Overwatch 2 is almost here, arriving as a free-to-play game on October 4 that will totally supplant the OG hero shooter. While it isn’t playable to the general public yet, a handful of gaming outlets got early access to Blizzard’s upcoming sequel, publishing prereviews just in time for launch day. We here at Kotaku Dot Com were, unfortunately, not given the same courtesy. So instead, we’re rounding up what critics are saying in preparation for Overwatch 2's imminent release.
The overall consensus across the board, from GameSpot to IGN, is that Overwatch 2 offers some solid team-based gameplay that’s somewhat marred by the tedium of battle pass progression. There are some changes reviewers have pointed out as interesting and positive steps in the right direction, including the reduction of team size from six to five and hero reworks that completely alter their function in team compositions. But the biggest gripe is how characters are now locked behind the grindy battle pass. Sure, Blizzard plans to introduce new heroes every 18 weeks, but critics aren’t too pleased with the maligned publisher gatekeeping characters behind progression.
This new method of unlocking heroes while also blocking new players from accessing the old ones alone has been a particularly contentious point among reviewers and fans eager to play the game.
With that, let’s look at what folks are saying about Overwatch 2 right now.
“It’s perhaps fitting that Overwatch 2, upon presenting its main menu, often begins with a stirring rendition of the main Overwatch theme I’ve been humming on and off for six years. All of the piece’s consummate parts are clearer, from rousing strings to bombastic percussion, and there are small details I didn’t notice before either because they weren’t there, or they’ve been polished to a shine. It’s an apt opening because it sets out the game’s stall early—this is Overwatch, but not quite as you remember it. It’d be fair to say that throughout the game’s convoluted marketing reveals, that’s not always been the message—does Overwatch 2 deserve to truly be called a sequel? Is it more akin to an expansion pack? And yet, after around a week with it, it feels like the game that spawned a dozen hero shooter contemporaries is likely to do similarly again. Overwatch 2 is a polished, impressive package that, while not without its own missteps, follows the path laid down by its predecessor by adapting to the modern FPS landscape with aplomb.”
“My experiences with Overwatch 2 take me back to my favorite memories of original Overwatch: fast-paced, caffeine-fueled electricity. Shooting, healing, flying, crouching—the game is at its best when you’re in the action and making plays. The shift to 5v5, and specifically the move to one tank (a player that can absorb a lot of damage) per team invigorates the pace of the game. There are also fewer things to slow the game down—crowd-control abilities have been tuned down and mostly given to tanks, which means you get to spend more time moving and shooting, and less time frozen or stunned. And with only one tank per team to block damage, all players can feel the extra influence they have on the game—for better and for worse. Landing important shots could outright win fights for your team, but missing them could be the mistake that means a loss instead. There’s more pressure, yes, but it feels more rewarding. Matches give me that adrenaline-filled buzz that had been missing for so long and that makes me want to keep coming back for more.”
“Adding to Overwatch 2's focus on creating engaging and tense matches is its newest mode: Push. In Push, each team is tasked with reaching the middle of the map, where a robot and two barriers, one on either side, await. When a team has secured the robot it begins to push the opposing team’s barrier; whichever team covers the most ground at the end of the match is then crowned the winner. In every game I played, the push-and-pull of battle was incredibly tense, feeling like a constant series of tug-of-war where the tide could change at any moment. Playing a game of Overwatch has never felt quite as good as it does in Overwatch 2.”
“Gameplay-wise, Blizzard has hit it out of the park with Overwatch 2. Unfortunately, the game has one massive downside, and that is its slow progression. Overwatch 2 dumps loot boxes in favor of a battle pass system, like many other free-to-play games on the market, but it makes a big mistake. Whereas free-to-play games like Fortnite refrain from putting anything truly important to gameplay in their battle passes for the most part, Overwatch 2 locks new heroes behind the battle pass.”
“I do have some slight worries about new heroes being part of the premium battle pass tier and not instantly available to all, though. That model pushes that pay-to-win door slightly ajar in the sense that if a new hero is introduced who is particularly powerful or crucial to the evolving meta, then someone can choose to buy their way up the battle pass tiers—something we’ve seen (inadvertently or not) happen with Activision and the introduction of Call of Duty weapons to Warzone. The fact that each hero won’t be available to use in competitive play for the first three weeks of its existence is a fair navigation of this issue, however.”
“Overwatch 2 is lined with bars to fill and XP to gain in its new challenge system and seasonal battle pass. Daily challenges seem to be randomized like most other games and weekly, seasonal, and lifetime challenges are universal goals that reward trinkets like profile titles and icons. I played Quick Play in roughly two hour chunks each day and could fill out three to four levels of the 80-tier battle pass as long as I picked the appropriate heroes to satisfy my challenges. That was with the 20% boost from owning the premium battle pass too.”
“I do have one major criticism of the battle pass system, though, and it’s that starting with Kiriko, all of Overwatch 2's new heroes will be tied to a significant amount of battle pass progression unless you pay for the Premium version. Players with the Premium Battle Pass will gain access to them immediately, but free-to-play ones will have to reach Tier 55 to unlock them. While it’s true that most games with free-to-play models don’t allow players to access new characters without some form of progression, I think Tier 55 is a rather steep hill to climb. Blizzard has to nudge people towards the Premium battle pass somehow, but access to dozens of extra cosmetics—including Overwatch 2's new customizable Mythic skins—sweetens that deal quite a bit already.”
While pre-reviews often singled out the hero unlock progression, some hardcore fans contend that the change will be a good one, as it’ll work towards onboarding newbies to what has become an increasingly complicated game. But, of course, you could just pay $40 for the Watchpoint Pack to gain instant access to the premium track, which immediately unlocks the new heroes that are gated behind progression. That, critics warn, could make Overwatch 2 feel like a pay-to-win game compared to the first entry, especially if the upcoming heroes are more advantageous than others or if the player simply needs more options for the challenge at hand.