Overwatch: Release date, gameplay and everything else you need to know

Blizzard takes a plunge into the "hero shooter" genre with Overwatch, the game for people who didn't get enough guns in Warcraft and Diablo.

Blizzard Entertainment

So, go on then: explain what Overwatch is

It's Blizzard's take on the so-called "multi-player co-op shooter" or "squad-based shooter" or "hero shooter" or whatever we're calling this style of game this week. In a nutshell, it's a first-person shooter that has you on a team, trying to shoot the other team as you run willy-nilly around a restricted area (aka "map").

Blizzard are those World of Warcraft guys right?

Yeah, but also one or two other things like Diablo, Warcraft, StarCraft, Hearthstone and the Lost Vikings 2, which was frankly an excellent game for the SNES. My point is it's been doing this game-making thing for a while.

Blizzard Entertainment

What did you mean by "hero shooter"?

So in Overwatch you choose a character from a list of "heroes", all of whom have different abilities and weapons. There's 21 of them right now, but Blizzard keeps announcing more. They all have cool names like Tracer, Junkrat, Roadhog and, er, Winston.

They all take one of four different roles, which Blizzard defines as Offense, Defense, Tank and Support. These are fairly generic terms that are used in many similar games (and other team-based games such as World of Warcraft). A team should be made up of a good mix of these roles for a well rounded crew.

Blizzard Entertainment

This sounds like loads of other shooty games out there...

A little, but there's a few key differences. One is the cool future Earth setting and friendly, stylised art style. But the other is what you could call accessibility and what Blizzard terms "pick-up-and-play". The idea is that Overwatch is easy to get into, with the heroes having fixed abilities, rather than customisable "loadouts".

What do you mean by loadouts?

If you jump into a multiplayer game of Shooty McWardude VI you'll probably pick a few different weapons and special abilities before you play. With Overwatch, you just pick a character. Choose McCree (pictured below), for example, and get to play as Space Clint Eastwood, with the abilities of Combat Roll, Flashbang and Deadeye. You see a McCree on the field and that's what abilities he'll have.

It means you can jump in and just start playing, experimenting with a few different characters and seeing what weapons and abilities you like. It's also a little "My First Hero Shooter".

Clearly Space Clint Eastwood.

Blizzard Entertainment

OK, sounds pretty good! When do I play and where?

It's out on 24 May and you can play it on PC, PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. But if you pre-order you can get in on the open beta testing on 3-4 May. Pricing is complicated. PC gamers can get it for as little as $40, AU$70 or £36. But if you want it on console it's $60, AU$90 or £45 for the Origins edition, which has some bonus things like character skins. (You can also buy Origins for PC, for a little less than on console.) Or you can go crazy and pay $130, AU$190 or £100 for the physical Collector's Edition, which comes with a figurine and a soundtrack disc and some other bumf.

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