This week, Zero Punctuation pits Overwatch vs Battleborn.
Yes, I know what I said a couple of weeks back about not doing Battleborn or Overwatch, but that was an easier thing to say when I wasn't staring down the dismal tunnel of inevitable mid-year drought like a gynecology student cramming for the final exam. My argument was, as someone who has never seen the appeal in the standard multiplayer game structure of playing the same mission over and over again in the hope of one day becoming as skilled as the insufferable passionless cunts that infest the servers, my opinion on games that focus on such is akin to Freddy Krueger's opinion on electric hair straighteners.
But then I thought, "Hang on. Maybe there is value in me playing two different flavors of the suddenly inexplicably popular multiplayer hero shooter genre and stating as a confessed outsider which one I enjoyed more!" So with this brief in mind I've played some Overwatch and some Battleborn, and I just know that before this review is over I'm going to slip up and call it Bloodborne. Even as I'm writing this fucking sentence I'm having to open Steam and determine whether or not you spell Battleborn with an 'e' on the end.
Anyway, the plan was to spend each afternoon this week playing a bit of Battleborn and then a splotch of Overwatch in their respective multiplayer modes with nostrils firmly clenched. This ran into the immediate stumbling block that Battleborn's servers were as lively as a swinger sex party in a hip replacement ward. Yes, if there were hopes for a Coke and Pepsi-style rivalry between these games they seem to have been well and truly dashed. The loser already pore down the sink to provide sewer rats with slightly claggy aftertaste for evermore.
But people seemed to be down on Battleborn from the moment it came out and I'm not sure I understand why. I mean yes, the gameplay is utterly boring and the menus are horribly designed and the dialog writer's idea of creating personality is to make every player talk like Buffy the fucking Vampire Slayer, but in other words, it's an entirely typical Gearbox game. I thought the same things of Borderlands and I seem to be the only person in the world who didn't like that bollocks. No, the fact is, Overwatch has media coverage that would bring envious tears to the corpse of Princess Diana and a doctrine has come down from United Nations demanding everybody like it or have sanctions placed on their international trading.
So Battleborn was preemptively dismissed as a cash-in imitator to be considered alongside Chinese bootlegs of superhero action figures named things like "Spoder-man" and "Batfellow", which I don't think is fair. Yes, both games sell themselves on a big roster of colorful playable characters, but then fighting games have been doing that for as long as my parents have stopped having sex. They are both first-person shooters but otherwise the experience is quite different. Battleborn allows single-player, significantly, although the maps are expansive and every NPC with dialog refers you with plural pronouns. So it does have a bit of that slightly depressing air of going to a theme park by yourself.
Overwatch meanwhile has team-v-team multiplayer and that's it. And while I can respect wanting to focus on doing one thing really well rather than everything blandly, I'm iffy about selling such a game for full price. Its mentor, Team Fortress 2, never cost 70 fucking bucks even before it was free, and Overwatch has micropayment sales on top of that! Blizzard must rack up a lot of maintenance costs polishing up those massive brass balls of theirs! I miss the days when video games were a thing you bought and then owned rather than something you are temporarily permitted to occupy in return for tithes and devotion as you pray that your meager offerings please the gods and stave off the inevitable Coming of the Great Server Shutdown.
Battleborn has a series of campaign missions to go through in turn and only unlocks a handful of its characters at the start, while Overwatch splatters all its content and gameplay at you in one go. Overwatch strips naked in the doorway and goes for you like a jumping spider, Battleborn totters into the lounge wearing 17 sweaters. I liked that Overwatch gave me a practice range where I could play each character in turn and figure out which one I liked the feel of, where all I could do at the outset of Battleborn was to start a story mission, arbitrarily pick someone and hope that they're not one of ones that needs other players around to push their wheelchair.
The gameplay has a MMORPG-ery feel in that the missions all feel like I'm doing an instance in World of Warcraft; streams of identical mobs broken up by the occasional mini boss and environments with really unfeasibly big furniture. Plus a lot of special attacks that boil down to 'hurt enemy', 'hurt enemy slightly more' and 'hurt several enemies who didn't figure out not to stand in the conspicuous glowing circle'. Each character in Overwatch meanwhile has 3 or 4 refined skills that all go toward making them good at one specific thing. So all the characters have to be unlocked from the start because otherwise it'd be like having to unlock one of the wheels on your car.
In summary, the difference is that Battleborn is a game of unlocking stuff and Overwatch isn't. You unlock characters, you unlock their skills and their skills reset every mission so you can have all the fun of unlocking them again. Maybe the way one character delivers their annoying quips endears them to you enough that you might want to unlock their backstory by completing various grind challenges which seems like a pretty good way to make them less endearing REALLY FUCKING FAST.
Overwatch only has cosmetic unlocks and the system for that is frankly insulting. I play round after round, murder legions of my fellow man, woman and monkey cyborg, and for my efforts I'm awarded one loot box containing two banana stickers and a pink leotard for a character I hate. Mind you, I've got more use out of those banana stickers, putting them around a spawn waiting for the round to start than I did out of the gear I was unlocking in Battleborn, which promised to temporarily shave .7 seconds off my ball scratching time if I could ever figured out how to equip the fucking things.
I think it's safe to say that in the gameplay event, Overwatch takes the trophy and covers it in banana stickers before Battleborn can even unlock its running shoes. But Battleborn has a plot, where Overwatch just has a paragraph on the website talking some guff about a robot invasion, giving bugger-all explanation for why these dudes are arbitrarily teaming up to fight clones of each other.
Remember that little controversy when Blizzard cut out a pose of a character sticking her bum out because one person complained? That annoyed me. Not because of my personal bum preferences but because making a change after one solitary complaint shows just how little shit they gave about artistic vision. Every character is an archetype cynically designed to pander to some section of the audience. There's the obvious eye-candy girlies wearing cling film, but there's also a muscle lady and a chubby girl in specs, so the gender specials don't throw a strop. Then we'll have two samurais and a mecha girl for the weeaboos, a cowboy for dudes with slightly weird ideas about the masculine ideal and a skullface murderer for dudes with even weirder ideas about the masculine ideal. In contrast Battleborn's cast is scrappier but consequently comes across as more human and less focus grouped up the cling film-covered ass.
But at the end of the day, you can't argue with fun. And Overwatch's plainly and simply more fun than Bloodb-- ooop! Almost did it there didn't I? I meant Battleborn isn't as fun as Hovercrotch- umm- Overpriced.
- His watch is ended: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- "Reaper"? How many brainstroming meetings did it take you marketing geniuses to pin that one down
- And the cyber gorilla obviously panders to fans of the film 'Congo'