Overwatch: Everything You Need to Know

Overwatch isn't just a game -- it's a global phenomenon.

Blizzard's colorful team-based shooter is currently one of the biggest multiplayer games out there; not just because of its accessible gameplay and tactical depth, but also due to its vibrant, diverse cast of characters that have inspired troves of cosplay and fan-fiction from all corners of the internet. 

If you're looking to get into Overwatch or are just wondering what the buzz is all about, here's everything you need to know.

What is Overwatch?

Overwatch is a six-on-six, team-based first-person shooter from Blizzard, the renowned makers of franchises such as World of Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo. The game features a colorful, cartoony art style and feels a lot like the spiritual successor to Valve's Team Fortress 2, but with a sprinkle of Quake and elements from MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games like Dota and League of Legends thrown in. It's currently available on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

What Overwatch doesn't offer, however, is a single-player experience. It's a team-based shooter through and through, so if you're jonesing for a mix of single, co-op and multiplayer content, you might want to look elsewhere.

What's the latest with Overwatch?

Overwatch's next big in-game event is the second-annual Summer Games, which will run from August 8 to 29 and give you a chance to unlock some extra-sporty skins for characters like Tracer, Zarya and D.Va. Summer Games will bring back the Rocket League-style Lucioball game mode, which has now been updated with a new map and a new competitive play option. 

The game's latest playable character is Doomfist, a menacing villain whom Blizzard has been teasing since the very beginning. If you're looking for a melee-based hero who can shoot bullets out of his knuckles and clear the entire enemy team with a massive ground pound, he's the one for you.

What makes Overwatch so special?

This is where that patented Blizzard magic comes into play. Overwatch's sound and graphics are top-notch, and feel polished and finely tuned in a way that only Blizzard seems to deliver.

On top of that, each hero has been carefully designed to deliver a unique gameplay experience and a ton of personality. There's Reinhardt, the massive power-armor-wearing tank who uses a rocket hammer to smash foes and a barrier field to shield his teammates from enemy fire. There's also Tracer, the spunky British ex-pilot with time-jumping powers who darts across the map, lobbing bombs and gunning down foes with her twin pulse pistols. And let's not forget my current personal favorite, Pharah, who uses jump jets, concussive blasts and her trusty rocket launcher to dominate the skies.

In a nod to MOBA games, most characters have a load-out featuring primary and secondary weapons; some sort of special movement technique, like McCree's combat roll or Reaper's wraith form; and a devastating ultimate ability that, when used right, can be the difference between victory and defeat.

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By using your hero's skills while coordinating with your team, you can mount unstoppable attacks or impenetrable defenses that will leave the other team beating their heads against the wall. And with 25 heroes to choose from across four play styles (offense, defense, tank and support), there's bound to be one to suit your tastes. Still, there are some things new players need to know.

What are the different maps and game types?

There are four main game types spread across more than a dozen maps. Assault consists of one team trying to attack specific locations within a map while the other team tries to hold them off. Escort features a payload that needs to be pushed along to its destination, and Control has both teams vying for domination over the same objective. The last game type, Assault/Escort, is a hybrid of both that requires a team to capture a payload before bringing it to its destination.

Overwatch is all about communicating and working together.

Maps include locations like Hanamura, whose traditional architecture and swirling cherry blossoms make it look like something out of a Japanese poem. Meanwhile, the neon lights of Lijiang tower look like a scene out of a cyberpunk sci-fi novel. 

What's in a team?

The team-play aspect of Overwatch really can't be understated. It's not Call of Duty — Overwatch is all about communicating and working together, because if you try to lone wolf every match, you could be doing more harm to your team than a newbie trying to work together.

If you die, you're best off waiting for a few of your teammates to respawn. You'll be way more effective running back as a group than trickling in one by one.

Try not to choose a sniper when there's already a Widowmaker and Hanzo in the game. Even if you're Vasily Zaytsev, you'll be taking away from your team's overall effectiveness rather than adding to it. Check out a tank like Reinhardt or Winston instead, or a different kind of defensive specialist, like Junkrat or Mei. Or, try picking Mercy to complement a Pharah, which, when together, can turn into a flying, supermobile, death-dealing duo.

Also, don't be afraid to use the built-in voice chat. They are there for a reason and, unlike in Hearthstone, where you're limited to a handful of emotes, can become useful tools for putting your enemies on the back foot. So, instead of trying to slowly type info out to your teammates, speak up, and let them know there's a Bastion camping out on the left side of site B.

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What is the Overwatch League?

With the Overwatch League, Blizzard is looking to make competitive Overwatch every bit as legitimate as a real-life sport. The league is still early in development, and comprises of seven teams based in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Miami/Orlando, Shanghai and Seoul.

The eventual goal is that each Overwatch League team will have its own city, with home games, away games, and full seasons that play out over the course of a year just like they would in the NBA or NFL. You can expect to hear more about Overwatch League later in 2017.

Should I buy Overwatch?

If you dig multiplayer shooters, there's a good chance you'll dig Overwatch. The game is accessible enough for a few rounds of casual play every night, but also packs a ton of depth for folks who want to rise through the competitive rankings. Just remember that Overwatch is a team game -- and the better you are at cooperating with others, the more fun you'll have.

If you're a solo-minded player, Overwatch probably isn't for you. There's no proper single-player mode, and the game's handful of co-op gametypes typically cycle in and out during limited-time events. But Overwatch has a knack for converting even those who typically steer clear of online shooters, so it can't hurt to give it a try. You just might find your new favorite game in the process.

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.