Review: Overwatch 2 is officially live with new heroes, fresh maps, and refined FPS gameplay

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At long last, Overwatch 2 has finally arrived. After the original Blizzard team-based shooter closed its virtual doors yesterday, the sequel is officially going live today. Bringing new heroes, refreshed maps, and updated gameplay into the futuristic world, Overwatch 2 sets out in a different direction as a free to play game supported by a battle pass in order to prove itself as a worthy successor to the former Game of the Year winner.

Overwatch 2 is finally here

As a bit of a prelude, if there’s one thing that most people in my personal life know about me – it’s that I’m an Overwatch fan. If being a day one player wasn’t enough back in 2016, the past few years have been filled with trips across the east coast to Overwatch League games, in-person LAN parties, and countless hours of gameplay. Despite all of that, I’m taking a bit more of a nuanced look at what Overwatch 2 is shipping with on day one. As much as I loved the original, it’s very clear that the sequel is not the same game. If you can call it a sequel at all.

What’s new with Overwatch 2

As for what’s actually new this time around, Overwatch 2 takes on a unique approach of technically being a sequel, but not being loaded with any entire game’s worth of new content. Broken down into four main sections, the updates from Blizzard mainly arrive with new heroes and maps, as well as refreshed gameplay mechanics and some added polish in the form of voice lines, cosmetics, and other elements that make Overwatch 2 feel fleshed out.

Three new heroes answer the call

Starting off with the flashiest part of the new content, Overwatch 2 is debuting with three new heroes. Players who were able to access the betas over this past summer will have already been able to play two of these, but there is an entirely fresh character also making their way into the Overwatch world. Just like before, the game still has three different classes of playable characters, with Tanks, DPS, and Supports each getting a new addition to their rosters.

Bringing the total number of heroes up to 38, the first of the new Overwatch 2 personalities to play will be Sojourn. This new DPS hero arrives with a fast kit of weapons and abilities that allow her to be one of the more agile characters in the game. Her main gameplay elements are centered around a railgun that can charge up to deliver charged shots, as well as a new slide mechanic that allows Sojourn to access high ground quicker than even some of the most mobile heroes like Tracer.

Moving onto Tanks, Junkerqueen is stepping in as a completely new take on what one of the brawler heroes can do. Weirding an combo shotgun and axe, her kit brings the Reinhardt gameplay many will know from the original Overwatch to a faster and more reactive style of swinging, shooting, and rampaging against enemies.

Last up, we have Kiriko, who arrives as Overwatch 2’s only new support. This is the first time we’ve gotten a new healer in literal years of the franchise, and so there’s a lot riding on how this character performs. The other two new heroes were both available to play in the early access releases of the title, with Kiriko debuting as the only character that most players won’t have already gotten to take for a spin around Busan or Midtown, NY.

New maps live at launch are few and far between

Speaking of maps! Overwatch 2 is also getting quite a few new locales to dive into across several different game modes. Older map types like Control, Escort, and Hybrid still remain in the game, though Blizzard has removed one of the more contentious gameplay styles that was around in the predecessor. Replacing Assault maps is a new type of mode called Push that has each team actively fighting for control of a lovable robot who helps you push a checkpoint along a route. It’s something of a reverse tug-of-war, which is far more fluid than Assault modes could ever be.

At launch, there are just a handful of these new Overwatch 2 maps, arriving in the form of Midtown in New York, Colosseo in Rome, and the futuristic city of New Queen Street in Toronto.

As for old play styles, there are just two additional maps players can look forward to for the new Overwatch 2 update. Circuit Royal in Monte Carlo is arriving as a new Esport map, while Paraiso in Rio de Janeiro gives players a new Hybrid experience – each of the new maps brings a refreshed design into the game and helps keep things feeling distinct even after playing round after round. There’s a lot more variety in actual gameplay, too, with the maps both old and new leaning into encouraging different hero usage and strategies in a way that’s a bit more noticeable than the original Overwatch.

Gameplay gets an overhaul with 5v5

The biggest change in gameplay for Overwatch 2 however has to be the shift away from the original six versus six action. Now for the sequel, you’re diving into games that pit you and four heroes up against a team of five enemies. This shift was made to help keep the games from being too overwhelming, setting a more natural pace.

The focus of the game is also shifting drastically away from what it once was. The title used to be a bit more of a digital chess match than a typical first person shooter; the team-based elements used to mean keeping tabs on which hero counters who and making sure you had a balanced composition. Now Blizzard is looking to scrap that in favor of making each of the heroes a bit less reliant on filling a specific role.

Plenty of the old characters have been adjusted for this new design philosophy, which pairs quite well with the 5v5 mentality. Orisa has almost an entirely new kit to help her stand a bit more firm as the only tank now, while Doomfist has received much of the same treatment as he transitions from being a damage class hero to brawler. It’s an adjustment that is ultimately for the better of the game, but is still a departure from the original experience.

Lastly, Blizzard has doubled down on how the game looks, feels, and sounds. There are plenty of little adjustments that all stack up towards an objectively better game, but improved textures to a collection of added voice lines that help fill out the lore. The company has committed to keeping skins and other content fresh in a way that just wasn’t the case with the original Overwatch, either. These are minor inclusions compared to new maps or heroes, but aspects of the game I am most eager to explore and experience for myself.

Should you even play Overwatch 2?

Back when Overwatch first came out, the question was whether you should buy the game. But since then, the question has shifted towards whether you should consider playing the sequel. Much like other studios have done, Blizzard is swapping over to a battle pass style model that makes the game entirely free to play, locking heroes, cosmetics, and other unlockables behind a progression system that you can choose to pay for.

Back at the start I said I was going to try and keep it a bit objective, and so even if the Overwatch fan in me does seep out a little bit, bear with me. If you long for the days during the peak of Overwatch where you and your friends would boot grind though long competitive streaks or spend countless hours in arcade modes, Blizzard is certainly delivering once again. A lot of the old charm is still packed into the game, and if anything, all of the world building and characters have only gotten better thanks to the new roster additions and improved content.

If you’re in a similar boat as me, I likely don’t need to so much as nudge about diving into Overwatch 2. But there are likely some more competitive gamers reading who may be asking themselves if it’s worth diving back into the game, to which I have to say, it is! Blizzard has spent a lot of time with the new release refreshing the competitive experience to less frustrating than before. The old Elo rating system of being stuck in a single tier has seemingly been fixed, and other quality of life changes should make the grind of climbing up to be a top 500 player a bit more rewarding than before.

Should you buy the battle pass? 

An even harder question of if Overwatch 2 is worth your time is if you should buy the battle pass, and this is a much more straightforward answer. At launch, a lot of the original game has been locked behind the progression system or pay wall. There are only 15 heroes available in the beginning, with even some of the classics tied toward reaching specific levels of the new pass.

If you’re someone who wants to pick up right where they started with Overwatch, I would say that it’s worth the cash, but it isn’t necessary! You can unlock everything, including the new heroes just from playing the game. I would say if you’re on the fence, it’s probably a good idea to hold off until after a few rounds to see if you’re really ready to answer the call once again. But don’t say I didn’t warn you when one game becomes two, and two becomes ten, and before you know it the rest of the night has been lost to revisiting the world of Overwatch.

9to5Toys’ Take

The original Overwatch has been near and dear to me for the last six years. It’s had ups and down, from being the Game of the Year winner back in its debut year of 2016, to going through year-long droughts without any new content. Now Overwatch 2 steps in with some pretty big shoes to fill, and I don’t think we’ll be seeing whether or not the new release can actually fill them for quite some time.

Overwatch 2 is ultimately far less of a sequel than the naming scheme would lead you to believe, but I am still optimistic for what the future of the game has in store. I also may still have been one of the bigger Overwatch fans out there until the very end, but that’s not the game that Blizzard is releasing today. So it’s not a sequel, but not quite the same game that many of us fondly remember.

The drastic shift in gameplay design feels much more like the company is catering towards players who enjoyed Overwatch back in its glory days, versus those of us who stuck around. There are mechanics like Tank duos that we’ll never get back, and that many FPS fans likely won’t miss. And with new heroes changing the meta and 5v5 completely altering the tempo of matches, booting up into Overwatch 2 today will provide an entirely different experience than playing the original even just yesterday.

But there are also some good changes, too. Blizzard and the Overwatch League have recently announced new initiates like Calling All Heroes to make the game more inclusive than it has ever been, while all of the other changes and additions that polish the game make it feel like an even more lived in world.

I’ve had six years of life-changing memories from Overwatch, but that chapter has come to a close. Now I’m ready to see just what becomes of its legacy with Overwatch 2.

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