Review – Overwatch 2
When Overwatch launched way back in 2016 it was a game changer. It paved the way for the new generation of hero shooters that will eventually come to oversaturate the market. Very few of them managed to get that same feeling across as Overwatch though. I even went on to review the surprising Switch version that came out. Thanks to its amazing roster of diverse heroes that appeal to many playstyles, it was really easy to dive into and I kept coming back to it.
So what is actually different in Overwatch 2 and is it a glorified update? For the most part, it is an update, but a pretty significant one. The best way to think of it right now is as a 2.0 update rather than a fully-fledged sequel. The biggest change is lowering the player count from 6v6 to 5v5. Whilst this sounds like a minor change on the surface it has a significant impact on the gameplay experience. First of all, they removed one of the tanks; making it a one tank, two damage and, two healer team composition. Removing one of the tanks has essentially removed all those awkward standstill moments that plagued Overwatch, where everyone would just bunker down behind two shields.
Matches are now hyper-aggressive. No more of these standstill moments between two teams at a chokepoint. It’s fast-paced and a lot of fun. A breath of fresh air in a game that at times felt stale. With this in mind is the new Push game mode. Think of it as a two-way payload where both teams are battling over a single cart that goes back and forth. The team to push it the furthest wins.
Push launched with two maps. This is probably the most open maps we’ve had so far, with plenty of pathways and shortcuts to get to the combat zones quicker, which helps considering the maps are massive compared to normal payloads. For better or for worse, however, the Control mode and all associated maps have been removed. Whilst not the most popular mode, it did have some standouts within Overwatch. Also, there are curiously some more missing maps from the game.
To cater to the new player count in Overwatch 2, there had to be changed to some of the heroes. There are smaller changes like Cassidy’s flashbang being removed, or changes to Sombra to reduce the amount of CCs in the game. There are more significant changes as well, like Doomfist being moved from DPS to tank roles, whilst keeping a lot of the same kit with some tweaks. Then we get Orisa, who plays entirely different from her Overwatch counterpart, being much more aggressive than passive. No more cowering behind shields; Orisa now leads the charge.
Unfortunately, not enough has been done. Characters that were in desperate need of some changes are just left alone. Symmetra is still not fun to go against and her ultimate is one of the laziest in the games. Hammond is not only annoying to heal, but playing against him is a chore. Tanks are in this weird spot where they are just high-health DPS heroes. Meanwhile, Support feels largely the same, which can be problematic when you have an aggressive Genji chasing you down and only one tank. It’s safe to say the game balance is in a rough spot at launch, even if the game is fun to play.
Alongside the hero changes, which are a fairly mixed bag and don’t go as far as they should cater to the new player count, there are three new heroes introduced, which are a slightly better fit. First up is Soujourn, who was announced over two years ago. A DPS hero that channels a sense of Quake gameplay with fast movement, a slide boost mechanic, and a gun that builds up charge as you do damage and unleashes that in a deadly rail burst that can one-hit most squishes. A high-skill hero that is fun to play. Junker Queen is the latest tank and one of the most fun, with a great combination of melee-based life-steal and shotgun blasting. Finally, Kiriko in the healer position, whilst feeling similar to other heroes, combines them in a way that is interesting. A sort of combination of Zenyatta’s high-damage attacks, Genji’s movement, and Moira’s healing. Kiriko is one of my favourites, even if she isn’t a game-changer and her kit can be considered a bit boring.
As you might remember from the Overwatch 2 reveal stream, there was going to be a huge emphasis on PvE story content. Finally, we would be able to explore stories in this wonderful world that have only been explored outside of the game, through cinematics and comics to introduce new heroes. Unfortunately, that’s not here today and will be arriving in some capacity through the seasons in 2023. It’s a big shame as I was really looking forward to the PvE experience. The lack of PvE at launch is what makes this primarily feel like just another update rather than a fresh new experience. It’s a pretty light refresh for a 2.0 release.
Regardless of these issues, I’m still having an absolute blast with Overwatch 2. There are frustrating moments and absolutely glorious moments, so it’s pretty much on par for Overwatch. If you liked the original you will like this one with some adjustments. If you didn’t like the original then you will most likely have a hard time enjoying this one. It’s just a different flavour of the same game with some strengths and drawbacks to the core experience. I do expect to be playing this for a while as my main PvP game.
Of course, going Free-to-Play you know the monetisation is going get nasty. So what do we have this time? Whilst I’m not a fan of loot boxes, it was hard to argue that at the very least that Overwatch‘s monetisation scheme was fairly inoffensive. You got free skins at a solid rate and you could typically get what you want without an extensive grind. Getting rid of the loot boxes is a cause for celebration, but is replacing it with a grindy and dull battle pass any better? Especially when the rewards just seem completely lacklustre. Most of which are low-effort avatars, sprays, and a few voice lines. The biggest reward sits at level 80 in the form of the game’s first customisable mythic skin for Genji (clearly showing favouritism). It’s an unrewarding and uninspired form of progression that feels more like a mobile game than something polished with AAA standards.
That’s not to mention that within these Battle Passes will reside the new heroes as they release. In Season 1 this isn’t truly impactful, with Overwatch players being able to access the new hero, Kiriko, instantly. However, brand-new players will either need to buy the season pass for instant access or grind up to level 55. Out of an 80-level battle pass. It’s an extensive grind that will only get worse as new heroes are introduced that could end up being meta. Imagine joining a competitive game only to be shunned because you didn’t buy a critical hero. Hero switching is a core mechanic of the Overwatch, series and having all of them available at all times made Overwatch a joy so many years later. That said, having all previous characters already unlocked does lessen that (after new players go through an overly extensive new-player experience).
Now for the storefront itself. Your Overwatch coins can be used to buy skins, the same as before, but the prices have been ramped up to 1900 credits for skin or 2000 credits for a bundle. Here’s the kicker: the Overwatch store only has bundles of 500, 1000, 2,200, 5,700 and 11,600. If you want to buy a skin, you will pretty much always have leftover currency unless you make multiple purchases. It is a widespread tactic, but one that needs to be called out.
As for earning coins in-game, you can expect this to take a long time earning at most sixty credits per week. Yeah, that’s right. As it stands, it will take eight months to get one skin. It’s a really aggressive monetisation strategy that is way worse than the original in just about every way. And the game going free to play doesn’t explain why skins cost almost as much as Overwatch did at launch.
As for the visuals, this is pretty much the same as before so don’t be expecting much here. It’s a clean and gorgeous look, thanks to wonderful art direction, even if the technical aspects are lacking. The visual strength lies in the character designs who are all unique. That’s not to say there are no differences. The lighting upgrade is a much-welcome change. If you are someone who prefers raw technical powerhouses over something more restrained, then there isn’t much here for you. I do wish there was a bit more and for maps to have different times of day to make them feel a bit more fresh after a few runs. The biggest improvement however, is with the ultrawide support making a comeback.
The same goes for the sound design. The banter between the heroes at the start is the best part of Overwatch, and there’s a lot more here as well. Overwatch 2 delves deeper into the character’s motivations and relationships with other characters in the game world. It’s always been a nice touch and it’s great to see that expanded here, with tons of new dialogue. It’s just a shame we will most likely never hear the banter between tanks again.
Elsewhere, sound design is exactly what you would expect from Overwatch. A keen effort has been put in to give you as much information as possible from audio queues, like each character having distinct footsteps or enemy heroes yelling in their native language if they are on the opposite team. Its audio design is there to inform the player every step of the way, and it’s still among the best out there for this very reason.
Overwatch 2 isn’t the grand reinvention that many believed it was going to be. It’s still Overwatch, for the better or for the worse. However, in my opinion, it is still by far the best multiplayer shooter out there right now and its core mechanics never seem to get old. It’s just a big shame a solid core is being massively let down by an aggressive monetisation system and lack of gameplay rewards.
Not much of a visual change from the original. It’s simple, but that’s a good thing for a smooth PvP experience.
Despite some core balance issues, it’s good to be back playing Overwatch. The changes, whilst not all perfect, do make up for a great game regardless.
Overwatch 2‘s thirty-five heroes all have their own unique personalities that shine throughout the game. The great sound design to keeps you alert.
Aggressive monetisation and lack of meaningful progression (that the original had) bring down an otherwise solid game.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Overwatch 2 is available now on PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PS4, and PS5.
Reviewed on PC with an RTX 2060, Ryzen 5 3600X and 16GB RAM.
A copy of Overwatch 2 was provided by the publisher.