planned for the show itself, in the form of three new heroes and the news that the game would indeed be coming to consoles. But that, really, wasn't what the community wanted to talk about.

FeatureTitan's soul: a day with Overwatch

Never beta 'gainst Blizzard.

The name of the game may be Overwatch, but we all know what we're playing is a slice of a bigger project Blizzard would no doubt rather forget. Titan, the long-in-development game designed to revolutionise the MMO genre, never quite found its flame - save, that is, for one bright spark that Blizzard couldn't quite put out: a team-based shooter that went into beta last week.