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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: Oct. 15, 2019

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Switch Review - 'Overwatch'

by Andreas Salmen on Nov. 25, 2019 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Overwatch is a pick-up-and-play 6v6 team-based shooter set on a near-future earth, featuring an amazing cast of heroes and set in an all-new Blizzard game universe.

Buy Overwatch

Porting old games to the Nintendo Switch is as viable as ever. After the "miracle port" that was The Witcher 3, another often-requested game, Overwatch, made its way on to the portable hybrid. Possibly due to the decent performance of its Diablo 3 port last year, Blizzard decided that Overwatch deserved the same treatment. The result is a feature-complete and shockingly good-looking experience. At the same time, it may not be worth your time if you can play the game on another platform.

Overwatch has enjoyed a loyal fan base since its release over three years ago. Given its rather simple visual style, the game was often mentioned as a contender to be ported to the Switch, but it took several years for that to come to fruition. Now that it's here, we're happy to report that it's comparable to its counterparts on other platforms. Of course, it enjoys the additional portability factor but takes a hit in performance, which could be a deal-breaker for some players.

If you're new to Overwatch, the game can be genuinely overwhelming. It's an online competitive shooter experience that does not offer a campaign beyond a few training exercises to get you up to speed. Once you start up the game, you have full access to all 30 characters and 21 maps, and the characters have varying abilities across three classes: Damage, Support and Tank. If you've never played Overwatch, there is a lot to take in just to learn which mix of abilities, characters and classes works best for your play style. The game has a gallery of its heroes, with a difficulty indicator based on how easily you can come to grips with them, but overall, it's going to take a while until you find your favorites and take them into battle.

Once you do, the game plays like many other competitive shooters. Two teams play against each other and try to complete objectives or take each other out. Every character has unique abilities and weapons they can use to support their team. Damage classes deal a lot of damage but cannot take as many hits as Tanks. Support is usually the healer class to make sure all teammates stay alive in battle. Tanks are designed to take a lot of damage. Every character also has a special move that charges throughout the game for a more significant impact on the battlefield. As a casual player of Overwatch, I feel that the general balance of all characters is decent, although many hardcore fans will disagree with me. Given the wide roster of characters, having a perfect balance is difficult, but Blizzard did a decent job of making sure that no character is seriously overpowered or cannot be taken down.

Overwatch offers several different gameplay options — Experimental Game Modes, Quick Play and Ranked Play — although Ranked Play is locked until we reach level 25. Bear in mind that the Switch version features no cross-play or cross progression, so even tenured players will start from level one. Quick Play is the mode I spent the most time in because it seemed to be the best game mode for the Switch. The portability and quick drop-in functionality of the Switch worked best when joining quick games without much hassle.

On the technical side, Overwatch looks surprisingly well-polished and detailed. As with many other titles, the small screen in the Switch's handheld mode usually looks best, as it's better at hiding frame drops, lower resolutions and textures. When it's connected to a TV, it becomes apparent that this port had to lose a few things to run on the system. The 900p resolution on the big screen is acceptable, and the game looks good, but there is an impact on open spaces, where viewing enemies in the distance can be inaccurate due to slight blurry visuals. The biggest point of contention, however, is going to be Overwatch's frame rate on the Switch.

There is no performance mode, so the game is locked to one visual setting targeting 30fps, which it hits most of the time. Your perception of the performance will depend on the type of player you are. If you're a competitive player who plays a lot of Overwatch and may have semi-professional ambitions, this port will not do. To participate in a competitive shooter like Overwatch, 60fps is pretty much a necessity. I'm not sure if the visual compromises to achieve 60fps are too much — especially since the other console versions aren't known for rock-solid 60fps performance — but Overwatch on the Switch is not going to interest anyone who wants to seriously compete. It's still playable, and casual players will have fun here, but there are slowdowns and stutter when the action gets too intense. If you have the opportunity to play Overwatch on another system with a higher frame rate, I'd highly suggest you do. If not, this port will do.

After pouring several hours into the game, both on the go and on the TV, I'm still of the opinion that Overwatch manages to captivate with genuinely fun online matches and the constant feeling of progression, no matter how you play. Special events, such as seasons with special rewards, can amplify the sense of getting better and reaping rewards. Of course, there are the usual loot boxes that can be earned through gameplay or purchased with money, but the balance is good enough that it's not necessary to spend actual money. Of course, it is frustrating if you have great stuff unlocked in another version of Overwatch and need to start with a clean slate and no guarantee about when or how you're going to unlock your favorite gear.

If you're not into quick or ranked matches, there are arcade game modes that feature more experimental games, such as playing with random heroes and varying group sizes. There is an endless amount of content to sink your teeth into if you choose, and if you're a fan of these types of games or Overwatch specifically, you're not missing any content or gameplay on the Switch. Apart from the technical side and the added portability, the Switch version of Overwatch has one more feature: motion controls.

For some it's a gimmick, but for others, it's a necessity. Motion controls have been a requested feature for pretty much any first-person shooter on the Switch, from Splatoon 2 to Wolfenstein. In the end, its inclusion is certainly appreciated. You may not want to touch it, but if you do and it clicks, it's a vastly better way to line up accurate shots. I found the system to work well when playing on the big screen with a Pro controller, but it really shined when playing it in Handheld mode, as moving the Switch to aim felt infinitely more natural.

In the end, Overwatch works well as a port. It's almost boring to talk about, as it aims to be as faithful to the existing versions as possible. It's not a technical marvel, and that may rightfully turn you off, but it's a feature-complete and portable version that is best for quick drop-in matches when you just want a casual match in Overwatch.

Score: 8.0/10

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