The Nintendo Switch has become an unofficial home for video game ports that, while technically impressive in the sense that they’re fully functional on a handheld device, don’t live up to the same standards as other versions. The recent release of The Switcher 3 is one example, along with the likes of DOOM and Wolfenstein 2. Overwatch does little to break that cycle.
The 6v6 hero shooter from Blizzard is a good fit for the Switch, in the sense that it currently lacks a good “active” competitive shooter now that Splatoon 2 is no longer receiving updates. However, the current limitations of both the Switch’s hardware and the online infrastructure as a whole mean that Overwatch isn’t achieving its full potential.
For those who have already played Overwatch, the Switch version is virtually the same experience you’d get everywhere else, albeit visually scaled back and running at 30fps instead of 60fps. New players will find a competitive FPS that features 31 playable characters, each with their own unique abilities and play styles, along with a host of maps and game types that’ll keep you coming back for more.
Right now, there’s never been a better time to play Overwatch. The sheer abundance of playable characters and maps gives the game plenty of replay value, while the spectrum of fun, throwaway game types in the Arcade mode and the more serious Competitive mode means that all kinds of players can find their niche catered for.
The role queue patch that launched back in September has also given Overwatch a new lease on life. In both Quick Play and Competitive matchmaking, players must choose whether to play as a tank, damage or support class, with solo players able to queue for multiple roles for faster matchmaking times. Once they get into a game, each team then consists of two tanks, two damage dealers and two support players.
Role queue, or 2-2-2 as it’s commonly referred to, has been instrumental in fixing plenty of prevailing issues that occured with how teams picked characters. Instead of you playing as a lone support while your entire team played DPS, then got angry at you for the unsurprising loss, each game will have a balanced team of characters.
The ability to matchmake via class also allows players to learn the rigours of the game or a particular character in a less pressured environment, both in the sense that there’s less competition to insta-lock that one character you want to play and you’ll know what to expect from future games. Your first game against human opponents won’t throw you against six tanks, put it that way.
The only real drawback to the role queue system has been how it’s highlighted everyone’s blatant desire to play damage alone. Those who play damage will be subjected to increased matchmaking times as the game tries to find tank and support players to round out the match. Cleverly, Overwatch offers some rewards in the form of the occasional loot box or a small amount of credits, which you can use to purchase cosmetic items if you play as an underpopulated class. There’s an incentive for being a team player.
While the current state of the game is in a good place, the Switch version isn’t up to the same standards as the PC, PS4 and Xbox One versions of Overwatch. The graphical downgrade isn’t terrible, but there’s a noticeable disparity between the 30fps framerate when compared to the 60fps on other platforms that’s difficult to adjust to, leading to a lot of missed shots or awkward fights. There are also other issues, like characters and other elements taking too long to load, or the framerate occasionally chugging during intense team fights.
The controls also feel off when playing handheld, though that feels more to do with the layout of the Joy-Cons themselves as opposed to the game itself. Playing the game docked using the Joy-Con comfort grip was fine, but playing handheld left my hands feeling sore after just a couple of games. Perhaps that’s an issue that might be fixed by using a protective case that offers padded grips, but if the game isn’t comfortable to play using the standard hardware, it’s a hard sell no matter what you do.
Maybe that’s why Overwatch for the Switch attempts to utilise the console’s gyroscopic capabilities, allowing you to use the motion sensors to aim instead of cramping the muscles in your hand trying to use both control sticks and the buttons on the right Joy-Con at the same time. By tilting your Joy-Cons, you can move your reticule without moving the stick, while still moving and firing as you would naturally.
It’s a good feature that incorporates the selling points of the Switch, but personally, I found it too distracting to use effectively. One errant twitch can completely mess up your aim, so I instead opted to turn the feature off completely. Strangely enough, once the feature was turned off, I found my overall level of play to be more in-line with other platforms, perhaps because I’m just generally more comfortable playing the game without motion controls.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t value in the gyroscopic control function, as it will be a vital tool for snipers to micro-adjust their aim, and the fact you can control Junkrat’s RIP-Tire with it is a nice touch. The ability to customise the sensitivity levels is also fantastic, particularly because the default setting has zero chill. The slightest nudge sees your character jerk wildly in that direction, making for a disorienting experience.
The mileage of Overwatch on the Switch is going to vary. If you’ve never experienced the game before, now is the perfect time to do so. Playing it on the go is an added bonus if you’re used to playing shooters on the Switch anyway. As for existing players, the Switch version offers little to make this port worth shelling out for.
A copy of Overwatch for the Nintendo Switch, along with 3 months of Nintendo Switch Online, were provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
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As a game, Overwatch is the best it’s ever been. As a port, you’re likely better off playing another version.
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