It's better to think of Overwatch 2 as Overwatch 2.0 instead of a full sequel. While many of its playable Heroes have undergone significant changes — alongside the introduction of three brand-new ones — this is essentially the same game you've been playing for the past six years. Activision Blizzard has (quite literally) stuck a number on the end and called it a day. However, for those in need of an excuse to return to the online title, that might be all it takes. A massively updated version of the same game, Overwatch (2) is still great to play.
The developer has been smart about the re-introduction too, lowering the barrier of entry to just a download. Overwatch 2 ditches the price point of its predecessor for the free-to-play model, replacing loot boxes with a Battle Pass along the way. The latest way of delivering cosmetics (both free and paid for) will always have its doubters, but it's almost objectively better than the randomised nature of loot boxes. Overwatch joins Fortnite, Apex Legends, and the rest in the present, which is always nice to see.
Its first seasonal Battle Pass isn't quite up to snuff, however. With challenges being the main way of rising through the ranks via XP gains, levelling up feels like it takes slightly too long. Completing a match and knocking off a few challenges only got us maybe a quarter of the way closer to our next reward. And that's even with the 20 per cent XP bonus awarded to owners of the premium Battle Pass. Furthermore, not including payouts of the premium currency for some of the tiers? That's a big no-no. We welcome the free-to-play model, but Activision Blizzard has some kinks to iron out before Overwatch 2 can be a real winner.
Luckily, it already is in-game once you beat the queue system and load up a match. New players will have Heroes unlocked for them gradually, making it easier to get to grips with specific roles, while returning veterans have the full line-up at their fingertips straight from the off. One of the biggest gameplay changes in Overwatch 2 sees each team drop a player for a 5v5 bout consisting of two DPS (damage per second) characters, a Tank, and two Support. The first game allowed a second Tank to join the party, so the sequel switches shields for HP-guzzling action.
It's a change that speeds gameplay up, allowing more aggressive players to thrive. Reinhardt's shield will always stop a team in its tracks and Orisa still feels unstoppable — especially since the new update adds a javelin to her arsenal — but with just one on the battlefield, they become much more manageable. Soldier 76 could sprint behind enemy lines, or Pharah can rain rockets down from above. DPS characters have always been able to do this, but with one less Tank to worry about, matches have become much more hotly contested.
Complementing the gameplay changes and balance tweaks is a smattering of new content. The three new Heroes are Junker Queen, Sojourn, and Kiriko, and they're accompanied by six new maps and a game mode named Push. Is that enough content to justify a sequel? Of course not.
Overwatch 2 isn't much more than a marketing strategy designed to re-ignite player interest in a game that hasn't really had much to shout about for a number of years. Proven by the fact you can't even play the original game anymore — Activision Blizzard has taken it offline in its entirety — Overwatch 2 is pitched as the new norm. The saving grace is that the only barrier to entry is an internet connection.
It's a bit of a double-edged sword, though, because it's worked. Interest in the new game shoots player queues into the thousands once the USA wakes up, and as the likes of Warzone take a backseat before its own sequel hits next month, the internet is ablaze with all things Overwatch 2. What new and returning players find is a quality gameplay loop that still puts a lot of other multiplayer titles to shame.
Although, what they won't find are the story missions and online co-op mode Activision Blizzard revealed alongside the sequel nearly three years ago. Now set to be patched into the game in 2023, it's the sort of content that would have better justified putting the number two at the end of its name. Overwatch 2 has theoretically launched into Early Access, though, so expect the studio to point towards that as an excuse should it come under fire. For the average customer, this is the full game.
Except that's the thing, and we can't get away from it: Overwatch was a fantastic game that played brilliantly. The exact same can be said of its sequel. No matter how much one could moan about missing content or Battle Passes, the beauty of a live-service title is there's more to come and you (probably) won't be paying for it. It's just so easy to get your mates online for a few rounds and enjoy what is still one of the best multiplayer games around.
Overwatch 2 is not a full sequel in the way one usually is, instead porting over the original game and enhancing it with a bit of new content. It doesn't justify the number at the end, but that doesn't take away from what is still a terrific multiplayer experience. Removing the price point entirely, Overwatch 2 can now be considered one of the best free-to-play games around.