I want to focus first on the cinematic experience for Overwatch, since it literally brought me to tears when I was watching it this morning on the show floor.
Rumor has it that Blizzard’s Cinematics guys have been rubbing elbows with Pixar lately, and if that’s true it really demonstrates what that team can do when they glom onto a style and run with it. The anime-influenced style is definitely something that you wouldn’t normally associate with Blizzard, but this cinematic changes all of that. From the 2D elements in the first part of the video to the six different characters in play throughout the fight itself, this is a brighter, crisper and more fluid kind of animation than we’ve ever seen out of them before, and it looks amazing.
Moreover, as a cinematic that gives you a very strong impression of what the game itself looks like, it’s probably the best they’ve ever done.
Let me really try to bring that home for you: if you watch the cinematics for Mists of Pandaria or Warlords of Draenor, you’re looking at a more realistic version of the cartoonish style that’s typical to the Warcraft franchise. It’s high-fidelity and the exaggerated bodyshapes translate into how characters generally look in the game, but it’s not exactly what you’re seeing when you boot up World of Warcraft, much less any of the older RTS games. You get into playing Overwatch and it really feels like an extension of the trailer you just watched, only from the first-person perspective. Tracer really does zip across the map. Winston really feels like he has weight. Reaper is a dervish of murder and Widowmaker is just silky smooth.
Plenty of people are going to draw comparisons with Valve’s Team Fortress 2, and I think that’s valid, but not for the reason you’re thinking. Valve’s efforts with TF2 were to make a game engine that worked cinematically, and throughout the course of their Meet the Merc series they really demonstrated what the Source Filmmaker system was capable of. With Overwatch, the game looks like a cinematic experience, and even if the actual cinematic has got higher fidelity than the game, you can’t really tell from a cursory glance because that’s how high-quality the game looks.
There’s plenty more to talk about regarding the gameplay and how it’s an evolution from other shooters out there (Team Fortress 2 included) but for now, the beauty and grace of the cinematic has me on cloud nine right now. Definitely more to come soon.