Overwatch 2 review: heroes never die

Overwatch 2 review: heroes never die

Overwatch 2 doesn’t bring all that new to the hugely successful six-year legacy of its predecessor, but it’s a much-needed refresh nonetheless. The first-person, multiplayer hero shooter has seen 35 million players in its first month alone, and with faster gameplay dynamics and an overhauled monetization system, the game seems set to breathe new life into the franchise.

Overwatch 2 however, the release has not been without a number of issues – from long queue times, DDoS attacks and PC crash bugs. My brief foray into competitive mode was met with lags that seem to plague a number of Aussie players with no clear fix.

It continues – several heroes have already been temporarily removed from the list for weeks at a time to resolve bugs such that the mobile guard Bastion can bypass the maximum number of artillery shots (three) in his ultimate, and fire repeatedly until time runs out. Fortunately, most of the issues that plagued the game during its launch weeks have since been fixed, but our first playtime was riddled with issues that spoke to a game that either wasn’t quite ready for launch, or wasn’t expecting such a huge influx of players all at a time.

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Apart from errors and server capacity, Overwatch 2 is just as fun as its predecessor at its core, if not more so. Having been a staunch fan of the original since the early beta stages, I was interested to see how this update would compare to the game that I’ve been playing for over half a decade.

With the reworking of the 36 (usually) playable heroes to account for the team size reduction from six to five – much to my disappointment, at the cost of losing one tank per team – each hero is now much more formidable to stick with. In the past, team synergy and having the right mix of heroes was a make-or-break consideration – Pharah and Mercy, for example, or dive combos like Winston and D.Va. Overwatch 2 reduces the need for these.

Tanks now go solo, unlike previous offensive/defensive paradigms. Heroes that previously had abilities to weaken the enemy team, to give their allies an opening to strike, now have new abilities and increased damage output to finish the job themselves. Sombra is the best example here – she now deals 50% more damage to targets she has hacked, whereas previously it was often much faster for another character to finish off these opponents.

While this may be a welcome change for some, one that reduces reliance on others and allows you to rely on your own skills, it comes at the expense of the more strategic plays and unusual hero combinations that made the first Overwatch sparkle.

Image: Blizzard Entertainment

The team size reduction and subsequent hero updates also see Overwatch 2 becomes much more fast-paced and intense. The game has always been dynamic, with little room to take a breather, but the speed of the battles is all the more noticeable in this new iteration.

Each role (Tank, DPS and Support) now has more passive abilities, such as increased speed and reload time when a DPS hero makes a kill, or the general passive healing all Support characters now have. These additions make each character much more fun to play, especially support heroes.

New heroes like Kiriko and Junker Queen are also great additions to the roster. Kiriko, the newest support hero, has a variety of abilities that have become critical to team success, making her a formidable foe in both combat and healing. Each hero has been meticulously redesigned, not only in loadout, but also in appearance. By comparing Overwatch 2 standard skins to the original, there is a definite improvement in the level of detail and refinement of the game’s overall style. New dialogue between heroes also integrates the story of the universe deeper into the game itself, allowing for fun and heartfelt interactions. As always, the voice acting itself is well done and the right balance between light hearted and serious, without feeling over the top.

Overwatch 2 review screenshot
Image: Blizzard Entertainment

But one of the biggest downfalls Overwatch 2, which has become all the more noticeable as the dust settles, is how unrewarding the meta-progression of the game now feels. That the game has given up on loot boxes for one more Valorant and Fortnite-inspired monetization system (ie free to play with battle pass and cosmetic shop) is only a small factor in this matter. The introduction of a paid battle pass means you get more cosmetics such as skins, voice lines and emotes. However, with the icy pace of earning in-game money to purchase certain skins or indeed the next match pass, your eyes may be watering at the expense of acquiring skins that could previously be obtained by playing a series of matches.

Read: Overwatch 2: Battle Pass and Seasons Explained

Beyond the match pass, the reduced sense of achievement filters into the gameplay itself. While heroes still retain their voice lines for being “on fire”, the visual element that accompanied this is included Overwatch are gone, along with medals awarded for healing, damage and damage reduction. Competitive ranking progress also now updates every 7 wins or 20 losses (whichever comes first), removing the incremental change in ranking (and sense of progress) that many other competitive games continue to use.

Overwatch 2 review screenshot
Image: Blizzard Entertainment

Although these changes are small, they remove the sense of individual performance in the game, which was always a good factor, even if the team did not do well overall. Loot box challenges for Arcade Mode wins are also gone with no tangible replacement, and judging by the wait times for an Arcade Mode match at the time of writing (as opposed to quick play or competitive modes) other players seem to feel less forced to try these without a clear reward either.

Despite the lack of moves towards the Arcade Game modes, which remain roughly the same on a rotating roster (with modes such as Mystery Heroes, Team Deathmatch and seasonal games such as the Halloween-themed Junkenstein’s Revenge), the introduction of ‘Push’ is a welcome in addition to regular matches.

Push is a game type where both teams must rush to a robot in the center of the map and fight to keep control of it, pushing it as far as they can to either side of the map before the timer runs out. As a mix of scoring game types and payload pushing, it adds a new dynamic to gameplay and has been a highlight of the matches I’ve participated in.

Overwatch 2 review screenshot
Image: Blizzard Entertainment

While new modes and heroes are some of the most noticeable changes to overwatch 2, minor changes, like the ability to “ping” where enemies are or might be, are equally integral to the overall feeling that this game has improved upon the original. The in-game HUD has also been simplified, taking up less of the screen and making it easier to see what’s happening in often hectic team fights.

Overwatch 2 delivers high-octane multiplayer gameplay and a completely enhanced version of the much-loved hero shooter. Now that the dust has settled, it’s becoming clear that despite a number of teething problems, the game manages to do what many sequels struggle with; build on a successful game and make it even better.

Three stars: ★★★

Overwatch 2
PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Developer: Blizzard entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Release date: 4 October 2022

The PC version of Overwatch 2 was played in conjunction with this review. Blizzard Entertainment gave GamesHub a free battle pass.

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