Overwatch’s Retribution PVE mode can make you feel so on-fire that you ought to be signed by an OWL team. Talon soldiers fall like bowling pins to your blade, shotgun, revolver, or alarmingly pointy hand. I almost hate to break it to you that Retribution’s AI is tricking you.
Speaking with Variety, Retribution lead designer Adrian Finol explained how his team created AI that convincingly puts on a tough-guy facade while crumbling like a house of cards inhabited by frightened kittens as soon as you do something big.
“Sometimes we tell the Talon sniper, ‘No, finish the shot!’ because Genji is going to feel awesome when he one-shots that sniper with a reflected headshot,” said Finol. “A ‘smart’ AI foe would stop shooting and take cover the second you enter Wraith mode as Reyes—but just like with Genji’s Deflect, it’s more fun if the enemies keep shooting, because having all those bullets fly by your head makes the ‘street level view’ of the fight more harried, frenetic, exciting.”
As another example, he noted that McCree’s “high noon” ult triggers some AI enemies to go into a panicked animation that looks like they’re ducking for cover, but “they’re not going to suddenly all disappear the way they could if we’d made them smarter.” You always get to feel like you timed your ult just right.
Of course, Retribution can still be legitimately challenging on higher difficulties, but Finol said that the goal was to make players feel like “a hero” in ways that Overwatch’s regular modes only do infrequently. Yeah, you might pull off that amazing Genji deflect against somebody playing Widowmaker once in a blue moon, but it’s moment-of-the-year fodder for an average player. Despite using similar characters and tools, Retribution can be a very different experience than regular Overwatch matches because, as Finol put it, AI is “really just there to put on a show for you.”