Overwatch 2 abolishes hard counters and stand-offs in favor of firefights and respawns
(Image credit: Activision)
It’s late at night and I’m playing Overwatch 1 competitive mode, minutes after logging off of the Overwatch 2 test server. I get a Discord ping from a colleague and BattleNet friend, who jokes that they’ve seen me swap to Overwatch 1 and are worried for me. But there are only a few days left of Overwatch 1 (I’ve already tried, in vain, to say my goodbyes), and I’m craving the more methodical, tactical feel of the original game.
Overwatch 2 is speedier, deadlier, and more punishing than its predecessor, and that’s never been more clear than in these last few days when I have had the fleeting luxury of swapping back and forth between the two. Overwatch 1 will shut down on October 3, and no matter how you feel about that there’s no denying that Overwatch 2 is blisteringly, sometimes overwhelmingly fast.
(Image credit: Activision)
(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)
I experience some intense dissonance when jumping into Overwatch 1 to play the same map and mode I had just played on Overwatch 2: Escort on King’s Row. While the time of day and lighting swaps are definitely jarring – the original map takes place at night, while the Overwatch 2 version is during sunset, and the updated graphics are impressive – it’s the juxtaposition of gameplay that floors me.
King’s Row is a notoriously difficult map. Just a short distance from the starting spawn gate lies a single, severe choke point that the defending team can easily hold for minutes, running down the offensive team’s clock. While there’s a narrow staircase to a balcony that gives you the opportunity to drop down behind the choke and ambush the defending squad, it’s completely without cover and leaves you vulnerable. I’ve spent far too much of my Overwatch career struggling to break through this exact point or, conversely, laughing maniacally as an enemy team throws the entire hero lineup at me to no avail.
But in Overwatch 2, that infamous King’s Row choke point dissolves within the first 45 seconds of a match. Without a second tank (Overwatch 2 is now 5v5 instead of 6v6) and with only two shield tanks left in the entire game, there are no real stand-offs anymore. On Kings Row, the enemy team quite literally walks through the point from behind a Reinhardt shield, our D.Va trying (and failing) to take one of them out from behind their back line. As an unprotected Moira tries desperately to heal my squad, I’m killed by the vicious swipe of Reinhardt’s hammer within a minute, and the enemy squad captures the point before I respawn.
It’s almost laughable that Overwatch 2 gives you 30 seconds before Escort to “prepare your defenses”. Your only defense is offense. The days of shield tank setups and Torbjorn turrets are gone, as every Overwatch 2 match is just a series of head-on collisions and rapid respawns.
(Image credit: Blizzard)
While we knew this was happening – game director Aaron Keller made it clear in a roundtable interview that the team wants to abolish hard counters in the hopes of a more “organic experience” – it’s astonishing how drastically different the games feel when played side-by-side. The feelings of dissonance (and for some of us, despair), will likely subside as it’ll be impossible to make direct comparisons between Overwatch 1 and Overwatch 2 in just a few days, but at the moment, it’s hard to ignore them.
King’s Row has long been considered a favorite map amongst players and is in many ways the quintessential Overwatch map. While its choke point has caused hours upon hours of frustration, it’s a prime example of the power of team compositions and the importance of mid-match swaps. If you’re on offense and struggling to break through a team running a dreaded double shield, you can swap to shield breakers like Junkrat to crack their defenses or instruct your DPS to change to flankers like Sombra and Symmetra to force them to turn away from the choke. Overwatch 1 is like a deadly tango, with ebbs and flows that feel like they’re under your control. Overwatch 2 is a firefight – no matter who you pick, unless they’re a high-health tank, you’re gonna die a lot.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s very easy to shut my brain off and enjoy Overwatch 2. Orisa and Junker Queen are an absolute blast to play, and Moira will always be my favorite hero to relax into whenever I’m feeling like my performance is lacking. But I can feel the pull towards aggressive, damage-focused play calling me like a siren song – despite the Overwatch support player in my head yelling at me to slow down and check my surroundings before I get bashed against the rocks.
Overwatch 2 has the same great look and feel as its predecessor. Dive-bombing an enemy Bastion as D.Va is still super effective, and throwing an Orisa javelin through Sombra’s gut is incredibly satisfying (especially since the latter is currently far too powerful). This is still a fun game, it’s just fundamentally different. I suppose it’s time I come to terms with that.
Overwatch 2 launches on October 4 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, and Nintendo Switch. Check out all the Overwatch 2 battle pass details ahead of launch.
Alyssa Mercante is an editor and features writer at GamesRadar based out of Brooklyn, NY. Prior to entering the industry, she got her Masters’s degree in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Newcastle University with a dissertation focusing on contemporary indie games. She spends most of her time playing competitive shooters and in-depth RPGs and was recently on a PAX Panel about the best bars in video games. In her spare time Alyssa rescues cats, practices her Italian, and plays soccer.