I’ve played enough Overwatch to know when I’m looking at Overwatch. Sure, I may be a bit rusty, and we may have some interesting core changes here that make things slightly different, but I feel pretty good in confirming what I felt all along when looking at Overwatch 2: It’s everything the original Overwatch had with a handful of core changes, a big content drop, and a new content schedule. While those core changes and additions may be notable to hardcore players, Overwatch 2 core gameplay just does what Overwatch did before without much of a difference, for better and for worse.
Overwatch 2: Electric Boogaloo
Overwatch 2 has some changes that set it apart from the original game, though I wouldn’t say those changes are numerous. The 6v6 of the original game has been reduced to a 5v5. Moreover, there are a handful of new maps, such as those featuring the Push game mode. There have also been visual refreshes and rebalancing to pretty much all the existing maps and cast, and a few new heroes, maps, and modes are joining them with more to come. All this aside, the core component of Overwatch 2 is the same as ever. Teams mix up a composition of Tanks, Supports, and Attackers and vie for an objective on the map, whether attacking or defending, all while trying to frag each other to gain dominance. PVE is on the way in 2023, but wasn’t available at the time of this review.
I will say Overwatch 2’s visual refresh looks quite polished. The heroes look great in their Overwatch 2 skins, but if you have an existing Battle.net account with first game data, you’ll also bring your skins and other cosmetics over from the first game, which is a nice touch. They did do some revamping of characters. For instance, nearly all of Orisa’s kit has been reworked to revolve around an energy javelin which can be thrown to attack and pin foes or spun to deflect bullets and push back enemies. Unfortunately, she loses her Protective Barrier and Halt! abilities for this, so your mileage may vary if you favored her original kit.
I think varying mileage will also be a thing for the 5v5 comp. It’s worth noting that roles are split between Tank, Attacker, and Support, and some roles are limited. I didn’t really feel any horrible degree of missing strategy or success from not having a sixth player, but other more hardcore players might feel it lacking, especially when wipes are more feasible with only five enemies on the field. It will still arguably come down to skill and composition, but I felt like team fights went far faster in 5v5 comp.
The new heroes are also nice and seem to fit right into the cast. Junker Queen is the new Tank with a boomeranging Jagged Blade knife that can be thrown, and then called back, hitting folks on the way out and back in. If it hits an opponent, it will stick to them and yank them towards Junker Queen. You can hit them with the Carnage melee swing skill to do instant damage and damage-over-time as you finish them with her shotgun. Sojourn is the new Attacker with a railgun that can be rapid-fired until she charges a rail shot. Then you can let loose with a pinpoint beam shot. She also has inside agility with a rocket-powered slide that lets her clear ground fast and then jump to reach high ground. Finally, Kiriko joins the Supports with healing talismans to protect allies, kunai to open enemies up to critical hits, and a Shadow Step ability that lets her join a targeted ally instantly, even through walls.
Each new hero is fun and I enjoyed seeing how they fit into the existing cast. Sojourn in particular was an active blast to play with her mix of speedy offense and pinpoint big damage. The new maps were quite a good time too, utilizing both traditional Control, Escort, and Hybrid game modes and the new Push game mode quite well. I really like the Push match because you have to gain control of a robot in the middle that pushes a wall towards your enemy’s base. Get killed off and the robot goes back to the middle, but the wall’s progress stays put. That means getting control of the robot is only one part of it. You have to get it back to your objective wall as well.
New Queen Street is one of the new maps and it utilizes the Push mode. It's a shiny metropolis with zig-zagging roads. The curving path the robot has to travel to push the walls features buildings on either side for players to enter and ambush from. You can also find balconies to get high ground if you're a sniper or just want to get the drop on foes. There are also trees and buses along the road that provide small cover as you navigate alongside the bot. It's a well-built map.
What's more, New Queen Street's various strategic tactical advantages are something that extends to many of the other new maps in Overwatch 2's collection. They are all colorful and have a lot going on throughout their main paths and nooks. Coloseo in Rome and Esperança in Lisbon join New Queen Street on the Push playlist, with the former offering a futuristic take on the Roman Colliseum and the streets and houses around it as Esperança features winding streets and river banks with lavish and rustic houses to ambush and snipe from. Paraiso in Brazil and Midtown in New York join the Hyrbid maps, with Midtown offering different elevated roads and Grand Central Station alongside packed streets of shops and parked vehicles. Meanwhile, Paraiso offers a colorful hillside town full of narrow alleyways and sloping terrain as one of Overwatch's biggest maps yet. Finally, Circuit Royal in Monte Carlo is an Escort map featuring hotels, casinos, and an F1 track running through it all. Each new map is a splendid and varied addition to the overall playlist.
The new user experience
One part of Overwatch 2 that is likely to be divisive is the new player grind. Recall that Overwatch 2 has gone free to play. If you bring your original Overwatch data over, you can jump right in, but if you start fresh in Overwatch 2, you’re in for a climb to access all of its content. It begins with unlocking the modes little by little. You play the tutorial, play some training, and then you can access Unranked Quick Play. Play more and you’ll unlock role queues (queuing as Attacker, Tank, or Support), then Custom Games, then Competitive, and so on.
More importantly, you won’t have access to all Heroes past a free rotation that remains in play. You have to unlock them little by little through playing matches. Blizzard Entertainment did this to prevent new players from being overwhelmed by features and modes, and it is quite the grind. You’ll have to get through about 100 matches to unlock all Heroes. That also means figuring out carefully which ones you’ll unlock as you go to make sure they are of use to you. Since matches can take up to about 10 minutes to finish, it’s not the most dismal grind. What’s more, you don’t have to deal with it if you’re a returning player, or you can just buy a pack that lets you skip that grind. It doesn’t cost any more than buying an actual game at $39.99 USD, so if you’re looking to just get to the action, that’s likely the way to go.
Squad up… again
Ultimately, Overwatch 2 feels less like a sequel and more like a refresh, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The new Heroes are neat, as are the refreshed looks of previous Heroes. The new Push mode and other new maps are fun as well. That said, the game pretty much plays the same. If you loved Overwatch, there’s really no reason why you won’t enjoy continuing this journey. If you weren’t a fan, this isn’t going to change your mind. That said, if the first batch of heroes, modes, and maps were any indication, it at least looks like Overwatch 2’s new free-to-play seasonal content rotation is going to keep things interesting for a long time to come.
This review is based on a PC digital copy supplied by the publisher. Overwatch 2 comes out on October 4 on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch.
- It's Overwatch... but with a "2"
- New Heroes are fun
- Push mode is a really neat match
- Refreshes on old maps and cast are cool
- New maps are well-designed
- You can buy your way out of the new player grind
- Returning players don't have to grind content
- You also get to keep your Overwatch 1 cosmetics
- It's still just Overwatch, but with a "2"
- New player grind is quite the climb
- You have to buy a pack if you want out of the grind
- Some players may not enjoy original character reworks
- Move to 5v5 may take adjustment
- PVE content doesn't come till 2023