When Overwatch was released in 2016, few predicted its cultural impact. The self-proclaimed “hero shooter” attracted a huge fan base thanks to its colorful roles, unique abilities of characters and fast-paced, multiplayer gameplay. Two teams of six against each other. Overwatch won many awards and accolades and became the most popular esports game in the process (it also developed the Overwatch League in 2017). Some consider it one of the best multiplayer games ever released.

Six years later, all eyes are on Blizzard. The company has been mired in controversy since Overwatch 2 was revealed in early 2019. Now, Blizzard hopes it can win back public opinion by making enough changes to Overwatch to make the six-year-old multiplayer shooter feel fresh again. After spending some time with another Overwatch 2 beta, it’s unclear if Blizzard will capture lightning in a bottle again. The core Overwatch goodness is intact, but it can actually be a detriment to the PC game.


Overwatch 2's Junker Queen

(Credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Overwatch 2’s new look and sound

On the surface, Overwatch 2 doesn’t look too different from its predecessor. Graphically, the game has improved lighting and shaders as well as other new effects for fog and textiles. The heroes also have new looks (although some changes are more noticeable than others). In addition, Blizzard introduced new, enhanced audio using its Convolution Reverb system that changes weapon sounds and footsteps depending on the environment. Yet, even with these improvements, Overwatch 2 looks and feels very similar to Overwatch 1, from its UI to hero quips.

On the subject of heroes, two new characters have joined the fray. Sojourn (a DPS character that is a great choice for beginners) and Junker Queen (a tank with a variety of kits). Overwatch 2 brings back all the characters from the original game, but with minor and major changes to their playstyle.

The biggest gameplay change is the switch from 12-player matches to 10-player matches. This changes the player composition to one tank, two DPS and two support heroes. During a May 2022 live stream, game director Aaron Keller said, “We’ve always tried to make our combat easy to read and very understandable, and with all the work we’ve put into it, sometimes it’s hard to keep track of what the other 11 players are doing on the battlefield. Two of them Removal makes everything easier and allows players to understand everything that is happening around them and make better choices.”

In practice, the difference is noticeable. Tanks are optimized to be more aggressive, so Overwatch 2 feels like an ongoing game. The new passive buffs offer small bonuses to every character with the same role, which encourages you to change your role. In this beta build, new gameplay strategies were still being developed. That said, once they get together, the matches feel faster than the original game.


Sojourn of Overwatch 2

(Credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Cavalry is free

The other big change is also the most controversial: Overwatch 2 will be free-to-play, taking a seasonal update approach like Rocket League. The first season will be released alongside the game on October 4th and will include three new heroes; six new maps; new game modes; And a few dozen cosmetics. Additionally, Blizzard will destroy the original Overwatch when Overwatch 2 drops. Although you’ll be able to carry away cosmetics, unopened loot boxes and unspent coins, discontinuing paid games and shifting to a free-to-play model will always leave a sour taste in gamers’ mouths.

Plus, despite changes to the game’s meta, Overwatch 2 still doesn’t feel like a sequel. In fact, Overwatch 2’s core—the new PVE mode—wasn’t part of the beta. The PVE mode includes cooperative story missions, as well as separate hero missions. In this mode, you can level up heroes using the skill tree and unlock custom options that change their abilities and create unique builds.

Overwatch 2 road map

(Credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

The Overwatch 2 beta features the same maps from the OG title, albeit with slightly better graphics. I still argued with my team over party composition, still got called slurs on voice chat, and still typed “gg” when it wasn’t “gg”. A brand new tug-of-war game type, Push, didn’t really add anything very exciting. Die-hard fans may appreciate the small changes, but the average Overwatch player won’t notice much of a difference between the two shooters.

It’s clear that Blizzard is listening to player feedback and adjusting the gameplay. It has already implemented many new changes since the first beta, but the real question remains: are there enough changes to warrant the existence of this sequel? Right now, I can’t say.

Even in its current state, the game is just as good as Overwatch, but is it a massive overhaul? Not at all. In its current state, Overwatch 2 feels like an expansion, a huge patch, or even a soft reboot.


An unorthodox sequel

It may be too early to judge Overwatch 2 too harshly, as we haven’t actually seen most of the new content and it will be a while before we do. Overwatch 2’s PVP launched this year, but the promised PVE and story modes dropped in 2023, according to Snowstorm Roadmap(opens in new window). We’re sure Overwatch 2 will be fun to play, but we’re not sure it’ll be the sequel people want. That said, Overwatch 2 is a free-to-play game, so you won’t lose anything other than hard drive space if you’re eager to use it.

Overwatch 2 will arrive on PC (via Battlenet), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on October 4, 2022.

For more PC game reviews and previews, check out PCMag’s Steam Curator(opens in new window) Page and for in-depth video game discussion, visit PCMag’s Pop-Off(opens in new window) YouTube channel.

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  • The free-to-play nature potentially increases the player base

  • Cross-play and cross-progression functionality

  • Lets you transfer cosmetics from Overwatch to Overwatch 2

Bottom line

The upcoming Overwatch 2 ia just as fun and fast-paced as the original game, but you’ll have to pay close attention to notice the differences between the two shooters.

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