I am not very good at Overwatch. Nonetheless, if you haven’t played it, I’m probably better than you. If you’ve only played it a little, I might be better than you, and even if not there’s a chance I can help teach you something you don’t know. And if you played it extensively during beta, then… well, I’m pretty sure you’ll shit all over me and I can’t help you with anything, so, uh, move along. This is aimed more at newbies than anything else, and I really can’t help with your pro-team composition.
One of the first things you need to do in Overwatch is figure out which of the game’s heroes are right for you – and how to deal with all of the rest. To that end, I thought I’d give you some details on how they all work, and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Considering there are a lot of little details the game never really explains (particularly when it comes to the tank and support heroes), I’m hopeful you’ll discover something new here.
Over the course of these articles I’m going to take a look at each of the “classes” of hero, starting with Offense. Offense heroes tend to fit well into any team, in any mode; they’re the mobile damage dealers, so you’ll usually want at least a couple of them on your side. For the most part they’re also the “simplest” of the classes, as most of them are pretty easy to get to grips with.
Before we start, a couple of general tips. First, pay attention to sound. It’s incredibly important in Overwatch, cluing you into everything from the position of enemies, to bits and pieces going on (if there’s a teleporter up, someone will shout about it), to indicating when ultimates are about to hit. In particular, learn to listen for footsteps: enemy footsteps are really loud, and if you keep getting jumped from behind, turning up your audio a little might help. If you can hear footsteps, they’re almost certainly not friendly.
Second, get on the bloody point. As long as the capture point or payload is contested, the match will go into overtime instead of ending, and buying an extra second or two for your newly-respawned team to arrive can win you the match. I have lost many, many games a few steps outside of the capture point because our Widowmaker decided to sit back and miss a few more shots instead of extending the match by a couple of seconds by simply grappling over to the objective.
Anyway. Onto the heroes.
Weirdly enough, we’re starting with one of the most difficult – but satisfying – heroes to play. In the right hands, Genji is an unkillable monster capable of inflicting enough damage to wipe out an entire enemy team by himself. I am not the right hands, and you probably aren’t either, but I can at least explain how the cyborg ninja works.
Genji can poke away at enemies with shuriken, fired either in a surprisingly accurate triple-burst forwards, or in a less accurate fan shape. He can run up walls. He can dash forward and slash with his sword. He can deflect incoming attacks with his sword. Finally, his ultimate has him put away the shuriken and just decide that, actually, blades are best.
Successfully playing Genji means a couple of things. First, you’re going to need to be highly mobile, getting behind enemy lines and striking through multiple heroes with his sword dash: its cooldown is reset if Genji kills someone with it. Second, you’ll want to get very good at predicting enemy attacks so that you can deflect them properly.
Once you press the “deflect” button, incoming attacks are deflected towards your crosshair for a few seconds. This can deflect most projectile attacks, nullify the damage from a fair few melee attacks, and even turn roughly half of the ultimates back on the enemy team. Getting a decent deflect off can, quite honestly, be game-changing.
His big issue is that his survivability is directly tied to his abilities, and without them he’s incredibly easy to kill. Be wary of heroes trying to bait out your deflect, in particular; it has a long cooldown and you’re essentially defenseless without it. If Genji’s dash and deflect are both on cooldown, he’s a sitting duck. Well – a fast-moving duck, but a duck nonetheless. Therefore, he’s made of wood, and… um. I forget where I was going with that analogy. Let’s just move on.
This revolver-toting cowboy is remarkably lethal both up-close and a little distance away, thanks to his high-damage, high-accuracy attacks. His hitscan revolvers (meaning their shots aren’t treated as “projectiles”; they hit or miss the target at the moment you fire) can either fire off single shots that will actually hit what you’re aiming at, surprising anyone who thought his revolvers would be as hilariously inaccurate as most Wild West-era sidearms, or he can fan the hammer to empty all six rounds into something nearby. If that’s not enough, his combat roll instantly reloads his gun, and a short-range flashbang stuns any enemies it hits. Then there’s his ultimate, which has him lock onto and headshot any enemies in vision range after a short swagger period.
Your bread-and-butter with McCree is the flashbang-into-fan combo, which can burst down most heroes it catches. If the first fan blast doesn’t kill them, you can combat roll to instantly reload and perform a second, and this is enough to burst down a lot of tanks. If you’re a good shot, you’re also going to have a lot of fun at mid-range, where you can easily hold your own against most other heroes. Hell, your hitscan revolvers are also accurate enough to be worth using at long range.
McCree thrives in small spaces where he can flashbang-into-fan easily (he’s incredibly good at shutting down Tracer for this reason) but that’s hardly his only use. He’s one of the most stupendously powerful heroes in the game right now, effective in basically every situation thanks to his high-damage, high-accuracy attacks; his ability to maul everyone from squishy aggressors to huge tanks in close range; and the way he can contribute in pretty much every situation. It’s no surprise to learn that he’ll be getting a bit of a nerf in the coming balance patch, because right now he’s really bloody good.
I can’t honestly offer much in terms of how to deal with him, simply because he can win almost every match-up if he’s skilled or lucky. Teamwork is honestly your best bet – a Reinhardt with his shield raised can block McCree’s damage, and he’s not the most mobile of heroes so someone with a hitscan weapon at range can handle him as long as they’re not going to get out-damaged. Just don’t get into close quarters with him, and don’t expect to be able to automatically out-draw this cowboy at range. He might just surprise you.
Also, if you ever hear “It’s high noon” get to cover, especially if you don’t know where he is. On the plus side, if you hear this and you’re a Widowmaker, his pre-blasting swagger is a good opportunity to pop off his head.
Pharah is pretty unique in that she can actually fly, with one ability sending her soaring into the air, and holding her jump button lets her slowly rise up for as long as her fuel holds out. Then there are her rockets. Lots of rockets. Especially with her ultimate, which is basically something out of Macross.
As Pharah, your advantages are mobility and area damage. You’d be surprised at how many players don’t look up even when they know there’s a Pharah in the game, and as a fair few heroes like to bunch up with others (Reinhardt), getting behind enemy lines and unleashing a missile barrage can wipe out half of the enemy team. She’s also great for sustained damage on an area; popping off rockets down a corridor or at a position where an enemy Widowmaker is hiding can essentially shut them down for a little while. Then there’s the way that she’s good at dealing with heroes who like to sit at the back or around corners – Junkrat, in particular, is made extremely sad by aerial targets, and by people who can also hit him around corners.
She’s a pretty solid choice in most situations, simply due to how versatile she is. Her rockets do an awful lot of damage on direct hits and still inflict a fair bit on splash, so she’s great for trading with lurking enemies. Just be wary of foes keeping their eyes peeled for you, because if you’re a big silhouette in the sky then you’re also a big target marker. If this starts happening, change up your attack patterns.
Her biggest problem is that some maps are too enclosed to make full use of her mobility, although even with her flying disabled she has her uses thanks to her rockets and her area-murdering ultimate. In those situations, though, you might be better off with a different AoE hero.
I’d call Reaper an offensive snowballer, if that didn’t make him sound like a cold projectile that swears at you.
Reaper’s probably my standard pick as an offense hero simply because his combination of mobility, evasion, and raw damage output tick all of the boxes I like. He dual-wields sawn-off shotguns, making him completely useless at range, but staggeringly effective close-up. Not only that, but dead enemies drop soul orbs that regenerate his health, which is the “snowball” part: once he starts killing, he’ll probably keep on killing. On the other hand, he’s as squishy as a nerf ball and dies awfully fast, so that’s of fairly limited use – it mostly lets you duck away, heal up a little, and get back in.
As Reaper, you want to get up close and personal with your foes, and you’ve got two mobility skills to help with this. One is a teleport to a position in your line of sight, which is no good in a pinch because it leaves you stationary and vulnerable for a moment. The other puts him into wraith form, increasing his speed and making him completely invulnerable.
Ideally, you want to get close to enemies using the teleport, and then shift into wraith form to get away (or let your team help out) if things get hairy. Your shotguns can brutalise anybody up close, and they particularly ruin larger heroes like Roadhog or Winston simply because more pellets will hit them. That said, you’re still at risk from plenty of others. McCree’s flashbang can screw you over, Tracer’s a hard target to hit thanks to her mobility and if you don’t kill her in your initial salvo she can rewind or blink away, and a decent Mei will make you extremely sad by blocking your ultimate with her wall, freezing you in place, or just healing up in her ice block after a short 1v1. The one thing you don’t want to do as Reaper is sit in one place waiting for her to come back out.
Still, he’s really good for getting behind entrenched positions and causing chaos (hello, Bastion) and he can make mincemeat out of back-line supports like Mercy as long as he can take them out before they escape.
If there’s a “generic” character who’s easy to get to grips with, it’s Soldier: 76, who has essentially been borrowed from any other FPS you’d care to name. He’s got a hitscan assault rifle which is reasonably accurate at mid-range. He’s got a sprint button. He’s got an underslung rocket launcher thing. He has an ability that regenerates health in an area, which is pretty damn close to the regenerating health of Every First-Person Shooter Protagonist Since Half-Life 2. And then there’s his ultimate, which makes the assault rifle automatically lock onto the target closest to your crosshairs.
There’s not a great deal to say about this guy, honestly: if you’ve played an FPS before, you’ve got a pretty good grasp on what he can do. He’s most effective at mid-range, where his gun is still accurate enough to hit but he can easily back off to regenerate some health, and his ultimate works best there too, letting you focus on avoiding damage while pretty much automatically shooting people in their faces. He’s a well-rounded and solid pick, but a little bit boring for that.
Still, not a bad option if you’re just starting out or want to grab someone who can provide a bit of damage and a bit of healing without requiring you to learn any major new mechanics. Be wary of going a bit too all-in with him, as pure damage heroes can rip him apart, but he’s one of the best for sustained attacks with his team.
Mobility, mobility, mobility. Tracer is all about wreaking fast-paced havoc on your opponents. She’s also made of paper and dies if somebody breathes on her.
I’d call her a glass cannon, although that’s not quite true – her damage output tends to be more sustained than burst-y. Her automatic pistols dish out quite a lot of damage over a short space of time, they’re quick to reload, and they’re surprisingly accurate, but they’re not quite powerful enough to kill most enemies before they can fight back. Fortunately, she has two advantages: she can teleport in a direction of her choosing (with three charges available at any given time), and she can rewind to her position five seconds prior, complete with all the health she had back then.
You probably won’t be using the Overwatch cover girl as a frontline hero, but she’s very, very good at either causing chaotic distractions or slipping into the backlines and dishing out damage. If you’re skilled, she’s also a remarkable one-on-one duelist: her speed and teleporting makes it very hard to keep a bead on her, and if you have good game sense, her ability to revert back to her previous position can limitlessly extend her frankly pathetic health. Not only that, but her weapons are hitscan.
Her ultimate is a short-range sticky bomb which can do a tremendous amount of damage, but it’ll take some practice to succeed in sticking it to a moving target and then get out of the blast. Nonetheless, it’s really good against stationary targets, large groups of foes, or just moving people away from a choke point. She’s particularly fun against Reinhardt: her ultimate wrecks anyone clumped up behind his shield, and her ability to easily get behind him nullifies that shield nicely. If he’s facing you, he’s not facing the rest of your team. Just don’t die.
Tracer’s fragility means that most heroes can deal with her if they can actually hit her, but try to bear in mind where she’s been so that you can catch her out when she reverts back to regain some health. Hitscan weapons, weapons that hit a large area, and any sort of control is incredibly effective in pinning down and swatting this lethal speedster. Likewise, McCree’s flashbang is basically built to shut her down as without her mobility she’s dead.
Conversely, be very aware of her if you’re the sort of fragile hero that likes to sit in the backlines: she can reach you easily, often without your team realising, and burst you down in seconds.
Watch out for the next round of hero tips very soon.
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Tim has been playing PC games for longer than he’s willing to admit. He’s written for a number of publications, but has been with PC Invasion – in all its various incarnations – for over a decade. When not writing about games, Tim can occasionally be found speedrunning terrible ones, making people angry in Dota 2, or playing something obscure and random. He’s also weirdly proud of his status as (probably) the Isle of Man’s only professional games journalist.