Overwatch 2 Review: Heroes Never Die

Heroes never die. It's support character Mercy's rallying cry, as she revives teammates after they fall in battle. Now it's time to apply that same phrase to Overwatch as a whole. The first game hasn't died, not by a long shot, even though it's ceased to exist as we know it. Instead, it's evolved into Overwatch 2.

The game has come a long way since launching in 2016, introducing 21 heroes with its latest iteration, with a variety of different backgrounds, abilities and personalities that fans have come to know and love. It's a mainstay in the competitive community, and a fixture in the gaming industry at this point.

With Overwatch 2, everything's changed, but somehow everything feels the same. It's difficult to view the new game, sequel as it is, as a true followup, per se. It feels more like an expansion pack with a few tweaks in many ways, many for the good, but some for the worse.

Still, that's the inherent nature of Overwatch, whether it's a new character players want to see nerfed or a map that isn't quite working right, it's always been about feeling things out and settling in. There will undoubtedly be a lot of that as players get their hands on this new evolution of the series, but luckily, there will be plenty of smiles on faces as everyone realizes this is the game they love, just in a slightly different wrapping.

Overwatch 2: Doomfist, Pharah, Batiste, Winston
A brawl between Doomfist, Pharah, Batiste, and Winston in Overwatch 2. All of these heroes appeared in the original game, and they reprise their role with slightly altered models in Overwatch 2. Blizzard Entertainment

Overwatch 2 Review: Gameplay

By now, Overwatch has become a mainstay in the hero shooter genre. It's simple. Choose your favorite character, whether it's a tank, DPS (damage-dealing), or support hero. Then you hit different maps to either attack or defend control points, escort a payload across a map, and so on. You can opt for special arcade matches where you gun each other down, play cute games like Mei's Yeti Hunt or Lúcioball, or other variations on the main Overwatch theme. There are no story missions yet, but that's about to change later on in Overwatch 2's lifecycle.

Nothing has fundamentally changed about the way Overwatch plays, but the way teams interact with each other has. In fact, one of the most significant changes between the original Overwatch to Overwatch 2 is team composition. While teams were previously 6v6, they've now shifted to a smaller, tighter 5v5 format. That means you now have one tank, two damage and two support heroes. That immediately changes the meta in a way that feels decidedly un-Overwatch, meaning there's now one tank per team per match.

However, this does make it more difficult for tanks to keep up sometimes. In the previous Overwatch setup, there were often "main" tanks and "sub" tanks, one of which would soak up and deal damage, and another to act as an aggressor toward the other team. Now tanks must change up the way they play, which isn't great news for those who aren't as familiar with heroes like the shield-heavy Reinhardt or those with the capacity to attack, defend, soak up damage and play the objective.

It's a frustrating change for tank players, but the rest of the team will be feeling the difference, as DPS players need to chip in more, and support players will need to extend themselves further to ensure there's enough healing available to keep tanks going. Overall, this is a nitpick in the grand scheme of things, but a nitpick nevertheless, a case of changing things that really didn't need to be changed.

As far as the rest of the game goes, this is classic Overwatch. Every hero feels fantastically balanced, with unique abilities that genuinely feel different from one another. There's a character for every play style, and if you don't find the right fit at first, or even in the middle of battle, you can swap to a different character. There's a gleeful sort of positivity that permeates the game that seems to be missing from other titles, and it's nice to see that it's still very much here, even in the midst of alterations.

Overwatch 2: Hanzo, Lucio, and Cassidy
Hanzo, Lucio and Cassidy playing the Push game type in Overwatch 2. In Push, players need to escort a robot across the map, based on attacking or defending either side. Blizzard Entertainment

Overwatch 2 Review: New Content and Tweaks

Team composition isn't the only thing to have changed in Overwatch 2. There are new heroes to play as, too: Kiriko, Junker Queen and Sojourn. There's also an unknown additional tank character coming up at a later date. Each hero fits nicely into the Overwatch 2 gallery, and none of them feel more overpowered than the other. It feels as though all three have always been part of the team, and there's something to appreciate about each one.

As a strict Zenyatta main, I enjoyed playing as ninja support hero Kiriko, whose well-timed kunai throws empower her to be part of the action while healing up allies and zipping in and out of battle. Junker Queen is the complete opposite, an unstoppable, aggressive force whose tank abilities work best when complementing each other— especially her powerful shotgun blasts to the face that you can't escape quickly enough. Sojourn, a DPS hero, is a fun balance of running and gunning, a gleeful alternative to heroes like Soldier: 76 or Cassidy with some serious style and flair.

Additionally, the new game mode Push is a fast, frenetic sprint to the finish. Similar to Escort, players work to push a robot with a barrier through a map to reach the other side, with one side defending and one side attacking throughout the entire match. While it's refreshing to be assigned one role throughout the entirety of a match instead of switching sides, like regaining control points when lost, it's hard to wrest back control if an attacking side loses. Or if a defending side loses, it's hard to go back on the offensive.

All of these additions do lend Overwatch 2 a fresher feel, but by the same token, the removal of one system left me feeling a bit cold. Overwatch 2 has done way with the loot box system of the past, now replaced with a modern battle pass system. It's about $10, or 1,000 Overwatch coins to participate, and it lasts for nine weeks. Each season comes with a set of various tiers, with rewards including skins, voice lines, sprays, souvenirs, and more, doled out as you collect XP.

While many may prefer this system, I'm not particularly fond of it. I was enamored with the optional "buy a loot box, get what you get" system, because it felt more exciting. I didn't know what I was going to get, and I liked it that way. There are always a handful of heroes I never use, and when I unexpectedly got a new skin or cosmetic item, I ended up trying it out and liking a different hero. Now, all of the battle pass tiers are set out for me ahead of time, and that element of surprise, the "What am I going to get next?" is now gone.

There's also the frustrating notion that new heroes, like Kiriko, are a part of the premium battle pass tier. They won't be instantly available to everyone anymore, as Overwatch 2's payment model has shifted to a free-to-play system. So while this is how Blizzard will primarily make its money, it's not a great move for those who play casually and don't have time or want to wait 50 tiers to unlock a new hero. And in the interest of fairness, luckily each new hero will have a three-week buffer before use in competitive play. Beyond that, however, there is a sense of FOMO players will undoubtedly have while trying to earn enough XP toward a hero that doesn't necessarily improve the game's sense of progression for me.

All of these additions (and removals), and there's still more to come. Overwatch 2 is still expected to receive its hotly anticipated PvE content in 2023, which should round out its content offering—though it'll be coming a little late in the game. For a series that's always been rife with lore and characters that practically beg for a campaign, these missions should have launched with the game, but at least they're still coming.

Overwatch 2: Junker Queen
Junker Queen is the newest addition to Overwatch 2. She's part of a trio of new heroes available in the new game, alongside Kiriko and Sojourn. Blizzard Entertainment

Overwatch 2 Review: Verdict

Overwatch 2 brings a slew of improvements to the original game, but it also makes some changes that don't always feel as though they're in players' best interests. Still, it's the cream of the crop when it comes to hero shooters, and no one is doing it better than Overwatch 1 when it comes to recognizable characters, unique abilities, exciting maps and cosmetics that keep us coming back for more. It may take a bit to get used to the new team configurations and the lack of loot boxes, but at its heart, this is still the Overwatch we know and love.

Score: 8/10

Overwatch 2 is available now on Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC.