Welcome to our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans, nagging questions, and whatever else we feel like talking about. No matter what the topic, we invite everyone in the comments to tell us: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
This weekend, I’ll probably still be blasting my way through Mafia III as I wrap up our review. But between Cajun-spiced crime sprees, I’ll be going back to Overwatch, which has been my faithful standby since its release in May. There’s a little extra incentive to wasting my precious free time on it these days, though. Just as they did for the Summer Olympics, those devious developers at Blizzard have given their best-in-class competitive shooter a seasonal makeover to pull players back in and give those of us who haven’t been able to shake the bug a slew of new goodies to win in the game’s cruel, cruel loot boxes.
In keeping with the times and Overwatch’s general joviality, this recent update has a campy horror theme. The most meaty addition is a new mode called Junkenstein’s Revenge, which pits four players against the murderous robots of Dr. Junkenstein, who is, of course, Junkrat in a goofy mad scientist costume. As your battle goes on, Dr. Junkenstein gets some help from his buddies Reaper, Roadhog, and Mercy, who are also sporting their extensive Halloween get-ups. There’s not much to the fight itself. It can get surprisingly difficult once your powerful foes pop up, but if all four members of your team are playing their role and pulling their weight (you can only pick between four predetermined characters and the team has to include one of each) scraping by isn’t much of a challenge. It’s a silly little distraction that works best with a couple of friends and open microphones.
As horrible as it is to say, the real draw is the chance—the very, very slim chance—to add the update’s spooky character skins to your collection. All the costumes that appear in Junkenstein’s Revenge can be yours if you’re lucky enough to open a loot box and find one of them waiting inside. (Or if you happen to have 3,000 Overwatch bucks lying around.) They’re the most spectacular of the new looks, with Reaper dressing up as the headless horseman, Roadhog as a bloated Frankenstein’s monster, and Mercy as the token sexy witch. (That last one gets a little too far into cheesecake territory for my tastes.) Some other cast members get costumes as well, but outside of Zenyatta’s new skeleton frame and Soldier 76 looking like he’s ready to take over for MJ in the “Thriller” video, they’re pretty disappointing.
These seasonal events bring out the best and worst in Overwatch. It’s not some grand reinvention, but it’s just a little bit of icing to sweeten up a 5-month-old game. Most importantly, Blizzard handles the aesthetics perfectly, as it always does. The music that plays in the menus has been replaced with cheesy “Toccata And Fugue” style organ rearrangements, and the look of all the Junkenstein stuff, down to the stitching that holds Roadhog together, is well considered and crafted. But at the end of the day, unless you’re willing to drop some real money on these special Halloween loot boxes before they disappear forever, you’re probably not going to get any of the cool skins you’re after. And yet, I keep playing, telling myself that maybe I’ll get lucky in the next one. It’s the same troubling Skinner-box conditioning that’s seeped into so many modern games. Thank God Overwatch still plays so damn well.