Last November, Blizzard announced its first new franchise in nearly 20 years: cooperative first-person shooter Overwatch. At this year’s annual gaming convention PAX East, we got another teasing glimpse at some new content for the game, including a pair of new heroes.
Game director Jeff Kaplan opened up the Blizzard panel at PAX East today in front of a packed audience. He announced that the game will enter beta in fall 2015 (though it’s not clear if it will be a closed or open beta), then showed off the two new heroes: McCree and Zarya.
Presumably named after iconic video game character Mad Dog McRee, the bounty hunter McRee takes the generic outlaw archetype and updates him for the futuristic Overwatch. He’s got a six shooting revolver, a blanket wrapped over his shoulders in homage to Clint Eastwood’s man with no name, and a belt buckle reading “BAMF.” McRee’s kit mirrors another similar outlaw character, League of Legends’ Graves. Like Graves, he has a dash that allows him to fire faster: McRee’s reloading his gun. He has a Graves-esque blinding grenade, the Flashbang, which staggers enemies inside its radius.
But his ultimate is what makes him unique: Deadeye. After a few short seconds, the marksman kills every target in his field of vision.
“When I show you it will seem like the most crazy overpowered thing ever, and it probably is,” Kaplan said. “But we’ll worry about that later.”
The ultimate encapsulates what will make Overwatch unique from other similar shooters, like Team Fortress 2: powerful ultimates that reward positioning over twitch skill. Whether that works in this particular case, as Kaplan says, remains to be seen.
“While in other games the gun is the most important thing,” Kaplan said, “in Overwatch the abilities are the most important thing you can have.”
The other new character, Zarya, introduced the first female tank hero to Overwatch. A “celebrated athelete who sacrificed personal glory” to protect her brethren, Zarya is a bulky, pink-haired woman with a giant gun and a scar on her face. Similar to Overwatch’s other tanks, she plays with shields: shielding herself and her allies, generating power for her huge lightning gun slash grenade launcher when those shields take damage. Her ultimate ability, Graviton Surge, places a black hole on the ground, pulling enemies in and leaving them vulnerable.
Zarya’s design addresses a growing concern in video games—the lack of variety in female characters. A recently article in the Daily Dot’s Sunday magazine the Kernel even uses Overwatch as an example for the lack of diversity in female body types, noting that Widowmaker, Mercy, and even Pharah, who wears bulky armor, all look like slender models. Kaplan introduced Zarya as an attempt at addressing that issue.
Both of the heroes are already playable at PAX, with videos showcasing their abilities already available on the battle.net website.
The new heroes will get to play on a new playing field, Watchpoint: Gibraltar, the fourth map for the game. Unlike the previous three maps seen, Gibraltar will expand on the lore of the Overwatch universe and contain significant story elements.