Overwatch: Wrecking Ball Impressions

Hammond the happy, hyperactive hamster has been unleashed upon Overwatch, in his mechanised ball of terror. After an hour or 2 with him I thought I’d share my brief thoughts. I should say that I almost exclusively play Mystery Heroes and so I never sought out to main Hammond and just played him when I randomly received him. Bullet point time!

  • Spider swinging is very fun but difficult to master. So many times I envisioned myself gracefully swinging round a doorway and bonking enemies into the water below in Rialto. So many times that didn’t happen. It’s quite difficult to gauge how much room you need to give yourself in order to gain full momentum, hit the enemies and get away without crashing into a wall and being completely vulnerable.
  • The potential of Wrecking Ball will reveal slowly over time.  The more people play the devious, little rascal the more his talents will shine. His grappling hook has the most potential I’ve seen of the heroes. Skirmishes are a great opportunity to test out the small mammal’s dive bomb capabailities. Within an hour I found a launching point on Rialto that allows a seismic slam on the bridge, just outside the attack spawn. You are able to fly over the rooftops and out of sight and if you have an early ultimate this is a perfect time to rain destruction as you land. By my standards Hammond is truly an easy to pick up but hard to master hero.
  • He feels mobile yet clunky, I’m sure that is part of his design but I also feel that his control scheme doesn’t flow. That might just be me, the fact that I’ve barely played him or even just that his gameplay style isn’t as suited to a controller as a mouse and keyboard. Time will tell but shifting between forms, scanning enemies for extra shields and hooking buildings leaves my fingers a bit perplexed. I’ve not experienced this with other heroes but it doesn’t help that I’m playing Mystery Heroes and constantly changing characters.
  • He has great time wasting potential. In the right spot, Hammond is able to latch on a payload and continuously swing around it, bashing any enemy that comes near. He can be stunned out of it or killed but takes time and effort. Throw in 4 enemies shooting at you at the same time and this ball of destruction can take awhile to get rid of. The fact that Hammond spawns in ball form also leads to a quick return to combat. Especially useful when defending the final point and you need a tanky hero to buy precious seconds.
  • His ultimate is more defensive than offensive. His mines do big damage but it’s best use that I have seen, was on Lijiang Tower. The garden section with the control point in the centre and both spawns separated by bridges. I was Zarya and during a massacre inflicted on my team me and Mercy were left. We were on the objective trying to hold it as the enemy was 99%. Mercy was being safe and staying outside the room but able to heal me from a distance. Just then an enemy Hammond rolls through and lays his mines down between me and Mercy! Now we’re separated and Mercy I have to hover around the same spot to be healed because Mercy can’t get any closer. It was a great split us up tactic. In the end I thought I’d be clever and bubbled the Mercy so should would avoid damage and could fly to me. However, Hammond’s ult tore through the shield and Mercy on her dive to me. Here’s an artistic illustration:
Hammond Mines Trap
I paid an expert for this masterpiece.
And that’s my opinion on Hammond currently. I see a lot of potential with him but I also think I need to get a lot better with him. A lot of heroes can counter him and once he is stopped in his tracks, he is a huge target and easy to kill. I also feel like his gun could use a bigger clip size.  Saying that though, Hammond automatically reloads his guns once he is in ball form for a few seconds. So the ideal play is to launch yourself in, shields up, shoot shoot shoot, when empty: roll away through cover or around enemies until guns are loaded and then unleash bullets again.

Overwatch Endorsement System: Is Fake Kindness A Bad Thing?

Overwatch is a game that I play a lot, generally at least an hour every other day. I’m a console pleb with a mediocre laptop so I can’t speak for the PC Overwatch community. This view is merely from a PS4 position so take that with a grain of ‘this guy doesn’t know it all’.  Overwatch, for those that don’t know, has a basic communication wheel in game. You press some buttons and your character and a little text prompt, for your team to see, will pop up and say ‘Thanks’, ‘Hello’, ‘Understood’, ‘Group up’, ‘My ultimate is (number)% ready’ and the infamous ‘I need healing’. Basic but it can get the job done. Of course you can use mic’s but if you’re like me, a bit shy and you can’t be bothered to listen to background trashy music or mic technical issues then this communication wheel is all you need.

When put to good use, a team of strangers can co-ordinate a winning move! Or in the hands of a sore loser, can be a minor annoyance. Similar to Rocket Leagues spamming of ‘What a save!’ ‘What a save!’ ‘What a save!’, when a bad player blames others for his death, a torrent of ‘Thanks’ starts appearing on screen. Like a persistent moth batting against a light bulb. It’s not a big deal but it’s damn distracting. Constant inputs incur a couple of seconds ban which helps the droning of suicidal Genji’s but the next death usually brings on another tirade of blame. It is an issue that since launch I’ve got use to but never over. Like a mild rash, without the satisfying itch. Then arrives the endorsement system.

Endorsement

The endorsement system is a simple feature that was added to Overwatch. At the end of a quick play or competitive match you are given the chance to praise your teammates or  a respected enemy. These praises are ‘Shot Caller’, ‘Good Teammate’ and ‘Sportsmanship’. You can only give out 3 endorsements per game. As, you receive endorsements you receive rewards. Or that is my understanding anyway. The system has only been out for a short time and I’m only at a level 2 endorsement level. So far though, I haven’t been showered with gifts or whatever the reward scheme is. Nevertheless, I’ve noticed a sharp decrease in message spamming. I still see ‘I need healing’ and ‘Thanks’ pop up a lot but not as much as I did before the new system.  A lot more ‘Understood’ and ‘Group up’s have been rearing their pretty heads. Much to my joy. A team that communicates in a team based game? Hold on, we may be onto victory here. It’s a nice surprise and I’m sure Blizzard was hoping that this new system they’ve introduced to their game would quell a vocal minority. You can’t shut up everyone that’s unpleasant but a start is always welcome.

This new niceness has raised the question though: is it all fake? To be honest, yes some of it is. But why care? Negativity in a team game can quickly spread. One person spams ‘Thanks’ on death and then after the 3rd time this repeats, someone spams ‘Group up’ back at them. Then a 3rd player may join in on that and then suddenly half the team is bitter and eagerly awaiting the match to end so they can find a new team. It creates a bad aura that brings the energy plummeting in matches. I know because I’ve spammed ‘Group up’ before. I shouldn’t have as that makes me no better, I’m still causing distractions and providing no useful or tactical information. And so, if Player A is seething with rage in a match of Overwatch, yet he chooses to say ‘Thanks’ when healed and ‘Group up’ and actually does it, is that a bad thing? Would you rather he is honest and let his emotions unleash on ‘Thanks’, or would you prefer he plays nice for brownie points? I would rather choose a positive atmosphere to my matches than an honest moan session. I’m British, I love a good moan but not in a team game. Fake kindness wins over unpleasantness any time for me. Not only that but positive reinforcement is always better than negative reinforcement. If the nasty player sees that their pleasant disposition leads to more victories, they are more likely to continue that act.  Combine that with the fact that habits grow the more they are repeated, which means that subconsciously this nice behaviour could stick to the individual, naturally.

It’s almost like a paradox. Is a player a good teammate, if they are secretly a bitter Overwatch player that keeps their whining to their self and is courteous in game for fake badges? I think if it leads to a better gaming experience for everyone in game then cheap tricks are fine by me.

Just A Quick Go: SNES Mini

As a 90’s child, I grew up with the Super Nintendo. One of my first ever memories is sat in front of our old CRT TV playing Donkey Kong Country. An ice level actually, I was struggling on this particular level and played it so much I can still remember the level’s song. When, the NES Mini was announced I didn’t buy one. Not because I didn’t think it was worth it, but because it wasn’t nostalgic for me. The SNES was my first console and possibly my favourite console to date. There may be some bias there as it is my first system but the staggeringly good line up speaks for itself. The SNES had an over-abundance of titles that to this day hold up and was the birth place of many of gaming’s greatest iterations. And so when they announced the SNES Mini, I had to get one.

I’ve only played it for about 4 hours and haven’t touched some of the games yet. This is just my take away from my brief re-introduction to some classics. The SNES Mini itself: cute as. I didn’t realise it is this small. The SNES controller itself is wider than the SNES. The dinky console comes with two controllers, the system, a USB cable and a HDMI cable. It’s deceptively small and comes with 21 games built into the system.  I think, the console looks the part, the resemblance is striking. It even has the fake controller entry points that the SNES had back in the day. Now with this new version, that is a plastic guard which you pull to reveal the real plug sockets. The controllers themselves feel lighter than I remember but that could just be an age thing. An issue I have at the minute are the length of the wires for the controllers. They’re short. Not as short as the NES Mini so I’ve read. But still, wires are dirt cheap these days. Nintendo could have shelled out for another 3 foot, no problem. There are remedies if this is an issue for you. I’ve bought some extensions which basically attach to the controllers wire length and increases that to a more comfortable length. The controllers now reach 10 feet which is couch length with some slack, which suits me more. A simple fix but a fix that shouldn’t need to exist.

On the subject of the controllers. An extra button or two would have gone a long way to increase enjoyment of the system. Nintendo has a newly added rewind feature on the system. A feature which is greatly appreciated. I’ve forgotten how hard and unforgiving some of these games are. Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, I can’t even beat the first level any more. The rewind feature goes a long way to help alleviate frustration but the rewind button is on the console itself. There is no way to implement the rewind unless you go over to the console and hit the reset button. This then takes you to the main screen, with all the games to select and the option to use a save slot, to save your progress or rewind to seconds or minutes earlier, depending on the game. I know Nintendo are going for a true to classic look but an extra button on the SNES controller called ‘Rewind’ wouldn’t hurt. The controller isn’t cluttered, it has room for it. The rewind is a great feature that requires too much effort to use. And that might sound like I’m being lazy but I tend to play my games to unwind, so lying on the couch comfortably is my preferred style. I don’t want to have to be sat right next to the console or to get up every time I want to use the save state or rewind. Another issue I have and I might be stupid for not seeing why this couldn’t have happened. Is, I don’t understand why the SNES Mini can’t work on a computer or laptop screen. I tested it out on my laptop and nothing loads up. I’m not too tech savvy, but I’d imagine that would have been quite simple to implement.

And with that, my nit picking is done. I have issues with the system but it plays the games I want it to play and, it’s retro and nostalgic for me. The list of games are fantastic. A lot of these games I haven’t played yet either because I wasn’t aware of the series at the time, or just because I had limited money and had to make choices over other games. Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario World, Street Fighter 2, Star Fox and Super Mario Kart are the only games from the list that I actually owned. A few of the others I’ve touched over the years but never at length. I love the Zelda series but only got into Zelda when Ocarina of Time came out. Before that I wasn’t aware of the series and so to have A Link to the Past included is a real treat. Many call it the best Zelda game and I am so looking forward to finding out why people say that. Super Metroid is the same as Zelda, great praise but I never tried it. Fusion and Metroid Prime were my first introductions and I love both those. It comes with 4 RPG’s that I’ve never played more than 3 hours of. Earthbound I’ve never touched and so am excited to try that.

Contra 3 was the first game I played when I switched on the system. The Konami logo popped up and memories came flooding back to me. I rented this game when I was young and don’t think I got very far but definitely further than I got today. This game is tough! I’m amazed at how much persistence I had as a kid. You forget how merciless these games are. After losing all 5 lives on the first level I walked away dishevelled and feeling old. Are my reflexes slower these days? Or is it because when you’re younger, when you get a game, that is your game for ages. I would make games last because I had so few. Super Mario World I cleared several times, Star Road and all. When I loaded it up today, I was killed by the first enemy. I’m embarrassed by that but not ashamed to admit it. Trying to jump that Beach Koopa I completely forgot the physics and momentum of the game and landed right in front of it. And I’m happy about that. I can remember the sound effects, the layouts, the music but the actual feel of the game is rusty in my fingertips.  The thought of playing something loved, familiar but forgotten too is what I wanted when I ordered the SNES Mini. It’s as I remember it, nothings changed except me. Nothing highlights that for me more, than Donkey Kong Country.

Starting this game again after so long is a bit jarring. The intro doesn’t look as good as I remember it I’ll confess. Donkey Kong Country did have a different look to it than other games at the time. But hearing Cranky playing that song again and DK dropping that boom box for some ape free-styling, brought back the 90’s for me. The soundtrack to this game still holds up too. I was humming away during the first water level, that tranquil song as relaxing as ever. All was going well playing this game. I got acclimatised to the rolling then mid air jumping again. Which is needed for later levels as some collectables are way below the land you’re standing on. Then I got to the first mine cart level. Wow, the pressure. My heart was racing. I went from 20 lives to 8 in just a few minutes. The thrill of those sections is still in this game after all these years. After completing that section I had to save and switch off the SNES Mini.

I had great fun with my short time on the SNES Mini and am eagerly looking forward to sinking my teeth into its catalogue of classics.