As it’s existed on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC for the past three years, Overwatch
is one, if not the singular best game I’ve ever played. The moment-to-moment action, flexibility, and lashings of style in this team-based hero shooter all combine to make it a special experience. On Nintendo Switch, however, that exhilarating gameplay is too often robbed of the true greatness it achieves on other platforms. The perpetrators of this theft are a number of technical and control issues that make the Switch a tough place to play Overwatch. It’s still fun, but if you’re coming from somewhere else it’s hard to get used to.Overwatch is still one of the most gratifying multiplayer shooters I’ve come across. The flexibility it offers and range of ways to approach each match is what has had me coming back for over 650 hours on PS4. As you can imagine, switching over to another platform after all that time was going to take a little getting used to – and even then, it’s not a great situation.
Check out the reveal trailer for Overwatch on Switch below:
Concessions have evidently been made to bring Overwatch to our sweaty palms, and they are clear from the get-go. When docked, we’re talking 900p, and it definitely shows when put side-by-side with the other versions. Textures aren’t nearly as detailed, clothing and hair look flat and solid, text is slightly blurry and without its crisp edges, and the overall image seems washed out, as if someone has slapped a desaturation filter over it. McCree’s poncho looks like it’s made from matte plastic rather than tailored cloth, and Winston’s furry tufts resemble a Simpsons character more than an actual anthropomorphic ape. While looks aren’t everything, the fact that distant enemies can often appear as a fuzzy silhouette can actually have an adverse effect on the way you play. Trying to snipe as Hanzo can be difficult when it feels like he’s in need of a trip to the opticians.
It’s by no means a bad-looking game, though, and when played in handheld mode a lot of my qualms are reduced. Overwatch’s strong art direction shines through and still makes it one of the best-looking games on the Switch outside of Nintendo’s own games. Maps such as the sun-soaked Ilios and canal-laden Rialto pop off the small screen amid bursts of gunfire and all other means of weaponry. From a visual standpoint, playing handheld is the best way to enjoy Overwatch on Switch – but that is totally at odds with the best way from a control perspective.
The Switch’s Joy-Cons – whether attached or in the Grip – just don’t allow for the level of accuracy required for a high-speed shooter like Overwatch. Their analog sticks often feel stiff and can result in jerky movements when aiming, rather than smooth tracking while aiming down sights. Characters such as McCree and Ashe, in particular, are difficult to use as a result, with headshots becoming much more of a challenge to execute. Melee-based heroes such as Reinhardt or Brigitte are easier to use as they don’t require anywhere near the same level of accuracy. It’s terrible that a good number of heroes are a lot less fun to play though, and that leads to a level of roster imbalance not often associated with Overwatch.
Playing with a Pro Controller solves many of these issues – its ergonomic design feels much more natural for a shooter. Using a controller that works similarly to what I’m used to on home console, every character on the roster feels a viable option again. But in a way that makes the issue worse, because the playing field is made so imbalanced in favor of people who’ve paid for a $70/£50 peripheral.
It also presents a major contradiction: Overwatch plays best with the Pro Controller, but looks best when played handheld. That means there is no ideal way to play it on the Switch, unless you count pulling out the kickstand, placing it on the table and playing with a Pro Controller in your hand while leaning forward and squinting at the small screen. But who really wants to do that?
Watch Overwatch on Switch in action below:
Perhaps the biggest addition accompanying Overwatch’s move to the Switch is the incorporation of motion controls. When booting up for the first time, these gyroscopic tools are automatically turned on, which can be quite jarring at first. I brazenly tested them out to snipe with Widowmaker and quickly realised the error of my ways: they simply don’t have the level of sensitivity needed to rely on them solely for aiming.
As I waved my console around, my reticle roughly followed its path – before a Reaper appeared before my eyes and put a bullet between them. After several attempts I began to hit a sweet spot: using the right stick to aim before using the motion controls to fine-tune my aim slightly produced better results, but still didn’t find it particularly satisfying. It just feels nowhere near as responsive or smooth as micro-adjusting Link’s bow in Breath of the Wild does. I tested motion controls out with a few more characters before turning them off altogether, deciding that at best they’re a novelty, and at worst a hindrance.
On the more positive side, Overwatch on the Switch does come with its own native voice chat, a big plus when considering the majority of games require a third-party app to do the same thing. It works effectively as well – turning it on is as simple as plugging a compatible headset into the Switch’s headphone port, just like in Fortnite.
There are a number of other technical issues that trip up the minute-to-minute enjoyment, though. Frame rate is capped at 30fps, which instantly feels at odds with the fluid nature of Overwatch as it exists on all other platforms. Worse, it’s not locked at 30 and it dips below even that when a lot is taking place on screen, which is a frequent circumstance in this game. A Zenyatta Transcendence coupled with a D.Va self-destruct and a Lucio Sound Barrier thrown into the mix can lead to some serious slowdown – a particular issue when you take into account that these Ultimate abilities are designed to be used in tandem.
On top of that, character models often take a few seconds to load in when spawning or changing hero, and Play of the Game highlights can sometimes appear with invisible characters. (And, crucially, there is no save-clip option on these highlights, and even the Switch’s native capture function is disabled.) It’s a baffling exclusion for a game centred around exciting moments, particularly for someone like me who isn’t afraid to share a highlight or two on social media.
Watch the trailer for this year’s Halloween Event below:
Like other versions of Overwatch, you also need to have an internet connection to get into a game, which makes playing while you’re out and about a virtual impossibility. This was to be expected, but it would have been nice to see at least the training modes available while offline for the sake of portability. They’re not.
And yet, despite all of these technical issues being noticeable, they’re almost never game-breaking, and during the heat of a thrilling point capture or overtime scramble never entirely killed the fun. Even when it’s not at its best, Overwatch is still fundamentally fun and the best shooter on Switch. Very few other games anywhere offer the same level of excitement on a game-to-game basis as this.