A Closer Look At Overwatch’s Generous Headshot Hitboxes


Does playing Overwatch make you feel like there’s something in the water? Something that magically transforms you into a sniper demon, or conversely, a tottering watermelon with legs? You might be onto something.

Force Gaming decided to test Overwatch‘s headshot hitboxes (that is, the area in which something counts as a hit as opposed to a miss), and he found them to be awfully generous:

Basically, Overwatch‘s hitboxes are significantly more forgiving than some other FPSes. This is especially true with projectile weapons like Hanzo’s arrows, Genji’s shuriken and Mei’s icicle launcher. You can aim nearly a head’s worth of space above a character’s actual head and still pulp their precious brains into a gooey grey matter smoothie. There’s also a lot of give on the sides of heads. Characters can be hidden around walls — to the point that you cannot see them — and still fall to a well-placed/randomly flung shuriken.

The hitboxes aren’t quite as large when more traditional guns like McCree’s revolver or Widowmaker’s sniper rifle are doing the shooting, but they’re still remarkably large.

While “2 hardcore 4 u” (or even “just hardcore enough for you”) types might bemoan this design choice, it fits with Overwatch‘s overall goal of letting everyone feel like a winner sometimes. Blizzard has ever so slightly lowered the barrier to accomplishing the quintessential Badarse FPS Feat. Does that cheapen it? I suppose it depends on your perspective. To me, Overwatch is more interesting as a game of crazy strategies and wacky abilities than it is as a canvas for frighteningly accurate FPS artistes. I think generous headshot hitboxes matter less here than in other games.

At the same time, though, it kinda sucks to get killed by a shot that didn’t even hit you. The other night I was in the middle of the best Widowmaker streak of my life, and somebody killed me while I was (I thought) safely behind cover. That’s a fundamentally frustrating moment; they didn’t earn that kill, I didn’t deserve that death.

I feel like the best compromise would involve Blizzard offering separate competitive and/or quick play servers that required increased firing precision and, say, upped the server tick rate, another thing that sometimes allows missed shots to hit. The game would still default to the current settings, but for people who want a less forgiving experience, they could have their own playground. I’m sure Blizzard is monitoring people’s reaction to all of this, so it could very well change.


  • not only are the head hitboxes huge the projectile size is very generous too. ( i know its mainly client side hitscan but proectile fits the explanation)

    • Hanzo’s arrow’s hitbot is about the size of the model including the fletching. Zenyatta’s orbs are huge. Not sure about Mei’s ice things.

  • A lot of the “hit from behind cover” moments come from the net code favoring the shooter rather than the person being shot. So if latency shows you visible on the shooters screen but on your screen you’re behind a wall then the shooter wins out and you get shot. That would be the cause for the majority of cases when people experience this…not the large hit boxes.

    Look at Battlefield 3 (pretty sure it was that one) where people constantly complained about dying from around corners. Same thing happened there but the netcode was more just screwed up rather than intentionally favoring the shooter like Blizzard does.

    For Overwatch the large hit boxes seem to be more a part of balance than anything else. People move very quickly, it’s hard to land precise shots so bigger hit boxes even that out a little without losing the pace of movement. There’s also big hitting abilities like ultimates so the overall power of those is offset a little by making basic weapons a bit more powerful due to larger hit boxes.

    • thats the low receive tick rate from server, the clients ups at 60hz yet receiving from the server is only at 20hz…………… bf3 was i think 30hz up and 10hz down which explains all the one hit deaths etc, bf4 solved all these problems and has near flawless hit registration and sync allowing for 60hz up and down servers and a standard of 30hz up and down. overwatch needs at least 45hz down rate to remain relevant imo

      in a perfect world the tickrate would match the fps of your system or at least 60fps

      • For Overwatch there’s a video of the programmers explaining how they configured the netcode to favor the shooter and why it’s done that way. The server latency comes into it in terms of there being a disconnect between the two player’s clients and the server but it’s the netcode that decides what to do with the conflicting information.

        With higher tick rates the what a player sees on their screen more closely matches what information the server has and the end result is that there’s no shooting people around corners/behind cover anymore. The netcode is still there working though and favors one way or the other…you just don’t notice it as much with higher tick rates as there’s smaller discrepancies for it to sort out.

        • a higher tickrate more accurately portrays whats going on onscreen. the way blizzard explained it is a copout and i believe they are telling porkies, they just want to be able to provide servers that cost less hence tick being a 3rd or what it should lowering upload bandwidth.

          Look at the BF4 debacle, the developers set up the same way as overwatch to favour the shooter but it failed miserably and detracted from gameplay, they crumbled eventually making 30hz standard and capabilities to offer up to 120hz for server rentals and it literally changed the game, i went from a 1kd to a 3+kdr just through that change.

          when you favor the shooter you cannot reliably sneak up on others as whats portrayed in the game is not necessarily what the opponent is doing, ie- sneaking up on someone facing the other other way only to die and see the replay show them unload a clip into you.

          • they just want to be able to provide servers that cost less

            This is the real reason… 20hz vs 60hz 3 times less bandwidth. It’s a massive saving.

          • Well it’s more involved than just simply favoring the shooter. There’d be a number of tricks and things they can tweak to give different results. Like anything the more effort that is put into the netcode the better it’ll be.

            BF3 wasn’t horrible just for the servers, it was also the netcode.

            A high tick rate server on a game that has bad netcode will give a bad experience, same for the other way round. If both are good then you get the best results.

          • You’re giving the maximum 100ms delay at this tick rate far too much credit. You can absolutely sneak up on someone, one tenth of a second is not going to have the kind of effects you’re claiming.

    • Nah, Ive gotten killed by Hazo while my model was 100% behind a wall several times.
      But at least now I know why.

      • Yeah, i’m saying the majority of the time it’s due to the code/latency favoring the shooter. There’d still be instances where it’s purely the hit box but those would be much lower.

  • I think it works well and doesn’t cheapen it at all.

    I think if people feel it cheapens it, they’re looking at it the wrong way.

    It just reminds me when I used to play Smash Bros with my ex, and I would sneak the auto handicap setting on. We would have a great time and way more fun and laughs thanks to it… until she noticed the handicap and got upset. But even she begrudgingly agreed that she had way more fun than usual (and so did I)

  • This explains some of the death cam shots of me running around a corner only to be taken down by an arrow that should have missed by a whisker. I guess the moral of the story is that you need to be a bit more cautious when trying to avoid being shot.

  • One important thing that should be taken into account: character animations don’t move the hitbox, they’re client-side only. This is most noticeable in the video with Roadhog, where he waited for the head to go down in the animation before shooting. In reality the hitboxes remain motionless and are usually larger to encompass the range of motion that happens during animations.

    It’s done that way because animation state being synced to the server is a lot of junk data clogging up the bandwidth, and when rendered client-side only there’s no sync between different clients (so for example, two Hanzos right on top of each other could be watching the same corner with Widowmaker hidden behind, and one might be able to shoot her while she throws her head back idly but the other couldn’t). For competitive games, the rule is usually that consistency trumps fairness, and an ‘unfairly large’ hitbox is a better solution than ‘one player was able to shoot them and the other wasn’t even though they were on the same spot’.

    Hitbox detection for hitscan weapons requires a direct hit on the hitbox. For projectiles it requires any intersection between the projectile’s trigger box and the target’s hitbox – some projectiles like proximity explosives have larger trigger boxes than hitboxes, but simple ones like Hanzo’s arrows are the same size. As @xenoun mentioned, the larger hitboxes/trigger boxes on projectiles are most likely a balance thing, not an error.

    That’s not to say the hitboxes maybe couldn’t be reduced a little, just a likely explanation for why it is this way based on experience.

    • Yeah, I noticed the guy was usually waiting for the animation to be at its most extreme before firing, which is one of the problems with this video. You also have to take into account the distance from the target, the closer you are, the weaker the bullet magnetism will be. And it doesn’t take into account the character skins, Lucio’s alt skin triples the size of his head, I’m sure you could make a video showing your arrows clipping through his head based on the skin.

      I remember this conversation coming up a lot in Halo Reach which allocated the exact same hit boxes to all characters, be they larger male Spartans with massive shoulder pads or smaller female models with no shoulder pads.

      • I hadn’t thought about skins, that seems worthy of testing. The skin could change the hitbox size and wouldn’t cause network issues since the server knows which skin you chose at the start anyway and it wouldn’t require constant updates. I’m curious what Blizzard has chosen to go with on that.

  • I have noticed a lot of the hitbox movies etc have come from the console versions. Might do some testing to see if it is the same on pc. Maybe I’m just bad at Hanzo and widow maker but I can’t seem to get headshots with them at all…

  • I don’t really mind the generous hitboxes I think, except for the behind cover thing. That’s kinda frustrating.
    Not sure how they would change it though.

  • I feel like 4 out of 5 times, winning duels and ultimately games of Overwatch is about team composition, communication and tactics. If a team executes a successful a strategy, in particular one that revolves around the combination of multiple ultimate moves, successful aiming/FPS skills are one of the least important factors.

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