I’ve been playing Overwatch for a while now and I have plenty to say about it. Primarily I’d like to compare it to Team Fortress 2.
Disclaimer: I stopped playing TF2 regularly on the beginning of March 2016 and I don’t know what changed afterwards.
Technical point: Overwatch reliably hovers around 100 FPS for me while TF2 (as a result of major updates in April and December 2015) can dip below 60. On the other hand OW is less stable and crashes every now and then.
OW improves upon TF2 formula making it a much less frustrating experience for me:
- You do not lose charge when you die. In TF2 (since April 2015) you can pick up dropped medigun but it’s probably in the enemy territory by now and their medic already took it. And it disappears if you don’t immediately rush there and if you die on your way to recover it.
- Healing beam is clearly visible. It’s a thin, non-transparent line so you know exactly who you’re healing. It’s still hard to catch a particular player in a crowd but this occurs less often because OW has less players (6v6 compared to 12v12 and 16v16 in TF2).
- Healing beam has a longer timeout. When it’s going through obstacle (for example if there is a car between you and the player you’re healing) then it doesn’t immediately disappear so I don’t have to catch the player over and over again. Convenience.
- Medic can hurry up to a player. How many times in TF2 I was chasing after injured person only to have him die just when I caught up and I immediately became a target. This movement ability in OW also gives a chance to escape and it makes sense to keep somebody behind the front line so that the medic can help himself. How many times in TF2 I accidentally stumbled upon enemy and I just threw my hands in the air because I can’t deal enough damage to kill them and I’m not fast enough to run away.
- Medic has a choice whether to give health or damage. There’s a bit more to playing medic than just holding LMB all the time. Do I play it safe and heal or do I give damage boost hoping that a friendly can kill faster than lose health.
- Medics can see health status. Health bars are displayed (in TF2 only when you point at a character). If behind a wall then you see a silhouette with green, yellow or orange colour. Critical status is indicated by a red-white icon. No more players spamming “Medic!” all the time.
- Teammates position is indicated by arrows on your HUD so you always know where they are. This helps a lot when grouping up. Also you’re not going to get lost. In TF2 I would occasionally hear “Where are you?” on voice chat. Later they added silhouettes visible through walls but it’s only for a short while after respawn.
- Names are displayed when players are in your view. In TF2 only when you aim at them. Cosmetics in TF2 are actually useful for recognising people so you can address them properly on voice chat. In OW that’s not an issue because you always see nicknames.
- Enemy health is displayed. How many times in TF2 I heard on voice chat “How much fucking health does he have?!”. In OW you see health bars and you can tell how much of an impact you’re making. It also helps to make a decision whether to chase somebody or back off.
- Characters automatically report events. Nearby friendly shouts “Behind you!” when you get attacked from the back. Medic says “I could use some assistance” when under attack. Teammates announce when they spotted enemy, sniper, turret or teleport and when they destroyed turret or teleport. They indicate when they’re capturing the objective and when we are losing it. It’s faster than saying it on voice chat and you know what’s going on even when nobody talks.
- Teleport works instantly. No more players pushing each other off the teleporter.
- Archer has distance dots on his HUD which aid in taking down distant enemies. You rely a bit less on intuition than in TF2. On the other hand arrow tracers are smaller than in TF2 and I think that makes it a bit harder to learn archery.
- Bow draw power is indicated by a circle in the center of the screen. In TF2 it’s a bar in the lower right corner (unless you use custom HUD) and you never have time to look at it.
- Bow is placed horizontally rather than vertically like in TF2 so it takes a bit less space on the screen.
- Snipers have recon ability so they can help their team beyond shooting.
- Snipers can climb so they can get to doing their jobs faster. Also it can be used as an escape when enemies get close.
- In fact most of the characters have an escape ability so if you find yourself in a precarious position you still have a chance rather than just to watch yourself die.
- Charge information. There’s a hotkey to inform friendly players about your charge percentage. Also player list displays who is charged so that makes it easier to combine abilities even when nobody talks.
- Spawn protection. You’re invulnerable in your spawn and you get healed within the entire area rather than just on the locker. In TF2 you are bombarded with boosted grenades WHEN THE GAME BEGINS! And on some maps (like pl_borneo) there’s no place on the spawn where they can’t reach. I was so frustrated.
- No random critical hits. Although I mostly played on a TF2 server which had them disabled but still the fact that it’s a default…
- Path display. Before the match starts there’s a line on the ground that leads to the objective. This helps when you’re new to the game so you won’t get lost.
- There is Killcam (like in Call of Duty) which may reduce tension when somebody kills you in a suspicious way.
- Team colour doesn’t change. Blue is always friendly, red is always enemy. No more confusion after switching sides.
- No auto-balance. It’s always 6v6. Newcomers fill the blanks. I hate auto-balance with a passion because being moved to the winning team I find abhorrent. In TF2 it’s even more a problem due to team colour change. In OW lack of manual control over teams also means you can keep playing with your friends on the same side.
- Inactive players are automatically kicked. No more voting. Inactivity also includes not doing damage / healing.
- KOTH maps have three different areas so they don’t get boring. Also they are best of three while in TF2 you can play the same map over and over until the server time runs out.
- Performance measure. There’s a “fire” meter which tells you how well you’re doing in a short span of time. Assists count as eliminations and with each one it’s displayed how much you contributed to the kill.
Other aspects I like:
- Detailed rank information. In competitive mode your rank is a number from 1 to 100 and at the end of each match you lose a fraction of it and you can see exactly how much. There’s no secrecy like in CS:GO.
- Spawnrape hardly occurs. Not just due to protection but also because main battle takes place away from starting positions and pushing too far rarely ends well. One exception is final waypoint on a payload map but that’s when the match is almost over.
- Charge grows on its own at a slow rate even when you’re doing nothing and even when you’re dead. This gives you a bit of an edge when you’re on the losing side. Also it prevents suicide runs just to get few percentage points to complete it. It’s not that much different from TF2 where you can slowly charge by keeping beam on healthy players.
Things in OW that I don’t like:
- Voice chat system. There is a group voice channel and a team voice channel. And then there are people who can be in neither of those. This makes it much harder to communicate. At the start of the match (in competitive mode) I always write on chat to join team channel but it’s not a guarantee that other players will do it. Being in a team of six people helps because you can just stay in group channel all the time. If you have a smaller group then you’ll be switching to team channel during the game and back to the group channel between matches which I find annoying. Compare it to CS:GO where you have one channel and people can always hear you.
- Leaving in Competitive. Players can easily screw up their team by disconnecting (for whatever reason). Because characters have different abilities and they counter one another you rely to a larger degree on the rest of team (less so in CS:GO where you’re more self-sufficient). There’s no backfill with AI (like in CS:GO) and no handicaps or power-ups. This can lead to bizarre situations where you are 1v6 and have no chance of winning.
- Teleport exit direction was a mystery until I read on the web how to use it. In TF2 you have an arrow.
- No cost for Torbjörn’s turret upgrade and Symmetra’s shielding (other than your time). To me they are more like chores than choices. Especially the latter one where you have to keep track of character respawns.
- Space to climb sometimes doesn’t work. Usually when you need it the most. Here I almost got killed.
- No indication that the character is talking on voice chat. In TF2 icon over their head appears so you can quickly find who needs assistance.
- Not much variety in terms of maps and modes. I realise it’s still a bit early and this might change (right now new map called Eichenwalde is going to be available soon). TF2 and CS:GO accumulated content over the years.
I’d like to address the last point in a bit more detail.
CS:GO features 5 modes:
- Deathmatch and Arms Race for something quick and dirty
- Competitive for something serious
- Demolition and Casual which is in-between
There are 15 maps and Arms Race/Demolition get their own set of 10 maps.
OW has 3 modes:
- Quick Play – main mode
- Competitive – serious
- Brawl – variety mode
The only difference between Competitive and Quick Play is that you can’t stack heroes. In CS:GO there’s different amount of players, friendly fire settings, clipping, earnings, max grenades, spectating and voice channel configuration.
Competitive in OW has a time limit.
Brawl is determined by the developer and changes on a weekly basis. For me it has been more a miss (limit to defensive heroes; limit to Pharah and Mercy; limit to Soldiers) than a hit (random heroes; limit to tanks and Ana). Lucioball was a nice change of pace but the ball was rather hard to control and it seemed to me like matches were random.
I’d like to play something different once in a while and the Brawl mode doesn’t really cut it for me. CS:GO gives me enough options. Not mentioning TF2.
As for the maps, OW has 12 where you either capture single point or push payload. I write a bit more about them in the next section.
Things in OW that I’m ambiguous about.
When I was new to the game some aspects of the game appeared as weird to me. I guess I’m used to them now.
- Kill Automation. For example Soldier 76 has an aimbot as a special ability. Reaper’s special is that he automatically damages everyone close around. They are balanced in that they don’t guarantee kills but in my view they reduce effort that you put into the game. Compare that to Bastion’s special which turns him from defensive character into an offensive one. Compare that to TF2 ÜberCharges where you do everything the same but better.
- Wallhacks. Widowmaker has a map-wide wallhack for 15 seconds. Hanzo has a local one for 10 seconds but it’s not indicated to the enemy. Compare that to UAV in Call of Duty 4 which displays a map with slow refresh rate and for distant enemies you only get general direction and opposing side knows when it’s on and off.
- Taking control away. Blizzard seems to have took a liking to stun abilities where you can’t do anything for a short amount of time. Compare that to flashbangs in CS:GO and COD4 where your hearing and sight is gone but you can still defend yourself.
As the time goes, developers balance the game making it less immediately lethal. For example McCree’s stun + rapid fire was a sure kill in the past. Now it’s not that easy. Bastion would kill as soon as you entered its sight at any range. Today it is easily countered. I used to complain about Soldier 76 who had everything: speed, precise rifle, splash damage, heal and aimbot. After his accuracy has been reduced it’s harder to get a kill now and I think he’s fine.
Kinda weird to have characters that counter one another but also difficulty rating (displayed on the character info screen). Imagine rock-paper-scissors game but rock is harder to use than paper. Now that I know how to play with most of the characters I’m not really bothered by it.
Players have no control over map rotation. On one hand you don’t have players stacking a particular map like in CS:GO (Dust II to the detriment of everything else). On the other hand, sometimes you may play the same map or objective type multiple times in a row and get sick of it.
Maps in OW are more colourful compared to monotone brown in TF2. On the other hand this makes red and blue characters of TF2 stand out. OW draws red outline over enemy characters so that you can distinguish them but this also removes the ambush element. Another issue is that crosshair can get buried in colours.
OW inherits TF2 game modes and consequently the same imbalances: attacking team gets healed on payload, defense team can’t make mistakes while attacking side can commit many (and so playing on attack is less stressful).
Maps in OW follow the same formula: flat main corridor usually not very wide, with one or two short sideroutes and an obligatory chokepoint. I think that’s because there’s only one objective at any given time.
In TF2 you also have simple maps (pl_goldrush, cp_dustbowl) with one objective but also more complicated ones (cp_badlands, cp_gravelpit) with two points to hold and a variety of approaches.
In CS:GO you have less players (5v5) but more complicated areas than in OW because there are two objectives to chose from (one of the sites or one of the hostages).
I really have no idea if more complex maps would make for a compelling gameplay in OW but I’d like to see variety of some kind.
In my opinion high reliance on team (which requires grouping up), single objective to take and tight maps turn the game more into a stand-off where you time your special abilities against enemy special abilities. Although to be fair, in TF2 when the teams are balanced the game also becomes about ÜberCharges.
Overall the game is simpler than TF2 because characters have one weapon with infinite ammo, charge is guaranteed, no falling damage, maps are straightforward and there’s less hidden information (red outlines, health bars, everyone can hear charge activation).
On the other hand it’s not so simple because you learn all the abilities (22 characters with total 102 abilities) and memorize all the charge activations voice lines in order to know what’s happening and memorize footstep sounds to know who’s coming. Took me a while to get into it.