Calling All Agents
Trevor | May 11, 2016
After having spent far too many hours with the cast of Overwatch, I've returned from the beta with early impressions. I've got favorites, minor annoyances, and future concerns. Let's take 'em all one hero at a time.
The Overwatch Beta has come to a close. You probably don’t need me to tell you Overwatch is awesome -- the entire rest of the internet has already done so. Instead, I thought I’d run through my impressions of each character, and share my experiences playing as and against them.
Turret up, get kills.
Find turret, get killed.
He seemed exceptionally strong at first, but as the beta went on I quickly realized it was only because players were not yet keen on how to counter him. He became less of a threat as the beta went on.
The only tweak I can predict happening to Bastion is an adjustment to his accuracy at long range. His ability to snipe people down from far distances can be problem for Pharahs, Widowmakers, and Hanzo’s attempting to pick him off from a distance. Bastion players have little incentive to try any other tactic than “get vision, turret up”. Also it's a little weird Bastion doesn't count as a "builder" for the team composition helper, seeing as how he's a turret himself.
If you’re having really bad Bastion probs, Genji is the ultimate counter to trigger happy Bastion’s. Reflect those bullets and watch him drop.
In theory, Miss Evangelion here excels at applying constant pressure, and blocking projectiles with a timely use of her shield. Her ultimate ability, self-destruct, is one of the best with careful placement.
Activating her boosters, ejecting, and then watching my vessel careen through the sky and erupt upon landing was the most fun I had as D.Va.
You know how sometimes D.Va would appear, shoot you a bunch, and somehow never die? I could never replicate this experience. As D.Va, I was constantly losing my mech and fleeing in terror.
With the rest of your team present, D.Va is rarely a threat, but getting caught out alone will get you murdered. The ability to pick off stragglers and effectively place self-destructs is what seperates a good D.va from a me-D.va.
D.Va provides little utility for her team compared to the other options for Tank, especially considering she needs to actively place herself in the path of bullets to block them. Her ability to kill an entire team, though, makes up for any shortcomings.
Genji took me the longest to understand. He seemed woefully underpowered at first, flinging his pathetic shruikens around. Eventually I realized his greatest strength is the ability to turn an opponent's power back at them. His additional mobility options, like scaling walls and a gap-closing dash attack, gives him better options to navigate around an enemy team and find unpredictable angles for attack.
Or you can be like me. Fail the reflect timing and get blown away around every corner!
I don’t recommend it, but it’s an option.
The difference between a good Genji and a bad Genji is night and day (that’ll be a future pokemon title someday, I’m sure of it). Many times, Genji was no threat at all, but a good one would murder me before I even knew he was there.
Like with D.Va, I never felt this same level of confidence with Genji.
My sniper of choice. Hanzo is a little trickier to use than his Widowmaker counterpart, but he makes up for it with team utility and an incredible ultimate.
Seriously, his dragon ult can go through walls and clear an entire point.
The best tactic against Hanzo is to get right up in his face. He has no close range capabilities at all, and he’s especially at risk against multiple close targets. Sure, it’s possible he might ping you with an arrow at point blank, but it’ll be a challenge, and he won’t have time to draw his bow to full power.
As for his ultimate, well -- just hope you get a chance to see it before it shows up and murders you. If you hear him scream, start running and hope you picked the right direction.
Another one of my favorites. Have you played TF2? Remember the Demoman? The guy who could shoot grenades everywhere, forever?
Yeah. Junkrat is basically the Demoman, but if the Demoman could only place one remote grenade at a time. No littering a point in remote explosives here.
His ultimate, Rip-Tire, which is quite literally a bomb strapped to a... um, tire, is capable of wrecking a whole team with proper placement. Best I ever did was three.
Even an inexperienced Junkrat can fish for kills by spraying grenades into the air, hoping to rack up a few eliminations. Much like Hanzo, though, Junkrat has problems dealing with people up in his face. If his remote bomb doesn’t do the trick, he’s in real trouble for the next few seconds. It’s not impossible to hit an opponent with a point-blank grenade, but it’s a damn sight harder than spraying a control point with an endless barrage.
Overwatch likes to try and suggest “getting above him,” but I found this tip a tad misguided. While it’s true Junkrat’s grenades can only go so high, even average Junkrat players were able to blast Pharah’s out of the sky, or angle their grenades to blast above landings and doorways.
It certainly helps, but it doesn’t shut him down to the degree the tip suggests.
Lucio’s a blast. All I had to do to help was be nearby! I did catch myself attempting to use his right click -- a shockwave that knocks players back -- as a Pyro blast. For the small cross-section of my audience who has both somehow found this website and hasn’t played Team Fortress 2, the pyro’s right click can knock rockets, grenades, and other non-bullet projectiles back towards their attackers.
It’d be real awesome if Lucio could do this, but it might give him a little too much power to be reasonable. Genji is already the team "redirector," he might get a little offended if a support's right-click could mimic one of his primary abilities.
I never found Lucio to be a problem, mostly because good Lucio’s would hang out nearby characters who were much bigger problems to deal with.
Once Overwatch is out, I predict we might see devious Lucio plays, especially on maps with holes and cliffs. HIs ability to run on walls mostly went unused in games I played, but I bet in the right hands, it’ll lead to trickery and cursing.
Oh, how I want to be good as Mr. Not-John-Marston. Oh, How much I wish it. Mcree is an in-your-face powerhouse, capable of sliding in and out of cover while blasting your whole team.
In practice, I miss all six shots, roll for a timely reload, miss another six, and then get sniped in the head by a Widowmaker. Accuracy and careful play are necessities to be a good Mcree, as his low health pool makes him an easy kill. I discovered these are both qualities I lack.
Much like Genji, a good Mcree and a bad Mcree are instantly recognizable. If it’s a good one, it’s the bastard dropping half your team with a clutch showdown ultimate, then rolling away from your shots. If it’s a bad one, it’s that guy you keep murdering who runs up and sprays bullets around you.
Mei is so much fun! Freeze an opponent and then score a free headshot! Trap the enemy team in their own base at the start of a match! Snipe Hanzo’s and Widowmakers from across the map with your insanely accurate right-click and watch them curse you in chat!
Mei is a monster! Get frozen and shot in the head! Start the match by staring at a giant red ice wall! Get shot and die, then watch in the replay as a Mei shoots you from a distance that could only be described as either “wait, what?” or “...how?”.
Regrettably, I often grew bored as Mercy. As someone who played a lot of medic in the days of Team Fortress 2, I wasn’t eager to return to creating lucid healing bonds between me and a player while tailing them around. Being Mercy on a poorly performing team is a nightmare, as you're completely reliant on their skills for protection.
I did appreciate her left shift ability, which allows her to quickly fly to an ally’s side. It comes off cooldown in only a few seconds, making it a great gap closer or escape.
But, again, when your team is composed of only corpses at your feet, flying to their side faster won’t do much good.
Mercy’s second weapon, a laser pistol of sorts, is deceptively powerful. Don’t be afraid to make use of it.
There’s nothing sadder than watching a Mercy on a losing team, as she scrambles to try and keep her suicidal allies alive. On the flip side, a well-protected Mercy is maddening in their own right, because you know if you can eek out the right shot, at the right time, you can just -- but the window of opportunity never seems to appear.
While a clutch Mercy resurrection can turn a match round, in my experience it usually just ended with a bunch of people dying twice in quick succession.
Parah is soldier 2.0. Forget rocket jumping, now you can burst into the air at your leisure without having to damage yourself! Her shockwave ability never seemed immensely useful -- unless there were cliffs nearby, in which case it became hilarious.
Her ultimate is tremendously powerful, but I quickly noticed a shift in player reactions several days into the beta. When it started, I could score many a kill from even the sloppiest of executions. By the end of the beta, though, players became aware of just how defenseless she is mid-ultimate.
With careful team coordination, such as a Mei ultimate, I could see this being a devastating follow-up attack. On it’s own, players started to wise up.
Pharah excels at picking off enemies in the open, making her a favored attacker. I rarely played matches with no Pharah present. Distance helps, as it'll be easier to predict the path of her rockets. Be aware, a good Pharah will keep you dancing.
Remember what I said about her ultimate? It goes both ways. Many characters are capable of shutting her down before she has a chance to dish out damage. If you can snipe -- or if you’re Mei -- you can blast her out of the sky from a safe distance. Keep an eye out for an ascending Pharah and try to open fire before she can activate a rocket barrage.
DIE DIE DIE DIE.
My main goal as Reaper is to survive long enough to activate an ultimate. When I first saw other reapers being slippery devils, I assumed they must have a strong grasp on the character, but it ends up he’s not as tricky as he appears. His dual shotguns do insane damage up close, but from mid-to-long range they’re practically worthless.
Good thing all his abilities can close the gap.
Awareness is your greatest weapon against Reaper. His teleport has a unique sound effect, so listening and reacting will be crucial to your survival. Otherwise he’ll teleport right where you don’t want him to be and start murdering.
If he ends up in a bad position, he'll likely use his left shift to become invincible and float on out. If he was at low health, it may be worthwhile to keep an eye on him and try to score that last hit as his invincibility fades. If he wasn’t, chasing him will probably lead to your death.
Reinhardt was my tank of choice. A shield to protect my team, a hammer to crush foes, and an ult capable of shutting down all opposition with the right placement. His dash ability sometimes got me in trouble, but I never threw myself off a cliff like I did as Tracer.
Flanking is your best option. Many Reinhardt’s don’t think to angle their shields up, meaning Pharah and Junkrat can sometimes sneak easy shots from above. Tracer and Genji can also dance around him, forcing him to drop the shield or be killed by a thousand small cuts.
If flanking isn’t a choice, it can be worthwhile to hammer away at his shield until it breaks. It takes time for it to recharge, so if it drops while he’s still some distance away, he’s completely exposed -- and potentially an easy kill for your sniper. Once it drops, keep up the pressure before he has time to let it recharge.
I feel so cruel playing as Pudg -- Er, I mean, Roadhog. He doesn’t offer as much utility as the other tanks -- or any at all, in fact. Instead, Pudge makes his presence known by hooking enemy combatants, yanking 'em right up into his face, and then blasting away with a shotgun.
The alternate fire is a medium range shot, which is helpful if your hook is on cooldown, or maybe don’t have any optimal hook openings.
Also worth mentioning -- I suspect Roadhog’s hook is hitscan, meaning where the player is during the initial throw determines if it connects. Once I began playing under this assumption, I stopped whiffing all my hooks.
In short, don’t try to lead the target, just aim right at them.
(It’s unclear if this is how the hook actually behaves, or will continue to behave once the beta is over, so future readers, take that last piece of advice with a side of salt.)
Sniper’s love seeing a Roadhog round the corner. “headshot practice,” we call him.
Now if you’re playing as someone at risk of being hooked, I’m afraid I don’t have any good advice for you. If your total health is 200 or lower and a hook comes your way, it’s time to be sacrificed to the Great Hook God. If it’s any higher, you’ve got a chance at escaping before death, but you’ll still take a round of buckshot to the face before you do.
And as Mcree, you are Roadhog’s favorite snack. Yum yum.
Me soldier. Me shoot gun. Me heal and run. Me press Q and hold button. Hit things. They die.
I tease because I find Soldier: 76 completely unremarkable. He's not necessarily a bad choice, just completely average all around. He does offer some team utility in the form of an area heal, so If your support is sticking to Symmetra, Soldier: 76 can act as a semi-but-not-really support supplement.
The best soldiers I encountered made use of their shift ability to quickly change positions after attacking. They become slippery, but not Tracer slippery. There’s not much advice to give for fighting Soldier: 76. If he can see you, he’ll shoot you. At long range, he becomes quite ineffectual, so keeping him at long distance helps.
He excels at medium range combat, where he can easily bounce in and out of cover while healing himself. Best not to engage him on his own terms.
At first, I thought Symmetra was terrible. She’s the only support that can’t heal, her weapon doesn’t seem to do much damage, and none of it seems worth it just for a teleporter.
After some experimentation, I began to figure out why I was so wrong.
Her turrets, when placed in a cluster around sneaky locations, racks up kills like crazy. Couple it with your damage-over-time beam, and any poor soul who wanders into your den of death will regret their life choices.
For the long to mid-range game, Symmetra has a chargeable orb she can fire as well. It’s a little trickier to connect with, due to its slow move speed, but it hits multiple targets and packs a punch.
Don’t chase Symmetra. It’s a 50-50 shot she’s running away in a panic or leading you to a trap, and the coin toss isn’t worth it.
If it’s essential to invade one of her nests to destroy the teleporter, Junkrat, Pharah, or a careful sniper can do the trick, ideally with a tank leading the way. Trying to do it alone as anyone else will probably get you killed.
Jolly cooperation recommended.
I’m a terrible Torböjrn.
The problem, I find, is patience. I have a strong desire to be on the front line, which is not where Torböjrn excels. No, he excels at placing a turret in a key location and locking it down. I discovered I was not great at the “locking down” part, and often got myself killed trying to get in on the action.
The only nice thing I did as Torböjrn regularly was give my team armor, which helped me feel useful as I died repeatedly.
A good Torböjrn is always right where you don’t want him. He’s usually not far from his turret, and he’ll flank you from whereabouts unknown as you approach it.
It’s been my experience his turret is best dealt with from afar, or while distracted by your team’s tank. Genji and Tracer can also make it happen alone with some light-footed play, provided Torböjrn doesn’t roll out of the shadows and lay them out.
I want to love Tracer so badly. All her abilities are a blast to use. She can zip all over the place, recall to get outta trouble, pile on the damage with her dual guns, and take out half the team with her ultimate.
All these things require a better skilled Tracer than I, because all I managed to do as Tracer was warp myself off cliffs.
Trying to catch a good tracer is like trying to catch the goddamn snitch in quidditch. You manage to land a few shots and suddenly Boom! Recall. Then she’s behind you again at full health, shooting you in the head.
In a one-on-one situation, most heroes will lose to a half-competent Tracer. However, because Tracer’s gun requires a little time and focus to shave away your life, it becomes a little trickier when she has to deal with multiple opponents at once.
Unless she has her ultimate ready.
If she starts dashing towards you and hasn’t recently used her recall, get ready to run.
I don’t usually enjoy sniping in games, but Overwatch is an exception. Widowmaker’s rifle is surprisingly easy to use, and her shots charge to full power within seconds. She can lay poison traps to cover her back, or booby trap the path to the objective. Her hook allows her to quickly gain a height advantage. She even has an edge over Hanzo, since if a character gets in your face, your non-scoped gun acts as an assault rifle. It isn’t good enough to take on multiple combatants, but it'll save you from a sneaky Reaper lurking nearby.
One personal problem: I often caught myself getting tunnel vision, staying in my scope to cover a path for too long. It’s real hard to see what’s going on around you when your vision is locked on a single corridor. Maybe don't be like me, and make an effort to take in your surroundings once in a while.
Approach a Widowmaker from behind or the side, and you may catch them scoped, just like me!
A good Widowmaker is a scary thing, as she can drop half your team as they turn a corner. Staying behind Reinhardt’s shield can help tremendously during an approach, but the best offense against a Widowmaker, I found, was anyone who could get in her face and dash about in circles to keep her guessing.
A word of caution: While it may seem like a great idea to fire rockets at her perch as Pharah, I found this often resulted in my death more often than hers. It worked on occasion, but let's just say I didn't break even. Move unpredictably with your rocket boosters, and make an effort not to hang in the air.
Apologies to the big guy, but I didn’t really enjoy using him. The area shield can be a huge benefit on control point maps -- assuming your team actually decides to use it. His leaping ability closes distance on foes who’d rather not have a giant ape in close proximity.
And all of that is well and good, but I never enjoyed doing any of it. His tesla-style gun allows him to apply constant pressure to any enemies nearby and seems effective enough to get kills, but I still found myself defaulting to any other tank.
Unless Winston’s ultimate was active, I barely noticed him at all. I found him to only be an immediate threat when punching me in the face, so keep your distance and keep friends nearby.
Maybe once the game is out of Beta, I’ll see great Winston players who make me reassess this claim, but I currently find him to be the least threatening tank in Overwatch.
I wish I’d used Zarya more before the beta ended, because her kit kept me busy. A timely anti-projectile shield, tossed out to a horribly out of position ally, often saved the day. She can also activate one on herself separately, meaning I was able to place myself in some dangerous situations and come out (mostly) unscathed.
Her regular fire is a constant beam of damage, and the alternate is a plasma grenade... thing. I wish I’d spent more time learning how to effectively use all these abilities to their greatest potential, but that’s what release day is for now.
Like Winston, I never found Zarya to be threatening on her own unless she had her ultimate. Zarya’s ult pulls all nearby targets together, meaning she can quickly follow it up with a barrage of plasma bursts. That’s not counting the damage from the ult itself, or whatever her allies might be piling on as well. I didn’t devise many strategies on how to deal with Zarya beyond “hang back and hope the sniper does it for me”. Unless, of course, I was the sniper.
Zenyatta is a lot of fun to play. There’s always something to do! The orb of harmony heals, so I was throwin’ that on anyone hurt, while simultaneously tossing the Orb of Discord on any troublesome opponents.
His ult turns him invincible while he simultaneously heals everyone around him. He can still be knocked away from his team, I discovered, or say, tossed off a cliff to his death by a Lucio shockwave.
The only other times I died as Zenyatta are when I suddenly thought I could play him as an attack hero, which is shame on me, not him.
If you’re Lucio or Pharah, shove him around while he’s invincible! What’s he gonna do about it? Reach enlightenment?
Do not underestimate the awesome power of the Orb of Discord like I did. There’s a reason the game alerts you when you’ve been marked. That thing is a kiss of death. Too often I shrugged it off, only to be dead seconds later.
Even if the only other person around you is Zenyatta himself, once the Orb of Discord is on he may still win that fight.
That covers all the Overwatch heroes. If you didn't get a chance to play in the beta, I have good news -- it won't be that long of a wait.
Overwatch launches on May 24th. See you then, agents! I look forward to you shooting me. A lot.