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Overwatch 2 already feels like a return to glory

I used to be a huge Overwatch junkie. Before dropping the game because it simply got frustrating to play competitive matches, I was hooked on it. I loved playing with my friends, keeping up with the game’s always-evolving meta, and winning matches thanks to perfect teamwork. So far, the Overwatch 2 multiplayer beta is reinforcing all of those positives, while keeping negatives mostly out of sight.

Overwatch 2 Gameplay Trailer

If you’ve seen people talk about the Overwatch 2 beta on Twitter (or have been watching streamers grind away at it for hours), the idea that it doesn’t feel like a proper sequel probably isn’t new to you. For what it’s worth, that’s part of my takeaway as well. Instead, Overwatch 2 feels like the game Overwatch was always meant to be. This is its most definitive update, though that’s all it is: An update.

Back to basics

The first thing I did once I was able to get into the Overwatch 2 beta was check on all of my old mains. Pharah is largely the same (though her voice feels like it’s an octave higher, which sounds totally out of character), and so is Soldier 76, save for his gun now having recoil.

The biggest changes to the game’s characters across the board are to its tanks, who I used to play as all the time. Reinhardt, for instance, can now store up to two uses of fire strike and can move from side to side much more while he charges. These small tool changes felt great to me, someone who used to play him as my main character. Instead of being limited to up-close encounters, one of the game’s most iconic characters can actually deal damage from afar now.

Doomfist blocking damage in Overwatch 2.
Doomfist is a dive tank instead of a dive DPS in Overwatch 2. Image used with permission by copyright holder

Arguably though, the two characters that have been changed the most are Orisa and Doomfist. The former has had her entire kit revamped, ditching her shield for a spear that can be twirled to delete projectiles or thrown to stun and damage enemies. Doomfist has instead made the full-on jump from DPS to tank, getting a massive bump in health and losing his uppercut in favor of a block using his massive, well, doom fist.

These changes, along with the adjustments made to some of the game’s other characters, don’t feel jarring at all to me. That could just be a side effect from not playing the game very much recently, but each still fulfills the same role. Orisa is still a damage-soaking tank and Doomfist is very much made for diving in and breaking up a team’s front line. Despite any changes made, each character’s identity is very much the same as it was in Overwatch.

For me, a returning player, it meant that hopping back into the saddle as Pharah or Reinhardt was as simple as playing a couple of games. I was rusty, but eventually, my old senses came back to me. I could hear my friends yelling, “Otto don’t charge, I swear to God,” at me every time I thought about it while I was playing Reinhardt. By the time I had my played fifth or sixth match, I got my first play of the game with Reinhardt; it was like I never dropped the series.

That’s one of the main things that the Overwatch 2 beta has shown me: It still has the same solid bones as regular old Overwatch. The game itself has always been a great shooter. It’s always felt good to play as one of its varied characters and master their kits, and it feels even better to excel with them in a game against other players.

Changing composition

One thing I always got tired of when I did play a lot of Overwatch was team composition. Players were always yelling at each other to switch from the character they were playing to a tank or a healer. That’s a thing of the past thanks to role queue, but things were never really balanced out. The last time I played Overwatch, its meta was dominated by shield-deploying tanks that made every match feel like a slog.

Overwatch 2‘s largest change solves that. Changing matches from a 6v6 format to 5v5 with one tank, two DPS, and two support characters feels perfect. Every character has its role and each class naturally gravitates to where they should be. Tanks can deal sizable amounts of damage, so they lead the charge. DPS characters are quick, nimble, and can sneak behind frontl ines to take out healers. That’s how I spent plenty of games as Pharah, leading to a good number of upset Zenyatta and Ana players, who were staying in the backlines as good support characters should.

The new 5v5 format of matches makes a typical game feel more streamlined. There’s no contending against a never-ending shield wall, just two teams that have to feel each other out, poking and prodding at each other’s defenses, waiting for an in.

Tracer, Reinhardt, and Mei as they appear in Overwatch 2.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Push, the new game mode coming in Overwatch 2, demonstrates the strengths of that the best. It tasks players with escorting a large robot as it pushes a barricade across the map, with each team fighting for control of the bot. Both teams play offense and defense in this game mode, giving players a chance to get a feel for both. When there’s a break in one team’s defense, the offense swarms, turning a contested bit of the map into an all-out war zone. It all happens much faster than it used to, emphasizing smart, team-oriented play.

While it feels like some characters have been reworked for one-on-one fights, that just feeds further into the game’s overall team-based approach. Sure, Sombra’s kit has been tweaked to strengthen her in fights against lone enemies, but once she gets that pick, the rest of the team can dive in. It’s the role of DPS characters now; they’re duelists, and once they take out the one straggling member of the enemy team, they open up a window of opportunity.

The new class

If you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned much of the brand-new content shown off in Overwatch 2‘s beta — namely the new DPS character Sojourn and the game’s four new maps — it’s because they all meet the same par of quality that Overwatch initially set. Sojourn is a wonderful new DPS, like Soldier 76 with more movement options thanks to her slide. Circut Royal, Midtown, New Queen Street, and Colosseo are all fantastic additions to the game’s map rotation, offering unique traits that take a few full matches to learn. None of these radically stand out, but that’s a good thing. If any map or character did stand out, it would be because they were disappointing in some way.

Action is quick, and you can feel the ebb and flow of any given fight.

After writing that last paragraph, I stopped to play one more round of Overwatch 2. I played Reinhardt, our team won, and I ended up getting play of the game again. It was a tough match, especially because someone on the other team switched over to Mei, who can easily block off an advancing tank from the rest of their team with an ice wall. But we adapted, and with some clear communication, thanks in part to the game’s new ping system, we won.

Anecdotes like this aren’t anything new — they’re the key to what makes Overwatch such a fun game to play. It’s not about the things single players can accomplish, but what they can do to benefit their team. Sure, my play of the game was me getting a few kills following an ultimate, but what that did more than anything was give my team an opening to push onto the point.

Overwatch 2 is the same game as what folks are playing now. But it has some substantial changes, all of which take its core gameplay and refine the best parts. Action is quick, and you can feel the ebb and flow of any given fight. Teamwork is emphasized even more now that there’s only one tank providing a team with its backbone. We don’t know when Overwatch 2 will launch, but I can already see myself falling back into it like I did with Overwatch years ago.

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Otto Kratky
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Otto Kratky is a freelance writer with many homes. You can find his work at Digital Trends, GameSpot, and Gamepur. If he's…
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