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Overwatch 2 review – a heroic shooter sequel

Overwatch 2 review – a heroic shooter sequel
Overwatch 2 – a push into a new era (pic: Blizzard)



Blizzard ’s team-based FPS has gone free-to-play, with new maps, characters, and the dreaded battle pass – but is it a change for the better?



There’s an understandable undercurrent of anger running throughout the Overwatch community at the moment. Players are displeased that, despite paying good money for their Overwatch games, the original has been officially disabled and is now inaccessible. Some fans of the series, under the impression that the game would be around forever, had purchased it for more than one platform and now find themselves with several useless game discs lying around the house.



Does it matter that Blizzard has said that if you paid for the original Overwatch, you will automatically unlock all the heroes in Overwatch 2? To some diehard fans it might not make a difference, they’ve still been locked out of content they purchased once upon a time, in good faith that it would remain around for years to come.



To others, this is a meaningful and important gesture. They don’t have to grind to be able to select their favourite heroes from the original game, and that brings with it a level of satisfaction but also of superiority. ‘I was here before you,’ the veteran players will cry. The community is, at best, toxic and, at worst, just outright nasty and the new player experience in Overwatch 2 does nothing to close that gap, but rather it segments the ‘originals’ and the ‘newbies’.



Overwatch 2 has broadly the same gameplay and game modes as its predecessor, wrapped up in a shiny new package. Its first person shooter mechanics have never been unusual in themselves, even if the original did coin the phrase ‘hero shooter’, to describe the fighting game style designs and set-ups for its characters.



The former 6v6 modes are gone in favour of new, tighter 5v5 teams with a small selection of goals dependent on the map. Your team, made up of a balanced variety of tank, damage, and support characters, work together against another team in order to win matches and score points.



In Escort maps, such as Circuit Royal and Junkertown, an attacking team aims to escort a payload across the map to the objective, with the defending team aiming to prevent this happening. The defending team is allocated a small amount of time prior to the attacking team being released from the spawn area. A timer will begin to count down, and as the attacking team reaches certain checkpoints throughout the map, that timer is extended, giving the attacking team more time to reach the final objective point.



This functions as well as it did in the original game, but the 5v5 dynamic makes gameplay more intense, and forces players to work together more effectively. There cannot be any loose parts if your team wants to achieve victory.



This rule generally applies to other map modes such as Control, which sees the two teams fighting over capturing objective modes in a best-of-three format. Hybrid maps seem to work better than ever, and provide the most intense gameplay, where the teams need to first capture a point before they can begin to move the payload.









The Assault mode from the original game, which saw the teams attempting to capture or defend objective points across the map, has been replaced with Push mode for Overwatch 2. This sees a robot added to the map, which the teams must fight to gain control of. Each team also has a barricade, and the robot will travel in the direction of the opposition’s spawn point and push the barricade as he goes.



Winning is achieved by helping the robot to push the barricade all the way to the end, but if this isn’t done by the time the clock runs out then the team who has managed to push the robot the furthest wins. There are checkpoints throughout, which unlock new spawn points for the team that captured them, and the robot will also stop at these checkpoints.



This new game mode is refreshing and very enjoyable. The new objectives and fresh approach to what is still a very traditional Overwatch experience make it much more exciting and the combat also feels more balanced. In typical attack-defend maps, it can be much more difficult for the attacking team to progress through a strong defence, but in Push mode the playing field feels more even when facing a team of similar skill to yourself.



The new maps which play host to Push mode include Colosseo, which is set in Rome, and features the distant sounds of a match in the Colosseum, to add authenticity. Esperança is another new map, with a slow incline making it great for sniping. This map is set in Portugal, with the development team’s attention to detail leading them to send a sound team to the country, to capture ambient noise. Blizzard has really gone all-in on the small details throughout Overwatch 2, allowing you to soak in the authentic atmosphere.



The final Push map is New Queen Street, which is based on real-life streets in Toronto and was playable throughout the Overwatch 2 beta events leading up to the game’s release. The tie-ins to the general Overwatch series lore are particularly close on this map, as the city is known to have come under siege by the extremist group Null Sector, as well as being home to one of the new heroes, Sojourn.



Overwatch 2 – Junker Queen has been rumoured for a long while (pic: Blizzard)



If you’re an Overwatch veteran there’ll be plenty of familiar faces showing up, and a few new ones too. Sojourn, Junker Queen, and Kiriko are all joining the ranks with the launch of Overwatch 2. Sojourn was the first of the three to be announced and has a fully-automatic assault rifle, making her a good alternative to Soldier 76. She has more mobility and her Power Slide ability shows this off particularly well. Jumping during the slide also gives a huge boost, so scaling ledges and reaching height is quicker than ever.



Junker Queen has been rumoured for what feels like forever, but she finally is a playable character. Her passive ability, which heals her from all damage over time, makes her a dangerous force to be reckoned with. Kiriko, the ninja healer, is the most recent announcement and is aided by her kitsune (aka fox) spirit. She has some impressive throwable kunai which can either heal allies or deal lethal damage to opponents. Her ability to teleport to nearby teammates also proves invaluable for getting out of a tight spot.



For those that didn’t play the original Overwatch before October 4, there is a lengthy grind ahead in order to unlock all in-game heroes. Blizzard claims that 100 matches need to be completed in order to unlock the full roster. With wins counting as two games, and progress accumulating as you go, that does seem accurate. With 32 heroes to unlock in total, this averages out at roughly one new character every three matches.



As an existing Overwatch player heading into Overwatch 2, the difference is already striking. Gone are player levels and player frames, that show off your level and competitive rank, in favour of customisable titles and player cards. Seeing a player join your team with a Grandmaster title used to fill your teammates with confidence but with the removal of these ranks comes the perception of a fairer playing field.









Another new addition, and vitally important, is the new passive ability awarded to each hero. Crucially, all characters will keep up to 30% of their ultimate charge when the player swaps from one hero to another. The play style of Overwatch does sometimes demand this. If a beefy tank is giving you trouble, a quick switch over to Bastion to offload a bunch of artillery into them will soon force them to change their play style, and with an ultimate that remains partially charged upon switching, you’re often found in a strong position to push on the enemy.



Damage roles will now receive a 25% increased reload and movement speed buff for 2.5 seconds following an elimination, greatly increasing the possibility of multi-kill achievements. When playing, this is very noticeable and as the Overwatch 2 dev team observe the launch of the game, and differences in play styles and kill-to-death ratios, there’s a chance this could be fine-tuned in the future. To do so would be understandable, there are sometimes occasions where a character with that buff is trickier than the general balance of the game to topple, but generally speaking this isn’t too egregious and actually provides a nice additional challenge.



With the move to a free-to-play model comes the likelihood of more toxic gameplay and bad-natured competitors entering the game. In response to that, Blizzard has launched the Defense Matrix, an all-encompassing term for Overwatch 2’s systems designed to help protect the integrity of gameplay as well as promote positive behaviour.



One such measure is the need for a verified phone number. Acting as an additional layer of security, SMS Protect will verify ownership of accounts, in the case of unauthorised access being gained, and will also make it more difficult for suspended or banned players to return to the game without using a completely different phone number. It seems fair in theory but if you’ve had access to Overwatch for the previous six years and now cannot play Overwatch 2 because your mobile number cannot be added, you’re going to be furious.



Overwatch 2 – Push mode is a winner from the off (pic: Blizzard)



Jumping into several games in Overwatch 2, the premise is the same as ever. Choose your hero, whether you’re on the frontline dealing immense damage; supporting your allies by healing and amplifying damage; or taking on the tank role, soaking up bullet sprays and shielding your team in order to minimise damage taken. Learning to use your abilities feels as enjoyable as it ever did and executing plays with your team feels rewarding. Hitting D.Va’s ultimate, Self Destruct, to fully wipe out the opposing team of five all at once, is nothing short of exhilarating.



Some heroes have had a rework ahead of the launch of Overwatch 2. Mei’s ice gun, which once was used liberally to freeze enemies solid, now no longer has that effect. Cassidy’s flashbang ability, which once staggered and stunned the opposition, has been removed and replaced with a magnetic grenade – which attaches to the nearest enemy before detonating.



The removal of stun and freeze mechanics for Overwatch 2 is a bold but positive move by Blizzard. The frustration of being frozen and having no way to counter it used to make the game feel unbalanced and unfair, whereas Mei now having the ability to slow rather than completely freeze her opponents gives a more reasonable opportunity for her targets to retaliate.



With the game not fully populated before launch, we often had to rely on AI bots to make up the numbers, but the good news is that they have improved massively. Computer-controlled enemies now feel genuinely difficult to face, with their one major failing being their refusal to avoid damage-causing areas such as Torbjorn’s Molten Core, which creates a dangerous pool of lava.









Another new addition to Overwatch 2 is the arrival of the battle pass and the season model. The battle pass is free for all players, with a premium option available at 1,000 Overwatch coins, which is roughly £9.50. With season-pass aficionados such as Fortnite setting its battle pass at around £6, and Destiny 2’s season pass reaching roughly £9, it is more expensive but offers similar rewards. The free track is available to everyone, and there are no characters locked out of the free version, meaning that the only reason to buy it would be if you’re bothered about cosmetics.



The season model is already intriguing. The first season brings with it a Cyberpunk-esque theme, as we discussed in our first impressions , and this will change each season. The most intriguing thing about this is Blizzard’s claim that every new season will bring a new hero or new map. Traditionally, Overwatch hasn’t added new maps all that often, so the thought of multiple new additions in a year is very exciting, especially with the new Push mode stretching the limits of what Overwatch maps can do.



Overwatch doesn’t contain any kind of story campaign, which still seems a missed opportunity given the complex lore that exists outside the game. A story ‘experience’ is promised for next year but it’s a PvE co-op mode rather than anything like a single-player story campaign. Very little information has been revealed about it so far, but its absence is a shame as it would’ve been particularly useful for new players and would’ve helped to justify Overwatch 2 as a full sequel and not just a massive update.



The other fault is that the gunplay is surprisingly average for a major first person shooter. It’s better than, say, Borderlands but has nowhere the same sense of tactility as Destiny or even Call Of Duty. Character abilities and the hugely varied selection of heroes has always made up for that though and figuring out the best combination of abilities, alongside a strong strategy with your team, creates a hugely satisfying experience that is not like any other online shooter.







Many will criticise Overwatch 2 for being too similar to the original but even ignoring the fact that it’s free, the new game mode, Push, and new characters bring a refreshing change of scenery to the game. The 5v5 mode reinvigorates something that was in danger of becoming quite tired, and makes games feel faster and more chaotic in a truly satisfying way. Wins somehow just mean more, as your team works harder to achieve your objectives.



Especially with the story mode arriving next year, this is only the start of Overwatch 2 and the future evolution of the series. It’s a very promising start though, and one that hopefully won’t be overshadowed by a small number of vocal veterans. This is as exciting as Overwatch has ever been and, assuming Blizzard can stay the course, should ensure the franchise maintains its position as one of gaming’s best online multiplayer experiences.






Overwatch 2 review summary In Short: A breath of fresh air for the Overwatch franchise, with the new game modes, characters, and mechanics all working together superbly well, for a genuinely exciting sequel.
Pros: 5v5 mode is highly challenging and extremely satisfying. Character adjustments have made the game feel more balanced and more enjoyably chaotic, as everyone fights on an even playing field.
Cons: There are no significant new features, and the new content could have remained in the original Overwatch game were it not for the move to a free-to-play model.
Score: 9/10





Formats: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 5 Price: Free to play Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment Developer: Blizzard Entertainment Release Date: 4th October 2022 Age Rating: 12









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MORE : Overwatch 2 first impressions – hands-on with early access







MORE : Overwatch 2 newcomers need to play 100 matches to unlock original cast







MORE : Overwatch 2: everything you need to know about free-to-play, Switch and Junker Queen





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