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Overwatch’s CG shorts offer an alternative to traditional game narrative

Blizzard’s Overwatch has often been compared to online shooters such as Team Fortress 2, eschewing a single-player campaign in favor of a more robust multiplayer offering. However, anyone who has followed the studio knows that world-building is extremely important to its success, and although Overwatch may not feature a campaign or traditional “story” mode, a series of animated shorts have done a wonderful job of getting players accustomed to the game’s characters.

The first of these, dubbed “Recall” and released in late March, focuses on the gorilla scientist character, Winston.

Related: Blizzard’s Overwatch hits retail for PS4, Xbox One, and PC in spring 2016.

“The conflict between Omnics and humans has now claimed over 15,000 lives. So far, the international community has been reluctant to intervene,” a newscaster says as Winston debates initiating the “Overwatch Recall,” which would open him up to prosecution.

The short then rewinds time, showing Winston as a young ape and revealing when he got his rectangular spectacles.

This is material that, in a traditional single-player game, would likely be presented in the form of cutscenes, and probably much more brief to keep the player’s attention. When they’re put on YouTube, the 8-minute run time is much less of a concern.

The second short, “Alive,” was just released this past weekend, and showcases an intense battle between mascot character Tracer and the mysterious assassin Widowmaker. It appears to take place before “Recall,” as the opening shows an excited Tracer watching an Omnic speak about a continued peace with the humans, only to be interrupted when she spots Widowmaker on the rooftop. What follows is an intense firefight showcasing Tracer’s time-bending abilities, which unfortunately ends with the death of the Omnic leader — it’s on now.

If you want to know even more about the universe of Overwatch, Blizzard is also planning a series of “digital comic shorts” that offer background information on more of the main characters, including the six-shooting McCree. A graphic novel, Overwatch: First Strike is also releasing later this year.

Overwatch is out for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on May 24.