Overwatch beginner's guide
This isn't Call of Duty, buddy. Make sure you know what you're getting into if you want to win.
Overwatch is one of the more unique multiplayer shooters we've seen, and there's a lot more to it than no scope head shots and twitching thumbs. You'll need tactics, team work, experience, skill and moxie to be victorious - but in the meantime, here are some tips to get you started.
Hero choice matters
The 21 characters in Overwatch are a diverse bunch, but it's not just cosmetic stuff like hairstyles and win animations: each brings genuinely different gameplay to the table. Your choice of hero really matters and will shape how you play each match.
Your first decision is what role you'd like to play. If you're only interested in kills and can handle being squishy, take an offensive hero. If you're something of a strategist and understand how controlling enemy positioning leads a team to victory (or just love to snipe), choose defense. If you want to stay alive and get up in your enemy's faces, a tank is your best bet. Finally, every team needs a support player - and that's not a bad way to learn maps, staying out of line of fire as you trot around behind the heavies and keep them healthy.
Beyond class, every character is different - and some are more beginner-friendly than others. If you're just starting out, you don't want to jump straight in with a character whose abilities and ultimate rely on good map knowledge and a working knowledge of other tactics employed by other heroes.
Soldier 76 is probably the easiest character for those coming from modern multiplayer shooters. As a fairly straight forward assault build, he's relatively easy to use effectively right off the bat - you can definitely help your team out even while you're still a bit lost.
Blizzard ranks characters by ease of use, which is a good starting point when you're ready to move beyond run-and-gun; Mercy, Bastion and Reinhardt are good choices. Here's our list of the seven best heroes to try out if you're new to the game. Eventually you'll want to try them all to find the heroes who best suit your playstyle in each role.
Think about team composition
When everybody's in it for themselves, you all lose. Sometimes it's best to leave your favourite character on the bench and pick up another role, because nobody else on your team is willing to do it. Your chances of victory will increase significantly with a good balance of roles on hand.
When playing with rando beginners, you can expect them to choose the cool-looking assault types and go chasing kills. It's frustrating, both because it means you don't get a go and because it suggests they're not going to play as a team. Don't be that guy! Be on the winning team, because you made your hero choice thoughtfully.
Ideally, your team should feature at least one offense hero, two defense heroes including a sniper, at least one tank and at least one support hero. This still leaves a floating slot for unhelpful randos, those wanting to experiment, or to enable a mode, map or team-specific strategy.
You do not win by killing
There are three modes in Overwatch, and while they all have similar objectives, the differences have a huge impact on play. In Control, both sides attempt to hold zones over three rounds. Point Capture is similar, except that one team is assigned to offense and the other to defense. In Payload, one team defends a mobile target as it passes through checkpoints, while the other attacks.
The most important thing to remember is that running off to murder the enemy is not a winning strategy. A huge KDR is not going to achieve your objective. If you won't work with your team and push those objectives, you're bollocksed.
Often, the key to victory is just keeping the enemy at a distance - block their routes, scare them off, don't let them get close to their goal. If you're defending, the onus is on them to beat the clock. You just have to wait it out.
Positioning, not agility, is key
Coming in from games like Call of Duty, Halo, Destiny and Titanfall, you'll be used to sprinting across the map and using mobility skills to out-manoeuvre your opponents. That doesn't work in Overwatch: the pace is a little slower, and you can't flit about the arenas as easily. If you end up flanked or trapped, you can't just double jump your way out of trouble, or sprint off around a corner without taking heavy damage.
While good twitch reflexes will help, Overwatch is a tactical game more than a run and gunner. Things definitely get intense, but they get intense because players work together to pour chaos down on the enemy. Learn the maps, stay aware of your surroundings to guard against the handful of agile character, and listen out for sound effects to figure out where your enemies are.
Get a crew together
We know it's sometimes difficult to co-ordinate your pals to game at the same time - even assuming your friends are into the same style of games! - but Overwatch really, really shines when players work together and agree to co-ordinate their efforts. Talk to your team mates. Front a balanced team.
Don't despair if it's just you and randos. If you find yourself playing alongside somebody with a good connection, why not send them a friend request and buddy up when you're both online at the same time? Even if you don't chat with each other (ugh, human communication), at least you'll come to know each other's preferences and tactics. Even just one regular pal will make a world of difference. Honestly.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of a world of pain, don't just keep beating your head against the wall. Switch up your hero, and try something new.
Changing your character can be a massive help if your team composition is off when the match started, or to counter whatever the enemy is bringing to the table. Constantly dying? Try tanking. Team tank keeps falling over? Time for some extra support. Enemy regularly out flanking you and pinning you down? Clearly some defenders need to return the favour. Just about the last thing anybody ever needs is more offense characters but hey, it might happen.
Flying? Beware of snipers
Flying is rad as all heck and you naturally want to do it as much as possible. But the extra mobility granted to flying characters comes at a terrible price - predictable movement. Snipers absolutely love to headshot flying heroes.
Whenever you take to the sky, keep yourself well away from long sight lines. Elevation is most useful when you ambush enemies rather than when approaching from a distance, as it generally takes players a moment to figure out where your attack is coming from. Use this to your advantage, but get down on the ground when it's not going to be a help.
In fact, beware snipers in general
By design, Overwatch favours snipers: there's a whole hero class devoted to long-distance control. A good defense player knows the maps well and camps not for kills but to keep the opposing team pinned down somewhere.
With that in mind, you want to be very, very careful about venturing into open spaces or anywhere with a long sightline - especially if it's on a direct path to your objective. The best counter to snipers is to learn the maps so you can always use cover and avoid their sneaky ways. Screaming "freaking camper", on the other hand, does not achieve anything.
Splash damage is your friend
Many high-powered abilities have a very narrow hit range and relatively slow projectiles or animations, which makes scoring head or even body shots difficult - especially on smaller, agile characters.
However: many of these same abilities do area of effect or proximity damage. Chuck your explosive down at the ground near an enemy's feet and they'll take a stack of damage from the payload - and it's certainly better than if the projectile just went hurtling past them when they sidestepped.
Never stop shooting
Ammunition is unlimited. Don't save your trigger finger only for guaranteed kills for your personal tally: pop everything you see. Dealing damage, even to shields, helps fill your ultimate bar more quickly.
It's not just about charging your super, though. You can often avoid an engagement all together just by sending a hail of bullets towards a scouting or advancing enemy; given how frequently unexpected encounters turn into bloodbaths, your foe will often turn tail and run - and be weakened ahead of their next engagement. When you're trying to pin the enemy down and control their movement, this is a winner.
You can even do this before the enemy appears, if you reckon someone's about to pop their head around a corner. Give them a smack and discourage their pretensions.
Practice is progression
You know how most multiplayer shooters give you new abilities and weapons in a gradual trickle as you level up? And how, in some unfortunate cases, this means newbs are just slaughtered immediately by people with even a few hours under their belt? But you can skip the grind by spending a lot of real money?
Overwatch has none of that. None. Oh, you'll level up - but doing so only unlocks random cosmetic items. No new abilities, no powerful weapons, no streak bonuses. Nada.
The only way you're going to dominate in Overwatch is by skill and strategy. Learn the maps, practice with your favourite heroes in each role, work with your buddies.
Wanna level up? Don't rage quit
Overwatch awards you XP for every second you spend in a match. Just hiding in a corner will get you closer to a new and exciting hat. Stick around to the very end of a match, win or lose, and you'll get a nice little bonus for doing so.
Wins do, of course, award the most XP - and you'll also earn XP for bronze, silver and gold medals. But hanging around to be a good sport rather than chucking a tanty because you're outclassed or your team is a shambles is worth the effort. Chin up, jaw firm, act like a grown up.