Overwatch 2 preview: An uninspiring retread that's too little, too late
Overwatch 2 has felt like a test.
The game was announced back in 2019, and has been in heavy development ever since, and fans were excited to see the game rear its head in 2020 at the latest. We heard nothing. The team went dark, and updates for the first game became few and far between.
In that time, fans grew agitated (more than usual, would you believe) with a lack of content or updates from both the main game and its sequel, and as Blizzard was drawn into question in the gaps for their treatment of the Blitzchung controversy and, even more potent, the claims of sexual harassment and bullying in the Activision Blizzard office's "frat boy culture", faith in the company on all fronts began to dwindle. And now, as we don't even get Overwatch legend Jeff Kaplan gracing us with a "what's up everyone, this is Jeff" any more, it feels that the community is fighting alone on a barren wasteland of Blizzard's design to even stay together.
And as the Overwatch 2 beta launches, it has begun to feel like the company is starting to offer players a little more. But it's not enough. Not even slightly.
Overwatch 2 is a sizeable update at best - Not a sequel
Overwatch 2's beta is exactly what you have been told it is. Nothing less, nothing more.
Of course, it's lovely to revisit some of the characters we know and love from the first game with some new voice lines and fresh skins, but there's an overwhelming feeling of familiarity that doesn't stem from a game that stands as a comfortable progression of what we know, but being exactly what we know in the first place.
The biggest changes in the game rest on some sizeable changes made to its characters and its attention to the flow of gameplay. Many of the game's stun abilities have been stripped away or replaced, and the likes of Orisa and Bastion have seen changes that practically change their entire presence on the battlefield. Luckily, these changes are a great amount of fun, and though a lot of the fun has been stripped of Mei as her freeze ability has been relegated exclusively to her Blizzard ultimate ability, Orisa's spear and Doomfist's new playstyle after his transition to a tank are still a delight and don't leave much to be desired. But, when you look past these new changes, a new map, a couple of new characters and the Push game mode, there's not an awful lot left to assess.
But you know what? It's still a blast.
Overwatch 2 provides an entertaining twist
As a player, I'm about as casual as they come, so in many ways, I'm not the target audience of this second run of betas of Overwatch 2. I don't mind if I lose a game as long as I get to work as part of a team, and with the huge roster of characters being so diverse and applicable to every playstyle, I just like to jump in and go. The game's competitive scene is intense and rewarding, yet despite its allure, I've never been competitively minded enough, or even a good enough player, to engage with it.
It suits well, then, that the beta for Overwatch 2 doesn't offer a competitive element yet, opting for quickplay instead - and smashing players all into one funnel has surprisingly made the game feel a lot more virile.
Gameplay is fresh with the removal of one tank player per team, making the class feel much more crucial in turn, and the removal of stuns has helped to keep the pace of the game higher than ever across new maps and with a new roster of characters and attacks to put to use.
The forward motion of the game is exemplified most by the new Push mode that sees both teams wage war for control of a robot that pushes barricades back and forth between enemy spawns. The mode is a much more active replacement for the controversial "2CP" mode that has since been sapped from the game, and it serves to make Overwatch as a whole much more engaging and less likely to result in cases of spawn camping and sheer domination from powerful foes.
Yet, this seems like a drip-fed addition to the game. After so many years of minimal content updates and only the fervent adoration from players to keep Overwatch popular a la CS:GO, this still doesn't feel like it was worth the wait. Returning to Overwatch is as much fun as you remember it, but at the end of the day, it's still Overwatch, and in many ways, this just doesn't feel like a big enough change to warrant its title as a sequel, and to make the years of waiting worth the sting. So why exactly is this considered a sequel?
Overwatch 2 is fruity overwatch
The justification for much of this, mostly from fans leaping to the defence of a company with a 2020 net revenue pull of $8.1 million, is that this isn't really the Overwatch 2 beta - this is, in fact, an update to Overwatch to overhaul it in time for the launch of the new single-player mode. That's the Overwatch 2 part.
It's an incredibly bizarre stance to take while the name of Overwatch 2 sits emblazoned across the top of the beta launch page. It's also peculiar to suggest that the sequel just isn't here yet and has been divvied up into two sections, one of which will be coming later down the line and with a price tag to gain entry. It's the same confusing approach that Halo Infinite took, severing a campaign from its multiplayer mode in a move that does little but makes them feel completely separate and confuses consumers.
Many of the decisions made for Overwatch 2 are deeply bizarre, yet its gameplay still excels. The game is too late, too bare-bones, too ill-considered and too flimsy to feel like a satisfying sequel. This isn't progression, it's mere adaptation.
Overwatch 2 is yet to show its cards
There's still a lot to be seen about Overwatch 2, namely its new battle pass, new characters, Ranked Play, and its wider implementation with the Overwatch League - but right now, it stands as a comfortable update, but by no means does it feel strong enough to feel like a sequel. Blizzard hasn't used their time wisely since the beginning of development, it would seem, and for now, the game feels too similar to the first to feel particularly exciting. The intricacies of the meta will become fascinating to observe, but for the time being, it's just another Overwatch. And for as fun as Overwatch, this cannot be rewarded.
The gaming industry deserves much better from this from one of its highest earners, and if the final product of Overwatch 2 looks the way that it does now in its beta, then it's an uncomfortably set precedent that will prove that Blizzard can get away with anything. After the excruciating wait, fans deserve better than this - but they'll play, make Blizzard money, and prove that this distinct lack of vision and progression is enough for fans. And no amount of Orisa spears can make that a less bitter pill to swallow.