Why Overwatch 2 is a humbling delight
Launch week bugs mean a review can wait, but our man has plenty of thoughts on the new shooter
A while ago, but not long enough that it’s faded from memory, I found myself in one of Europe’s largest video game arcades, Arcade Club in Bury. I saw dozens of pinballs fall into the abyss on an Addams Family pinball machine. I spectacularly failed to play the piano on a Japanese rhythm game, to a song in a language I don’t speak. The competitive side in me was not having a great time.
There are a handful of games, though, that I’m pretty brilliant at. One of those is Tekken, having grown up in the age of Eddy Gordo and Tag Tournament. This industrial estate on the outskirts of Manchester had beat me thus far, but in Tekken I found an opportunity to redeem myself.
Sat across from my mystery opponent, who was obscured by a screen divider, I kicked my way to victory with prize fighter Hwoarang. I won the first round, then the second, then a third. I definitely felt far too smug in beating someone at a video game in my thirties. That quickly evaporated, however, once I realised my opponent was a child no older than eight years old.
Overwatch 2 is very much like that experience. Something I think I’m good at until the game spectacularly humbles me.
Overwatch debuted in 2016, and quickly became a go-to title for gamers eager to shoot their way to victory as a giant techno monkey. We called it a ‘multiplayer sensation’ and one of the games every PS4 owner needed to own. A franchise played by millions isn’t exactly in need of a major refresh, and in many ways Overwatch 2 has changed little since its predecessor.
In a literal sense, Overwatch 2 has been a tough game to play. Server issues made the game unplayable for many on launch (it took me two days of trying to have my first match). Players with a postpaid phone number or, says The Verge, are with a service provider Blizzard isn’t fond of have been unable to access the game – although the firm is apparently in the process of reversing this for some players.
Overwatch 2 is also tough to play because it’s a free-to-play monetization nightmare. Loot boxes have been dropped, but in their place is something that feels worse. New heroes aren’t available for free players without reaching level 55, which will take many weeks of playing. One Redditor estimated it would take five years to buy all new non-seasonal unlocks for the playable character Kiriko. There are disappointing skins and free Battle Pass perks that are, frankly, a bit rubbish. Rewards are priced highly, yet yield low.
Regardless of F2P money grabs or connection issues, Overwatch 2 is also a tough game to play as there are just far too many gamers who are very good at it. It’s a game that is easy to pick up but takes a lifetime to perfect, yet many people have pumped hours into the original trying to get there. And for some players, this team based shooter just comes naturally.
The gameplay is everything you’d want from an online shooter, though. It’s frantic and panicky. The maps, which span areas of Paris and Antarctica to the Temple of Anubis, are a sprint to run through. Most importantly, Overwatch 2 is fun.
Much like Rocket League, Super Smash Bros or any other games played in short bursts, Overwatch 2 isn’t there to be completed. It’s there for the player to lose, lose again, then lose again but slightly less than the time before. Before you realise it, countless hours have passed by. This was my experience, and it was a very good one.
My main gripe is that this isn’t much of a sequel, but more of an expansion pack. Calling it a sequel is like saying a director’s cut is an entirely new movie – although there are a few changes that dramatically mix up matches.
The 5v5 system places a lot more emphasis on each individual player’s strengths and weaknesses. For me, this is not a good thing. Whether it’s Destiny 2 or Call of Duty, I am always the weakest link in a team. I feel guilty for my teammates, who are probably rueing me for being paired up with them. Once the ranking system stabilises a few weeks after launch maybe I’ll be less of a dead weight.
Gyro aiming has also been added, following in the footsteps of Fortnite which gained the feature in February. At first this feels chaotic, especially when playing on the Nintendo Switch, but it’s a feature that (once mastered) will certainly up your game.
Overwatch 2 is a game that humbles you until, one day, you win. And when you do win, it makes all the defeats worth it. This won’t be news to those who’ve already invested time in the first game, and the few tweaks and additions play very fast and loose with the term ‘sequel’, but it absolutely succeeds in feeding the compulsion of trying and hoping to lose a little better than last time.