With the new-gen update out on Xbox Series consoles, we dove back into Overwatch to see how the game stacks up.
If you asked me, a new-gen update for Overwatch is a pretty big deal in the videogame world. The game is nearing its fifth anniversary and is still going strong despite all signs pointing toward Overwatch 2 still being a while out. Yet, when the new-gen update went live a few days ago, it was tucked away in a regular patch, hidden in such a way that it's almost like Blizzard didn't want us to see it. With the eye-catching X/S symbol next to its name, it's kind of hard to miss, but that's probably because it isn't a new-gen update for everyone.
For whatever reason, PlayStation 5 owners are still stuck with the PS4 version of the title, whilst Xbox Series users get a sparkly and modernised version of Blizzard's hero-based shooter. To see if this is worth a little bit of hype, I dove back into the game that for a long time was the apple of my eye, and put its three new modes through the ringer to see how they impact Overwatch on console.
For those out of the loop, this latest update adds the option to switch between three new graphical modes; Resolution, Balanced, and Framerate. Resolution brings 4K at 60fps on Series X, with Series S offering 1440p at 60fps; Balanced works at 1440p at 60fps on Series X, with Series S clocking in at 1080p at 60fps; and Framerate offers 120fps across both consoles, with Series X logging 1440p and Series S hitting 1080p. Considering Overwatch already played at 60fps, I was most interested to see how doubling up to 120fps would impact a fast-paced shooter as it is, so naturally that's where I started.
In Framerate mode, Overwatch feels much snappier, and the game plays fluidly. It no longer seems like it's trying to catch up with what you are doing, but as Overwatch has one of the more unusual feeling first-person shooter systems on consoles - it does still seem a little off. I was really hoping that the extra frame rate would eliminate this feeling, as it did with the enhancements on Rainbow Six: Siege, but unfortunately not. You are still often fighting between the choice of prioritising quick, reactive movements or accuracy when adjusting your sensitivity. If you don't quite understand what I mean, try playing a few games of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Battlefield V or Rainbow Six Siege, and then try to play as a hitscan character in Overwatch. The difference in control is remarkable.
Moving on, I decided to head to the other end of the spectrum to look at Resolution mode. While Overwatch does look very good here, you don't exactly play the game to stare gleefully into the environments. It's again the same issue Rainbow Six Siege faced with its two graphical options. Being a shooter, the higher frame rate mode is pretty much always the way to go, and while 4K does look fantastic, it's hard to suggest it over the snappier, more responsive 120fps alternative.
So, what about the middle ground? Well, Balanced does sort of seem like a pointless option on Xbox Series X, especially considering it offers the same 60fps frame rate as Resolution mode, just at a lower resolution. This might be completely different on Xbox Series S, but if the patch notes are anything to go by, then probably not. Since I don't have access to an Xbox Series S console, I haven't had the option to check it out either.
The loading times for the game are significantly improved, however. They were already blazingly fast on Series X, but this update seems to have improved that even further, as you can boot up the game in seconds. In fact, it nearly takes longer to open up a lootbox than it does to boot the game up now.
As this update is free of charge and is available to any Xbox Series owners of Overwatch, there's really not a lot to disagree with, but I will say it's one of the less impressive new-gen upgrades we've seen so far. Overwatch was already a brilliant game before this patch came out, and even if these options weren't delivered it would still be a very good title. Having the opportunity to play Blizzard's premier shooter at 120fps is fantastic, but it is by no means a substantial difference to the experience it offered beforehand.