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Overwatch 2: Hands-on preview from BlizzCon 2019

It's Overwatch, but now with 100 percent more PvE and 100 percent more story. Shacknews goes hands-on with the new co-op portion of the upcoming Overwatch 2 at this year's BlizzCon.


While Overwatch was primarily a competitive multiplayer game, there were elements of a story in there. That story was mainly about a formerly great organization of heroes called Overwatch and whether the team would ever reunite to fight for what's right again. That answer had to be coming, since the entirety of Overwatch had built to that moment, but nobody expected the big Overwatch reunion to come in a sequel. But that appears to be the case with Overwatch 2.

During Friday's BlizzCon Opening Ceremonies, fans were treated to a special cinematic that saw Overwatch reunite to take on a dangerous new threat called Null Sector. It was the first indicator of a deeper story-based experience, one rooted in co-op multiplayer. But how does it play? Shacknews went hands-on with one of the game's early missions to find out.

Overwatch 2 - Blizzcon preview

The demo sprinkled in some further exposition, regarding Overwatch 2's story. While Null Sector attacked Brazil in Friday's cinematic premiere, this mission saw the villainous robots launch an offensive on Brazil. As expected, Lucio was holding his own against the mechanical menace until the cavalry arrived. This set up a four-player co-op mission between Lucio, Tracer, Mei, and Reinhardt.

Those who have played the special Overwatch co-op missions during the first game's various events, like Overwatch Archives, should have an idea of what to expect. It's four humans uniting to take on a slew of CPU controlled bad guys. Before going out, players are treated to one of Overwatch 2's new features: customization options. Each hero has a slew of customization options that can add a little extra punch to a special attack, inflict additional damage, aid teammates, or perform some other function. It's important to note that for this demo, many of the latter options were gated off. Yes, players will need to level their characters up first before earning any of the more potent customization options.

Once the actual game begins, it feels much like a standard PvP Overwatch session, only applied to a PvE environment. The idea is to clear out waves of robots and advance forward, with survival mainly coming from effective uses of special abilities and using certain other abilities to assist teammates. Reinhardt can still use his shield to protect his partners, Lucio can act as the team's healer, and Mei can build ice barriers to block off overwhelming waves of enemies. It didn't feel like there was anything overly new here, but this was some prime Overwatch gameplay, for better or worse.

Overwatch 2 - Blizzcon preview

Of course, it's worth noting that not ever character's ability necessarily translates to the PvE environment. While I was using Reinhardt's Charge ability to effectively separate robot groups and pin down individual enemies, there was a point where I carelessly used it out in an open area and went careening off a cliff. This leads to another feature, where teammates can revive one another. There's no limit to how often characters can revive each other, but once everybody dies, the party gets sent back to the most recent checkpoint. And it should be noted that there are a limited number of attempts, so it's in everyone's best interest to not die.

That won't always be easy, because this demo did get challenging at various points. The final stretch, specifically, proved tougher than expected. In order to destroy the Null Sector factory that's constantly replenishing the robot ranks, the idea is to destroy the central core. The core, however, proves to be heavily guarded, with not only increasing waves of robots, but also increasingly powerful robots making their presence felt. It culminated with a massive boss coming out once the core was almost shattered. The boss hit incredibly hard, dashing across the room, firing off missiles, and also creating a harmful electrical field across a chunk of the ground.

To help get through this area, teams can make use of items from supply crates that come after certain waves. These items can include a healing field, a turret, a concussive grenade, and other items. Some of the items are finite and others are infinite with a longer cooldown timer. Using items effectively will be part of the challenge in Overwatch 2's PvE portion and will prove to aid greatly in survival.

After dispatching the boss and destroying the core, the team was only given 90 seconds to escape the facility before it exploded. There was heavy resistance blocking the exit, but our team was able to successfully escape. This led to another cutscene, one teasing bad things for Lucio.

Overwatch 2 definitely feels like more Overwatch, with Blizzard not overly tinkering with the game's formula. The game doesn't look to deviate from its predecessor too much, but does look to fill some of its holes, like the lack of a full-blown story. If Overwatch 2 can be to Blizzard's first-person shooter what Starcraft II's campaigns were to Blizzard's real-time strategy game, there's potential for something special here. There are seeds of brilliance here, but it's way too early to tell whether the final package will bring back the original Overwatch magic that many felt has waned over the past year and change.

Overwatch 2 is coming soon. There's no release date just yet, but PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One versions do appear to be a certainty. Whether it comes to Nintendo Switch, that remains to be seen.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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