There was once a time when Halo 2’s online multiplayer dominated my life. Not since the original StarCraft, had I been so deeply engrossed in online multiplayer. I remember the first thing I would do after getting back from school was rushing over to my Xbox and hopping right onto Xbox Live. The memories of those days still resonate so deeply within me. The hundreds of hours spent with my friends playing custom games, convincing people to stop fighting and join my clan “we love men” and glitching out of maps with sword lunges were just some of the many highlights of this era. These memories are still so vivid in contrast to the more monumental moments in my life I can hardly recall nowadays.
For years I tried to recapture the pure joy and bliss I had achieved while playing Halo 2. Games like Gears of War, Call of Duty, and of course, the various Halo sequels were enough to entertain me for a time. Yet they could only ever maintain my attention for so long. As quickly as I’d pick up a multiplayer mode, I’d drop it. Nothing really clicked with me. Now maybe I’m romanticizing my memories of the game, but as my first real online console experience, it truly was something special at the time. Throughout the years I strived to relive those days. Yet nothing ever hooked me the same way. I’d honestly begun to believe I’d never find that one multiplayer game that would captivate me the way Halo 2 did.
Despite my long love for Blizzard, after my disappointment with Diablo 3, I stopped trying to keep up with whatever they were up too. I heard passing details about their latest game; a class-based online shooter, Overwatch. For a company that had never dabbled in first person shooters, I was a bit skeptical before launch. I had been burned so many times, expecting to absolutely get addicted to an online game, only to play it for a few hours before inevitably shelving it. The beta and retail release of the game passed me by. Even with the hype I’d seen online, nothing about Overwatch really piqued my interest. It was only after I heard its praise on one of my favorite gaming podcast that I could no longer divert my eyes. I decided it was time to take a chance.
240 hours later, and I have to say that it has been one of best gaming purchases I’ve ever made. From the beautiful art direction, lively character designs, and the broad accessibility, it has provided me with everything I’ve been looking for in an online shooter. It has this sort of Super Smash Bros appeal: easy to pick up, hard to master. This is something I feel most current online shooters lack. I really wanted to love games such as Halo 5 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, but trying to maintain a certain skill level with players who have never stopped playing those franchises online is nigh impossible. I’d always find myself quickly lagging behind other players which demoralized me from wanting to play. But Overwatch offered something these other games didn’t: It favored team performance over any one player.
Despite how similar the game looks on the surface to other class-based shooters such as Team Fortress 2, Blizzard’s desire to remove some of the tedium found in the genre has been greatly appreciated. You don’t have to spend dozens of hours unlocking new weapons. Unlimited ammo means you don’t have to worry about running out of ammo in the middle of a fight. But best of all, the 22 playable heroes mean that there is a play style for just about everybody. Top it off with ultimate abilities that can turn the tides of battle, and you have a game that always offers a fresh experience.
That isn’t to say the game is perfect. The lack of game modes on release, alongside the small map count, mean that you’ll be replaying the handful of maps over and over again. It also doesn’t help that Blizzard is terrible at balancing heroes, with certain heroes, go from trash-to-god tier every other patch. But the minute to minute gameplay is simply so refined and polish, that these issues can be overlooked.
Will Overwatch continue to keep me playing for the foreseeable future? Blizzard’s continuous push to refine the game; adding new playable heroes and maps, improving upon game modes, and the occasional seasonal event means that I’ll always have something to look forward to. As of right now, I simply cannot get enough of the game. It’s been such a long time since I’ve played a multiplayer game and just had pure, simple, fun. While nothing will ever replace Halo 2 for my most beloved online multiplayer experience, it stands proudly next to it.