Blizzard's shooter sequel is here, but how does it stack up as a follow-up to one of the last decade's best games?
Where to start? This might genuinely be the most conflicted I have ever been when it comes to a game review. On one hand, Overwatch 2 is a top-of-the-line shooter that excels in many ways, and yet on the other hand, so was Overwatch, which begs the question as to whether this can really be dubbed a sequel? That's the problem I'm facing here, because I want to tell you that Overwatch 2 is fantastic, and it is in many ways, but then again if you've played the original, you won't really notice much of a difference. I'm at an impasse. I can understand that with Overwatch being a highly competitive multiplayer game, Blizzard Entertainment wouldn't want to change up the formula too much, but at the same time, this title has been in the works for years, and the main differences come in the monetisation efforts and a few extra content additions here and there. It's a truly bizarre situation.
At the start of the year, I was not afraid to tear this title a new one. The lack of new content in the first beta and the limited communication efforts from Blizzard made me truly concerned about what this game was becoming. But then the announcement was made that Overwatch 2 would be free-to-play, and would have a seasonal update schedule that would bring incredibly frequent batches of content - be it characters or maps - and I was excited again. Now we're at the point of launch and the most recent developments have come in the form of monetisation efforts and how new characters will be offered up, and while that has rubbed some people the wrong way, it's essentially the same way characters are released in a lot of other hero-related titles, for example Apex Legends. This game feels like a very finely weighted set of scales, because some of the decisions Blizzard make are great, and some are not, and because of this I am neither overwhelmingly ecstatic about this release, but I'm also not disappointed by what's on offer - I feel strangely impartial to it.
If anything, this is not a great place for Overwatch 2 to start at because the original game was brilliant at release. Granted it suffered over time, but it started off on an enormous high, and if my understanding of how live service games and models work and the way Blizzard is aiming to operate Overwatch 2, we're on track for the opposite situation this time around. A middling game at launch that will blossom into itself in the years to come.
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But again, here's where the problems arise. Overwatch 2, while not much of an improvement on Overwatch, is still a fantastic shooter. It's more fluid than ever, looks stunning, has characters that feel less oppressive and more skillful, and this is all on top of a better array of game modes that are not sullied by the torturous 2CP, but are bolstered by the greater cross-platform efforts, which now include cross-progression and saves. All these things are genuinely great, but they aren't sequel-defining. That's what this game severely lacks right now. Older players will come back to the world of Overwatch and find few changes. Sure it will entertain for a while, but this is still the core Overwatch experience masked behind a 5v5 gameplay design. Blizzard has been drawing our focus on the PvE side of things as the main sequel-addition, but as an avid and long-time Overwatch player who has followed this game and franchise for years and been part of many PvE modes, I can safely say that this is not what I'm craving or after. In fact, I struggle to see how this will be the future of Overwatch 2 in any way.
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However this doesn't change anything as far as this review goes, because the PvE side of things means absolutely nothing, as they aren't here. As of right now, Overwatch 2 is still solely a multiplayer online game. Is it a better one than the original Overwatch? Yes, but it's all marginal improvements in the grand scheme of things at the moment, and that's the problem with live service games. In a year or two, my opinions are probably going to be wildly different, but as it stands, I can't go and tell you that Overwatch 2 is the saviour of the Overwatch franchise, because three new characters, a bunch of new maps, a fresh game mode, and a batch of quality of life changes are all things that could have been done in the stagnant years since development essentially stopped on the original game.
There's no better way to describe Overwatch 2 than simply uninspired. Blizzard already had a great formula with the original, and instead of looking to shake things up and make some creatively bold choices, we've been given a sequel that should really be regarded as a 2.0 update rather than a successor. At least right now that is.
Don't get me wrong, Junker Queen and Kiriko are some of the most genuinely fun characters I have ever played, and the array of extra maps make some of the older ones look frankly dull. And the future looks incredibly bright with boundless support planned and plenty to look forward to, but as we're in the present now, today I can't go and tell you that this game wowed me even marginally as much as the fresh and new Overwatch did at release years ago.
So, should you play Overwatch 2? Absolutely. It may seem contradictory to say, but whether you're a fan of the series, or a fan or shooters, or usually stave away from them, you should pick this game up and test it out, because as far as free-to-play titles go, this is one of the best - as it is undeniably mostly the same game as Overwatch. But to call Overwatch 2 a sequel and the next stage of the franchise is a gross overstatement, and there's no doubt about that. And this is the issue that plagues this game in a way that is quite frequently seen in the gaming world. If anything my best comparison to where Overwatch 2 is right now, would be with sports games like FIFA, because while new installations of these titles are still the best in their fields, they are also still remarkably similar, if not the same, to their predecessors. That's why I can't possibly tell you this is a significant improvement to the world of Overwatch yet. Perhaps in the future, but right now, Overwatch 2 is better described as far too safe of a bet to be a stunning sequel.
6 / 10
Looks brilliant. Still plays incredibly well. Cross-progression and cross-save are welcome additions.
Hardly feels like a sequel. Lacks defining features.