GAMETECH: Overwatch has provided provided the best online gaming of the year so far

THERE are many ways to approach writing a video game column. One method is to Google an obscure fact and then pass it off as your own knowledge. 

GAMETECH: Overwatch has provided provided the best online gaming of the year so far

It’s a terrible habit we would never endorse. By the way, did you know that an ‘overwatch’ is a force protection tactic: the state of one small unit or military vehicle supporting another unit, while they are executing fire and movement tactics?

There are many ways to approach making a game, too. Few companies do that better than Blizzard and they have created yet another brilliant, community-oriented game in Overwatch. The Overwatch beta only lasted four days, ending yesterday, but those four days provided the best online gaming of the year so far. We can’t wait until May 24, when the full game is released.

Remember when you first played Street Fighter 2? Half the fun was knowing there would always be a character to suit your mood. If you felt like mashing buttons until dinner time, then Blanka or E Honda would do the trick. If you felt like being weird and awkward, then Vega or Dhalsim were obvious choices. If you wanted to play the hero, then you picked Ryu or Guile. Overwatch gives you that same freedom of choice and character, but in an online shooter. If Team Fortress 2, Pixar and Street Fighter were locked in a room and forced to acknowledge the best parts of each other, then Overwatch would be the result.

None of that would matter, of course, if Blizzard didn’t get the balance right — and early days suggest they have nailed it. Despite offering 21 ‘heroes’ to pick from, across four different classes (attack, defence, sniper, support), not one of those heroes feels overpowered or unbeatable. More than that, they each have their own distinct skills and ‘ultimate’ powers that contribute to an exceptional game of team-based skill and co-ordination. The robot Bastion, for example, can become a stationary turret gun, mowing down anyone his path. It can seem frustrating at first, until you realise the ninja Genji, with his ‘reflect’ ability, can take down Bastion with a flash of his blade.

The key to winning in Overwatch is rarely down to individual performances, but instead the balance of characters on the team and how the players work in tandem. That’s because Overwatch doesn’t score games based on kills, but objectives. If your objective is to ‘protect’ a certain point on the map for five minutes, then that is the only outcome that matters. No one player can beat a well organised, well balanced team.

In saying that, Overwatch doesn’t ignore individual performances. Far from it. At the end of every round, a ‘play of the game’ is replayed for everyone, highlighting the ‘best’ move of the game from that player’s perspective. For now, the algorithm deciding these replays seems heavily in favour of multiple kills near the end of a round, but it’s still a nice touch. In addition, players can vote for the best player at the end of the round by ‘liking’ their stat totals.

There are many ways to approach making a game — and there are many ways to approach playing Overwatch. You can be quick and stealthy, tank-like, brash and aggressive, confident and cocky. You can play for the team or just play for yourself. Whatever choice you make, you’re guaranteed to have fun. Not since TimeSplitters has a multiplayer shooter been so much fun. Best online purchase of the year so far.

DONKEY KONG ULTIMATE RECORD

Far less fun is the distinctly solitary effort involved in setting new Donkey Kong records. A documentary called King Of Kong once popularised the rivalry between Billy Mitchell, Steve Wiebe, and Hank Chien as they jockeyed back and forth between high scores on the decades-old classic.

Since then, however, that trio have been put in the shade by newcomers to the game, who have smashed the records set by Mitchell, Wiebe and Chien.

But this week, the chase may have come to an end. A new record was set — one that may never be broken. The last King of Kong is surely Wes Copeland, who just set a record of 1,218,000 in the game. He did so in three hours and 20 minutes by completing the game without dying once, a feat never before achieved. “This will be my last record score,” Copeland wrote on Facebook. “I don’t believe I can put up a game any higher than this.”

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