Overwatch 2 is probably going to be the most contentious game of the year. The first-person shooter (FPS) is excellent, and it’s fun in a way that Overwatch used to be, but hasn’t been in years. But it’s going to be the subject of discussion for a while.
Before talking about Overwatch 2 you also have to talk about what it isn’t: It isn’t the fully featured single-player game that developer Blizzard promised. The campaign mode – the main reason Overwatch 2 was being made in the first place – has been delayed and will arrive at some point next year. Thanks to a series of changes and also a huge shift to 5v5 multiplayer matches, it also isn’t Overwatch, the game it is replacing.
I don’t like to talk about legacy in reviews: video games tend to depreciate in value faster than a new car. The graphics and design philosophy start aging from a few months before the thing even releases, and because the same development staff are rarely attached to every game in a franchise, previous games being a smash hit is no indicator of a future game being worth your time. However, Overwatch 2’s release is the death of its predecessor. By the time you’re reading this review, Overwatch will be gone. In its place, Overwatch 2 is a 5v5 shooter with a variety of big tweaks. You truly can’t go home again, and in this case that home has changed to incorporate a shinier colour palette and a free-to-play mentality.
So, the question isn’t just about whether Overwatch 2 is worth your time, it’s about whether Overwatch 2 is a game good enough to justify Overwatch – a game people have been playing for nearly six and a half years – being canned forever. That’s going to give a lot of people conflicted feelings, and as a result I think Overwatch 2 will probably be a very contentious game.
For me, I think it’s a much improved game that shows Blizzard isn’t afraid of trying out a few bold changes to reinvent a game that was still beloved by its core audience. It is a big risk, but it seems to have paid off with a game that recaptures the excitement of Overwatch’s early days.
This is crucial because despite all of the changes it’s largely the same game. Your cosmetics from Overwatch are all present and correct here and although there are a few reworks, most of the heroes and maps are pretty similar too – although with graphical overhauls. Taken at face value it can be difficult to question exactly what the point of a sequel was because things really do feel that similar.
In fact, look a little closer and all you can see is the live service elements clogging up the game and hiding heroes and modes away inside a battle pass and level grind.
But if you actually play Overwatch 2, you’ll see a game that feels reinvigorated and effortlessly delivers pulse-pounding firefights without making you feel too rough when things turn against you.
The moment-to-moment play is the biggest change to Overwatch 2. One of my biggest criticisms of Overwatch was that it often felt like you didn’t have too much of an impact on the game unless you were playing a high risk and reward character like Widowmaker or you were dropping a big ultimate ability on massed enemies. In Overwatch 2 the move to 5v5 matches and what feels like increased lethality across the board has made combat feel more brutal, and it’s meant that even as heroes that typically don’t do a lot of damage it’s easy to carve out an impact on the enemy team, getting you that much closer to delivering the payload.
This is a game you can play casually with friends, shooting the breeze and fragging enemies. It’s also a game you can dig into with a dedicated stack of players, grinding out ranked matches in a bid for ever higher competitive ranks. What you get out of Overwatch 2 really depends on what you want to put into it. During the review phase I’ve played casually with other journalists, and also engaged in a running duel with a healing and sniping Ana on the opposing team that was absolutely determined to shut me down. They won. Consistently. But that ability to get you engaged in these little rivalries without delivering any of the negative effects is something that Overwatch has always done well and is alive and well here. Winning feels excellent, whereas losing often makes me shrug and get on with my life because, well, actually playing the game feels really solid.
Every hero has a completely unique kit meaning that depending on which hero you play, you’ll be playing an entirely different game. Mei is a damage dealer with a gun that doubles as an icethrower (like a flamethrower…but with cold stuff) and long-range icicle slinger in addition to a self-heal and ice walls to block enemy lines of sight. Mei can be played as a frontline fighter or a terrifying guerilla, pinging headshots and messing with anyone that wants to get close. Meanwhile, another damage dealer is Junkrat, a lad with satchel charges and a grenade launcher. Officially they fulfil the same role but the moment-to-moment play is completely different. Factor in other roles, like the mech-piloting tank D.VA and it’s hard not to feel like you’re playing several different shooters, which all share an objective.
This is compelling and it means that even if you’re not into one or two of Overwatch 2’s heroes, there’s likely to be someone that you click with, no matter what sort of role you want to play. Ana, previously mentioned because she was the bane of my life during the press review period, excels at healing players using a sniper rifle, meaning she might be the first video game sniper that actually is useful to the team.
It is a shame that this has come at the cost of team sizes dropping from six to five, meaning one member of everyone’s dedicated Overwatch team is now out in the cold. However, this feels like an edge case and isn’t the biggest upset.
That dubious honour belongs to the uneasy feeling in your gut that the ostensibly free-to-play Overwatch 2 is going to cost you a lot of money. In the path of progress, Blizzard has adopted the trappings of the live service shooter. Do you want daily challenges? Weekly challenges? A blink and you’ll miss it Battle Pass that’s eager to get you to squeeze more and more of your leisure time out of the game? Do you want a game where you need 1000 Overwatch Coins – the new premium currency – to buy a Battle Pass each season? A £40 skin bundle? The future is here, and it makes me wish for another world where Blizzard recognised what people loved about Overwatch and gave us that without delivering a hundred different ways for the title to monetise.
Still, Overwatch 2 is a fantastic game, and if you can ignore the constant feeling that you’re going to end up being held upside down and shaken until change falls from your pockets, Overwatch 2 is worth your time.
A bold reinvention, Overwatch 2 is fun to play and has a variety of smart tweaks that reinvigorate the game and package it up for a new audience. While live service trappings like unlocking heroes through a battle pass are unwelcome distractions, once you’re bedded into this shooter, it’s hard to point to any other shooter that can deliver this much joy.
- It’s Overwatch, but with a new lease of life
- Bright, bold art style
- Every character feels like playing a whole new shooter
- It’s Overwatch, but with a heap of live service trappings
- Unlikely to convince anyone who wasn’t taken with the series before