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2016 In Esports: Overwatch

2016 In Esports: Overwatch
We all start to feel a little nostalgic as the year comes to a close, and let’s face it 2016 hasn’t been the greatest for the planet. But for esports fans it’s been perhaps the best yet with the industry growing exponentially, more fans, teams and matches than ever before and certainly a moment or five of exceptional competition. But 2016 was a huge year for esports thanks to one game: Overwatch. While it’s by no means on the same level as League Of Legends or CS:GO, no other game has risen to competitive popularity in recent years as Overwatch has this year. There’s still plenty to come for the new title and 2017 will no doubt be an exciting year for it as a competitive game, so let’s look back at some of the moments that made this such a booming esport.

Graviton Surge through the window

With Overwatch being such a new esport, we’re always seeing new outstanding and surprising moments - everyone remembers the first time they saw a Genji deflected Gravitron Surge, for example. But this, during Blizzard’s novel World Cup tournament, was unparalleled. South Korea was up against the US looking to stop the payload from moving on. The timing and positioning on this was perfect; it was clear there was a play to be made, and South Korea made it. It was Zunba who initiated, hopping up to the window on Eichenwald before leaping through and placing a Graviton Surge in the centre of the US team. It was devastatingly aggressive and unexpected by the American team, with a nanoboosted Genji slicing through the already damaged team with ease. Incredible play.

Seagull’s last Bastion

As perhaps the most notable US Overwatch player, Seagull has become the one to watch whenever NRG plays. Bastion was rather famed around the launch of Overwatch as the ‘cheap’ hero, the one that few could overcome and many chose to play. He was tweaked by Blizzard, of course, but quickly became figured out and many of his strengths could easily be overcome. Seagull’s play at the Overwatch Open, however, shows just how strong the character can be. Knuckling down into a defensive, Bastion’s ultimate becomes available and - at the exact same time that Seagull activates it - he also receives the nanoboost from Ana. The result is a bloodbath as Bastion, enhanced in both tank mode and with the extra gains from Ana’s nanoboost, bounces around the objective defence with more than an air of confidence, destroying Splyce and securing the objective.

Taimou saves Finland against Russia

Another from the World Cup, this time with Finland’s Taimou making an exceptional, single-handed defense that was able to keep his team in the game, though Russia would ultimately go on to win the series. What makes it all the more outstanding is the fact that Russia very nearly claims its victory, taking out the majority of the Finnish side and leaving only Taimou, playing as McCree, to make the last ditch attempt at success - impossible odds by any ordinary stretch. But somehow Taimou manages to take out the Russian side with a hair’s breadth left on the payload. He initiates with an unnoticed stun on Reinhardt before taking the downed tank with relative ease. From there Taimou backs off, using incredible accuracy to eliminate practically the entire of the Russian team, giving the remaining Finns enough time to come in, distract the opposition and give Taimou the security he needs to end his massacre and win the map.

Falling High Noon

There’s many a clip out there of impressive McCree kill streaks, many of them using his notorious High Noon ultimate to a great deal of success. Esca’s use of High Noon deserves a special mention, however. Not only does he drop from higher ground to take out four of five opposing players, but he does so while in mid-air still. He mops up the fifth and final surviving player (one was already eliminated) but it’s particularly funny to watch his targets drop out of the air and fall limply to the ground like ragdolls. It might not be the most impressive play, but there’s something that’s just utterly rewatchable about this clip.

Sleep Dart and Earthshatter combo

One of the reasons we love to watch Overwatch competitively is to see how the different heroes can be utilised to interesting and powerful ways. Such as this combo from Team EnVyUs, who - after claiming an objective - sets themselves up for a perfect, unexpected sneak attack as FaZe Clan come charging around the corner. It’s beautiful, really. Chips on Ana perches beside the corner and as Fctfctn moves just far enough beyond the range of his shield a sleep dart is flung out to knock him down. Immediately after, Team EnVyUs’s own Reinhardt with Cocco unleashes a well-timed Earthshatter, knocking FaZe clan to the ground and dissolving any sort of attack they were trying to muster. It’s rare we get to see this sort of cohesion, but this one is a real treat.

Harbleu’s unstoppable on Roadhog

While one-man rampages might not be as thrilling as split-second team wipes, they’re still a hell of a lot of fun, especially when you looking at it analytically and how someone can achieve such results competitively. Harbleu’s well known for his skills with Roadhog, but this play is perhaps one of his best bringing down members of Team Liquid one after another without any real danger. He manages to rack up around 7 or 8 kills before he’s finally downed, claiming a couple of great hooks in the process. He’s a beast to watch, and proof that often it can be one significant display of skill from one player that can be enough to turn a game around.

EnVyUs is finally beaten

There’s a little more context needed for this one, but if you’ve been paying much attention to Overwatch esports since the game’s launch then you’re almost certainly going to know about it here. Team EnVyUs was on an incredible streak of wins, undefeated in a competitive matches for 57 matches. At the Overwatch Open, the first significant tournament for the game, it was a safe assumption that we would see Nv crowned as the winners of the competition. But it was in the semi-finals where the team met with its first upset in a close match against European team Rogue who has since risen as one of the strongest teams in the Overwatch scene. It was in the fifth and final map of the semi-final between the two teams where Rogue managed to grab onto a couple of key opportunities that ultimately lead to an adrenaline-fuelled final few minutes in what was easily one of the most exciting matches of the year.