The Overwatch 2 beta is fun but feels like Overwatch 1.5

It’s golden hour at Ilios, and I’ve never seen it like this before. The low-hanging sun bathes the whitewashed buildings in a soft orange hue, the ancient ruins seem to emit their own glow of light – and I’m interrupted from admiring them by an Orisa spear through my gut. Before I can get my bearings, I’m hammered by a sweaty team of streamers who descend upon me like tourists swarming the steep streets of Santorini.

The Overwatch 2 beta looks absolutely stunning, so much so it may temporarily disarm players used to the 2016-era graphics of Overwatch 1. But aside from the updated visuals and hero tweaks, Overwatch 2 feels more like Overwatch 1.5. 

For big fans of Overwatch, this may be enough. But for those of you looking for a revamped take on the game that redefined the hero shooter, disappointment lies ahead.

Overwatch 2 beta: The pros 

Overwatch 2

(Image credit: Activision)

Overwatch 2’s biggest standouts are its new graphics and hero reworks. This game looks like it belongs on current-gen consoles, and though the beta is only available on PC, I fully expect it to wow me on my big-screen TV once it’s available for PS5 (Blizzard has promised future Overwatch 2 betas will include console players). While many of the maps available during the beta are the same ones we’ve been playing in the original game, they’ve all gotten gorgeous lighting upgrades. Eichenwalde and Ilios are set during sunset, while Oasis matches take place at midnight, under the eerie glow of the moon. The lighting and time of day changes are a pleasant surprise for returning players, and the new Push game mode is fun (I only play it once as you can’t pick the rotation), but it’s Orisa and Doomfist that will delight you.

We knew the two heroes were getting major reworks for Overwatch 2, but it isn’t until you get a chance to play them that you realize just how much they’ve been overhauled. Orisa, once the slowest shield tank of the lot, is now a shieldless dive tank and an absolute beast. Armed with a javelin that can deflect projectiles and can also get tossed across the map for some sick snipe shots, Orisa in Overwatch 2 is nothing like the Orisa you once knew – she’s a blast. Her adjustment makes perfect sense for the new 5v5 match makeup, which feels more divey than ever before.

Orisa is a sniper now #Overwatch2 27, 2022

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Doomfist, who is no longer a DPS hero and is now a tank, has more HP so he can survive longer in firefights. And he hurts just as much as he used to – if not more. Facing an enemy Doomfist is a nightmare, as he can jump into the fray, pummel you, and jump away faster than you can say “heroes never die.” 

Several other heroes have gotten reworks that drastically shift the meta. Bastion, once relegated to the pirate ship comp (where he’d post up behind an Orisa shield), is faster and more mobile, with an ultimate ability that fires three massive artillery shells into air, raining pain down on targets. Sombra can do more damage and can stalk enemies after hacking them (and deal more damage to whoever she’s hacked). Cassidy has a new grenade in place of his flashbang, Reinhardt has two fire strikes, and a few other heroes have gotten tweaks that feel holistic in terms of the larger game changes.

And long-time Overwatch fans will feel a special kind of delight in hearing all the new voice lines from the heroes. Whether it’s threats uttered during the fight or sassy conversations before a match begins, every character has a range of new voice lines that add more depth to the universe. As a Moira one-trick, I’m ecstatic to hear more bitchy lines spat out in her Irish accent, and gasp like I’m watching an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race when Orisa snaps back at her before a match. These little details are a reminder of how much love we have for these characters, even after years of content droughts. 

Overwatch 2 beta: The cons

Overwatch 2

(Image credit: Activision)

Booting up the Overwatch 2 beta is a lot like looking in the mirror after my Botox sets in. I look great, younger even, and the fine lines that once creased my forehead are replaced by smooth, radiant skin. But the face in the mirror is still mine – no one will be mistaking me for Bella Hadid. Save for a couple of games, all of my Overwatch matches are on the same maps I’ve always played on, so you wouldn’t be judged for thinking you accidentally booted up the original game and not the sequel’s beta. 

It’s even hard to notice the new 5v5 team formations at first, as you could easily be under the impression you’re facing a really aggressive, sweaty team of six. No one walks away from a firefight thanks to the absence of the second tank, which makes Overwatch 2 feel a helluva lot more like a traditional FPS than it has before. If you aren’t comfortable with the gunplay or game mechanics, you’re going to get thrashed. If your team favors the divier tanks like Orisa, D.Va, and Doomfist, you’ll have absolutely no cover in major firefights. The dive meta that had early Overwatch in a vice-like grip is back.

Then there’s the polarizing UI rework, which has been redesigned to favor a minimalism that echoes other FPS titles over Overwatch 1’s big and bold designs. Reddit users noted the minimalism over a month ago (opens in new tab), pointing out that the heroes’ ultimate meter have gotten sleek visual upgrades. “It feels like everything lost a little bit of its soul,” writes u/The_Dok (opens in new tab), and I’d have to agree. A new in-game scoreboard is incredibly difficult to read at first glance, swapping out the crystal-clear medal visuals from the first game for a data-heavy picture of every players’ progress. Yup, the minimalist scoreboard now tells you everyone’s K/D. 

The minimalist UI redesign coupled with the changes to the weapon fire audio makes it feel like Blizzard is trying to nudge Overwatch 2 closer to games like Valorant and Apex Legends. But to players who fell in love with the cartoony vibrance of the original game this may feel a bit soulless. 

Overwatch 2 beta: The final word

Overwatch 2 Sojourn

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Overwatch 2 is hella fun, and the hero reworks are brilliant. On the first day it was available, I lost hours to the beta without even realizing it. As an Overwatch stan starved for content for years, I’d gladly lap up the first morsel thrown my way – but that doesn’t mean I’m getting a full meal. Right now, Overwatch 2 feels like a meaty expansion pack and visual overhaul to Overwatch 1. Call it Overwatch 1.5, if you will. 

We’ll see if Blizzard has a deep bench of new heroes that can swiftly inject a proper sense of sequel into Overwatch 2. Until then, I’m still enjoying the ride, even if I’m side-eying the title. 

Want to give the game a try for yourself? Here’s a guide on how to get into the Overwatch 2 beta

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