When Overwatch launched back in 2016 I very quickly discovered two things: 1) that I wasn’t very good at competitive squad-based shooters, and 2) that I didn’t much care for competitive squad-based shooters, much preferring a co-op based experience. So, as you can imagine, when Overwatch 2 was released, there was really only one person to delve deep into things once again.
Coming as a free-to-player via Blizzard Entertainment, Overwatch 2 has had a rough launch, with massive queues to get into the game not helped by an apparent DDoS attack on the servers. But luckily things have calmed down now. Does it mean that this is the game to turn me onto PvP shooters?
Well, we don’t have to waste much time talking about a story as despite the fact that the heroes in the game all have a back story, and there is going to be some kind of PvE story story based content, it doesn’t appear that it is at all important. The PvP modes, which are the majority of what Overwatch 2 brings – and the main way to play – require no story at all. In fact, story could be seen as a distraction, as a compelling narrative for guarding a robot as it pushes something through the streets may be hard to come up with.
The news is better in the whole of the presentation arena, however. Overwatch was always a good looking game, with cartoon style graphics mixing well with neatly designed maps and outlandish weapons. The tradition is carried on in Overwatch 2 and all of the old heroes have undergone a redesign, making them appear as if time has passed by. Soldier 76, for instance, who used to be my favourite character, now looks like a version of my dad, while new heroes have also been added to the roster.
The sound is also as good as it ever was, with characters’ trademark shouts as they unleash their ultimate abilities still here, and with much gunfire and zipping about, it is all very much business as usual.
So, gameplay then and after initially getting in to what Overwatch 2 had to offer, there’s now an issue. See, some weeks after the game launched, I’m currently locked out from playing, as it requires me to put in a phone number in order to play. From the title screen, I press A to get into the game, it tells me I need to add a phone number, then throws me back out to the title screen. Honestly? Giving Blizzard a phone number in order to play a mediocre shooter? It’s not something that should be happening and it seems as if Blizzard slightly concur, having tried to move away from the whole situation. But as it stands, I’m locked out, despite Blizzard’s apparent climb down over phone numbers being required.
Before that though, Overwatch 2 was capable of delivering something very much like the original Overwatch. In fact, if this had been a title update to Overwatch, not a soul would have blinked an eye, as the game is much more like Overwatch 1.5 rather than a true sequel.
There have been changes, most notably in the makeup of the teams – whereas before it was wise to have a mixture of roles on the team, a couple of tanks, support characters, healers and the like, now these roles are mandatory. And, just to really mess up the tactics of a lot of professional Overwatch teams, you are now limited to one tank per team; something which has upset a lot of the more vocal parts of the Overwatch community.
Still, part of a games reviewer’s role is to accept games the way they are and try to be objective about what we find. Overwatch 2 is made of a number of variations on the PvP theme, with training options in place to teach you the basics of the game and to practice against bots and Unranked, which when you get into it, is actually called Quick Play, as it pair you with a random team and let you try to win with a bunch of strangers.
There is also Competitive, which is a ranked stream of pro gamers and Arcade. The latter provides games with special rules, such as being unable to choose your character and so on. Obviously, unless you are some sort of Overwatch pro, Unranked is where I would suggest you start, mostly as Competitive is not the nicest place to be.
Despite the reported desire to include a story and PvE missions in the base game from the kick off this time around, it does appear that the formula is the same as always. There is a special event calendar available, with PvE appearing and disappearing as the game progresses (as an example, as I write this, there is a limited time mode called Junkenstein running for Halloween) but this is not the norm.
So, how to sum this game up. Well, the first thing to mention is that this is the only game in town currently, as the launch of the free-to-play Overwatch 2 saw Overwatch become defunct. Seriously, the physical disc I have now has more utility as a coaster than a game. Getting the unlocks and skins across from one game to the other was a painful process, and for a while it looked as if I’d lost everything, but fortunately it only took a week for everything to appear. The new F2P model means that a Battle Pass has been added, but loot boxes have been taken away, so swings and roundabouts.
At the end of the day, if you liked Overwatch, you’ll like Overwatch 2, or Overwatch 1.5 as it should probably be. If you didn’t, you won’t, and with the game playing community seemingly more toxic than ever (the number of messages I’ve received commenting on my playing skill was something I’d not seen since my Battlefield: Bad Company 2 days), this isn’t a game I can particularly recommend to anyone but the most die hard of Overwatch fans.
Overwatch 2 is on the Xbox Store