Concord seems under-anticipated: Sony's hero shooter has some juice

Concord screenshot
(Image credit: Firewalk Studios)

The reveal of Concord at Sony's last showcase was met with some boos from the balcony: Great, another Overwatch? But as Morgan pointed out, there isn't really a glut of hero shooters, they're popular, and Concord doesn't actually look that much like Overwatch. I've now played it and can confirm: Concord isn't Sony Overwatch, and it's fun. I don't know if it'll be a Helldivers 2-level phenomenon, but if that's the multiplayer hit of the year, Concord could at least be the multiplayer hit of the summer.

There are some obvious similarities between Concord and Overwatch—both feature a bunch of characters with unique guns—but it's also obvious that a bunch of ex-Bungie devs work at developer Firewalk Studios. Most characters have double jumps, one I played had a triple jump, and another could temporarily hover. They can also dodge, which briefly pulls the camera into third-person like a Destiny 2 super. On the multi-level maps, these abilities lead to fun Halo-like chase scenes.

(Image credit: Firewalk Studios)

I played three modes when I visited Sony for a preview session last week. One was a kill confirmed-style mode, and the other two were no-respawn modes where rounds were won either by playing an objective or eliminating the enemy team. In those latter modes, my team and I started rushing down different lanes and trying new strategies as the rounds progressed, the way you do in Valorant or CS2—it didn't feel much like playing Overwatch.

With 16 quite distinct characters at launch, meta-heads will have a complex web of synergies to chart. The characters are substantially different from each other in terms of mobility, deadliness, utility, and durability, and there are variations even within categories. One tank has 250 health, another has 300. I also clocked health pools of 220, 200, and 170 in the ten characters I checked out.

Along with their unique guns, Concord's heroes also have two abilities and a passive skill, though interestingly no ultimates. I didn't miss 'em. It's obviously exciting to alter the outcome of an Overwatch or Valorant match with a perfectly-timed ult, but the victory always feels a little hollow to me—I'd rather win by barely pulling off a desperate double kill than by filling up a meter and going Super Saiyan.

(Image credit: Firewalk Studios)

What makes Concord a certain type of shooter in my mind—its defining quality aside from the multi-tiered maps and floaty jumping—is its emphasis on quickly cycling through weapons and abilities. The guns don't have big magazines and reloading isn't fast, so finishing blows often come from a sidearm or special ability.

Haymar, for example, can hover over the battlefield temporarily and fires nasty flaming crossbow bolts—but they don't kill in one hit, and she has to load a new bolt after each shot. A good player doesn't just rely on bolts, then, following them with her flashbang orb to disorient targets before finishing them with a melee attack, or with her other ability, a flame wall. 

Here are some of the other characters I sampled and their weapons and abilities:

  • Teo: Your standard soldier guy. His automatic rifle and semi-auto sidearm both have sights that can see through his smoke grenades, like Glaz in Rainbow Six Siege. He also has explosive cluster grenades. Being a boring-ass shooter player, he was my favorite: pelt with rifle, finish with sidearm, throw grenades irresponsibly.
  • Lennox: The hot-sauce enjoying alien who featured prominently in the debut trailer. He's all about aim, with two handguns and a throwing knife. He can also self-heal, where others have to rely on healers or health pickups on the map (an interesting feature to see in a contemporary shooter).
  • Star Child: Big guy with a big shotgun. Has a special melee attack and a charge, but can be overwhelmed by swarming enemies if he gets in too deep.
  • Vale: The sniper. Can jump super high to pull off trick shots over obstacles, and has prox mines to cover her six.
  • Roka: The Rocket Raccoon of the group. She can triple-jump and has an aerial slam attack. Her rockets are fairly weak, but I enjoyed the Quake sensation she offers. This is one character that I'd say is more about sustaining fire with a single weapon than combos.
  • Daw: Healer with a burst-firing rifle. Can deploy healing pads and domes that block both incoming and outgoing damage. These are persistent between rounds. I didn't like his gun, but I liked the challenge of finding a good spot for a healing pad.
  • 1-Off: Big robot with the most health of the characters I played. Can suck up projectiles with his vacuum to power-up trash bombs, or use his primary as a beam weapon. Also has "Air Barriers" that block projectiles. Seems tough to master.

Swap meet

Concord has a novel character selection system that lightly discourages the common hero shooter behavior of maining one character. There are six character roles, and each has an associated bonus. Tacticians get increased reload speed, for instance. The interesting thing is that when you pick a character with a different role between rounds or spawns, you keep the bonuses from roles you previously selected that game, increasing your power as it progresses. You also can't pick from the full 16-character roster: Before you start playing, you have to construct and save a smaller "crew" to pick from, sort of like a deck. You can build more than one of these crews, but can only take one into a given match.

Having not seen high-level play, the benefits of this system are still theoretical to me, but ideally it'll amplify healthy behaviors like switching to roles your team lacks or consciously countering the other team's picks.

Concord - Reveal Cinematic Trailer | PS5 Games - YouTube Concord - Reveal Cinematic Trailer | PS5 Games - YouTube
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One thing about Concord that hasn't clicked for me are the characters' personalities. The developers emphasized that despite their fantastical, sci-fi backgrounds, these are just regular people. A bit too regular, maybe. It's like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy but instead of neurotic eccentrics, we have a guy who likes hot sauce and sentient robots who developed normal personalities.

Firewalk plans to produce weekly cutscenes, and characters evolve, so we'll see where it goes. I'm sure the hope is that feverish fandoms develop around its cast of space misfits (who actually seem pretty well-adjusted), in part to fuel spending on cosmetics, but I like that Concord is a $40 game like Helldivers 2. Aside from the 16 characters, the entry fee will get you six modes and 16 maps at launch, and what I played looked and ran great on PS5.

Oh yeah: The preview session at Sony's office was naturally on PS5, so I was playing with a controller. The auto-aim magnets seemed pretty strong on some guns, so we might see some tension between console and PC players over who's got the advantage. I also have to caveat my experience with the note that I consider playing first-person games with a controller a sin, so it wasn't the ideal way for me to judge the game.

We'll be able to test the PC version pretty soon. An early Concord beta will run from July 12-14 for pre-orderers, who'll also get four beta codes to share. Then it'll get an open beta from July 18-21. Both betas and the full game, which releases August 23, will be available on PS5 and PC from the start. You will need a PlayStation Network account, even on PC—Helldivers 2 just barely escaped that requirement and I doubt Sony will make another exception.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.