Whether you’re a newcomer or a returning player, coming into Overwatch at this point is to find it in the rudest of health. The character selection screen is now so packed as to become a ridiculous exercise in squinting, particularly if you’re setting out on the Switch’s built in screen, but within that crazy roster are some of the best and most creative character designs of recent years.
The release of Overwatch on Switch isn’t some kind of cut down, feature-lite port; this is the full fat game, now sporting competitive Season 18. Thanks to the latest re-balancing by Blizzard, the game’s meta has been reset as well, so no matter whether you’re rocking one of the original roster like my deeply annoying Tjorbjorn main, or brand-new combatants like Moira or Baptiste, there’s never been a better time to join the Watch.
To be honest, I’ve not played Overwatch in a while. I loved it at launch and beyond, but other games have got in the way. Coming back to it on Switch is a genuine delight, and it’s reminded me what an incredible game it is. It’s immediately in line with the other formats in terms of content, which is probably enough to get plenty of people interested, but the Switch port itself delivers in spades as you get stuck in.
It sure looks like Overwatch, for one thing. Blizzard’s enjoyably chunky art style shines through on Switch, and to the uneducated eye it looks pretty damn close to the other formats. If you take the time to really scrutinise things you’ll soon notice that the characters themselves are noticeably rougher-looking, with simpler, more angular character models, while the textures and details in a level are also reduced in number and quality. Even so, it’s pretty damn close.
It feels a lot like Overwatch too. You lose some responsiveness from a drop to 30fps from the 60fps you get on other platforms, the gunplay feels more or less exactly the same here as it does anywhere else, and I’ve really enjoyed getting back into the thick of it on a more regular basis. A few quick rounds of Arcade before bed is perhaps not the most relaxing thing before trying to go to sleep, but the hooks are firmly back into me, and the Switch lets them pull at you a few more times in a day than they otherwise might.
The limitations here are ones that are basically inescapable on the Switch, and which apply to pretty much every competitive game. If you’re playing on handheld, you’re clearly going to be at a disadvantage compared to someone sat in front of a 50” flatscreen, and overall the UI and incidental text doesn’t seem to have been particularly optimised for the smaller screen.
On top of that, while the Joy-Con are fantastic pieces of tech, the shorter analogue sticks and diminutive triggers don’t make them the best choice for a competitive shooter. If you’ve got the chance to use the Switch’s kickstand and a pro controller things get better, but it’s obvious that the best way to play is at home, on a bigger screen.
And therein lies the biggest problem. Unless you’re solely a Switch owner, you’re going to be better off playing Overwatch pretty much anywhere else. The competition is going to be tougher across PC, PS4 and Xbox One thanks to their more experienced player bases, and you get a visually richer offering with a slicker frame rate to boot.
One of the Switch’s exclusive additions is the ability to use motion controls, but I personally can’t imagine anyone really opting to use them on a regular basis over the traditional inputs. They do the job well enough, and it’s kind of fun and distinctly more frantic trying to line up your shots by physically moving around, but in this context they’re an oddity that I expect few will stick with. That said, they’re on the first time you boot the game up so you’ll at least get to give them a go for five minutes before turning them off for the rest of time, and I know there’s plenty of diehard Splatoon 2 fans out there for whom competitive gaming and motion controlled aiming go hand in hand.
It’s the portability that is the best addition in my books, and for serious Overwatch addicts there’s probably not many things better than being able to continue playing wherever you are. While I’ve knocked it for being fundamentally tougher to play on a small screen, it’s a solid enough experience that there are still plenty of Overwatch flavoured kicks to be found on jaunts to the park and lunch breaks the world over. Soo long as there’s Wi-Fi, anyway.
It’s not all as frictionless as you’d hope though. It’s asked me for Blizzard authorisation to access my Nintendo account at least six or seven times – which then automatically sends you an email telling you what you’ve done – and more permanent links between the two don’t seem to currently work either, and then there’s the “delights” of the Nintendo app for chat. Fortunately these are all small and fairly benign issues that can be fixed easily enough and which don’t get in the way of actually playing the game.