Best multiplayer 2016: Overwatch

Complex, but accessible, Blizzard's team shooter made a big impact this year.

In our final award of the year (outside of our staff picks), Overwatch gets a nod for its colorful online battles. Awards are chosen by PC Gamer staff through voting and debate. Keep up with all the awards so far here.   

Chris T: Blizzard are without equal when it comes to taking a complicated genre and making it accessible. They did it with MMOs twelve years ago, and now they've done it for the team-based shooter. While savvy marketing has certainly played a role in securing Overwatch's headline-dominating success, it'd all be for nothing without an elegant core competitive design that allows everyone to find a place for themselves. This is a shooter where you don't really need to be good at shooting, a competitive game with dozens of different ways to successfully compete. That they've managed to pull this off without substantially limiting the skill ceiling for the best players—a trick I'd argue that Blizzard didn't manage with Heroes of the Storm—is a testament to the skill of the designers behind this ostensibly-simple game.

Evan: Bingo. Overwatch's diverse healers are probably the best example of that. With Zenyatta, I can pre-emptively heal. With Ana, I can use my marksmanship skills to keep people alive. As Mercy, I can heal in the style of Team Fortress 2, if that's familiar to me. Overwatch got a frontline-fighting, K:D-fixated, aggro CS:GO player like me to enjoy playing a passive, musical rollerblading support character. 

Phil: It's the variety of movement styles I love. The reason I played so much Scout in TF2 was his speed and double jump. Overwatch is that, but more so. Many of its roster have interesting ways to move—Pharah's jetpack, Widowmaker's grappling hook, Tracer's rewind. Like Evan, I love the supports most of all. Mercy is brilliant spin on the medic—sorry, Medic—in that her ability to escape dangerous situations is directly tied to whether or not she can see an ally. Such symbiosis may well be common place in MOBAs, but I don't play those. In an FPS, with the intricacies of moving through a 3D environment, it works incredibly well.

Evan: I usually dislike novelty modes, but the stuff in the arcade—3v3 and 1v1 especially—has grown on me. In both of these formats I have matches that are intense, funny, help me learn new skills with new characters, and are done in like eight minutes. Bravo, Blizz.

James: As systemically bountiful as Overwatch is, I think one of its greatest strengths is its presentation. It’s as clean and colorful as a Pixar movie (with murder), with expressive animations in every character, gun model, and ability effect. There’s no corner of any map that hasn’t been made to feel like a cohesive part of Overwatch’s politically fraught cartoon world. And admit it, it might be fun to play, but we’re really in it for the fashion. Those Legendary skins are hot.

Tom M: It’s Overwatch’s world that first drew me in. The FPS part of it I wasn’t concerned with as much, but the near-future, paramilitary, pseudo-superhero world Blizzard chose to tell me about was exhilarating. Overwatch takes place in Blizzard’s first new universe in 17 years, and it simultaneously feels familiar and unlike anything we’ve seen before. Blizzard likes to say it tried to make the Overwatch world seem “hopeful,” and that makes it feel warm and welcoming to the point where I’d probably play any genre of game if it just let me see more of that universe.

Tim: It turns out I’m the worst kind of filthy casual. I played Overwatch every night for two weeks, dropped actual money on that sweet Mercy Devil skin, and then just completely tuned out around the time Competitive Play launched and it became less about goofing around with pals and more about actually gitting gud. Unquestionably the biggest phenomenon of the year on PC, but something about the experience ultimately left me a little cold. I think it might be that in Overwatch I’m mainly working to accrue more cosmetics, whereas in Hearthstone the cards I collect can meaningfully expand my options. Or maybe I’m just shit at shooting stuff now that I’m officially aged. Sadly, there’s always that.

For more Overwatch read our review and our wishlist for the game in 2017.