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This week, Zero Punctuation pits Overwatch vs Battleborn.

Transcript Edit

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.

Addenda Edit

  • 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'
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017

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