The Switch Just Can't Handle Overwatch

With today’s launch of Overwatch on Nintendo Switch, there is officially a worst way to play one of the best games of all time.

There are a lot of sub-optimal things about this port. The timing is inopportune, for one. Overwatch is landing on Switch three and a half years after its original release, and on the tail end of a controversy surrounding its publisher, Blizzard.

While the Switch has become a veritable port vacuum, it’s difficult to imagine the game’s target demographic — the sort of person who slept this long on the massively popular team shooter, but is excited enough to try it out on the one console least likely to showcase all the things that made it popular.

Overwatch is about coordination, strategy, accuracy, and positioning. A lot of games are, but Overwatch is an addictive, mind-stretching cocktail of these things in perfect ratio. Unfortunately, the Switch isn’t a great console for online competitive gaming. You have to use a mobile app for voice chat, for starters. Unless you’ve got a LAN adaptor and a Pro controller and you’re playing in docked mode, it can be tricky to summon the accuracy and timing necessary to best enemies.

Even for people who enjoy playing competitive games casually, these minor technical hiccups can make a relaxing gameplay session frustrating. Overwatch is not immune to this.

On the Switch, Overwatch runs at 30 frames per second. Playing for a couple of hours today on both my brand new Overwatch Switch controller and some brand new Joy-Cons, I noticed some minor to severe lag when shooting McCree’s pistol or Sigma’s rocks at opponents, which often led me to miss. (Note for Pharah mains: The skies are clear!)

Strangely enough, playing in handheld mode felt best, although that meant I couldn’t connect the console to a LAN adaptor. Thankfully, handheld mode is where the game is at its most gorgeous, with all the colours and detail of maps like Busan and Paris popping out at you. On a big screen, some characters look a bit fuzzy.

The Switch edition of Overwatch adds something else that, when I first heard it advertised, really blew my mind: motion controls. One Overwatch producer compared it to playing with “a laser pointer,” adding that it can “give a little nudge to your aim and help line up shots.” It also moves the camera, although players can continue using the right joystick to do that, too.

For Overwatch, motion controls are decidedly weird — and I say this as a dedicated Splatoon and Splatoon 2 player who has used motion controls for a shooter before. It was hellish to play McCree with motion controls.

His satisfying combination of shoot, roll, stun, and fan the hammer loses all the tightness that makes it a combination at all. In one instance, I missed the first shot, accidentally rolled closer to my enemies instead of away, missed my stun, and unloaded my entire cylinder into the sky. This, of course, is all on me.

I can imagine a far-off world where I get very used to turning my controller a little downwards to pull off a headshot. I cannot imagine one where I get used to swinging the Switch around to check out my backline. Thankfully, the game allows you to map a button to recentering the gyro camera. I recommend this.

I initially played Overwatch on Xbox One, and then purchased a gaming PC specifically to get more fidelity with this game. I’m not the person Blizzard was thinking of when they put it on the Switch. I’m excited for curious or casual players to try out a game that, three years later, I can’t stop playing — but I feel a little sorry that they won’t be able to experience the very best it can offer.


Comments

    Well to be fair we all saw this coming

      I think my eternal optimism blinded me to this a little. I'm defintely the target demographic - love OW on PC, but want to be able to play a quick game on the go or while laying on the couch. And OW can notoriously run really well with low fidelity graphics, so it seemed like a no-brainer for Switch. Hopefully the performance stuff gets ironed out. It's a real shame all the Bliz controversy has soured both myself and the broader community as well, right at launch. :/

    One of the best games of all time? Somebody call the hyperbole police

      The hype and cultural impact around Overwatch has always seemed hyper inflated.

      Almost artificial at times.

        The claim is supported, at least by the standards employed here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_video_games_considered_the_best). Overwatch appears on the list here, where the criteria is that games on the list must have appeared in 'best games of all time' lists from at least six separate publications.

        Doesn't mean you have to agree, of course, just that it appears somewhat commonly in lists that give it that title.

          Thanks Kotaku for mangling the link. Don't include the closing bracket or period on the end to get the actual link.

      Fair, but it's also the only time I've seen game character art filched to advertise a music festival

    I’m interested to know about the frame rate and lag issues. Haven’t seen a good analysis of those aspects yet.

    No cross play or cross progression is a serious error on Blizzard's behalf.

      Blizz has never done cross progression with any of their previous ports, so I’m not surprised in the slightest.

      Cross play I’ve seen enough arguments against having allowed it due to the differences in hardware and how it runs to see it from their point of view.

        I'd normally agree, but in the case of Overwatch I feel like it fits the criteria for a change in attitude. I can't see many people playing it on Switch, but if existing owners could bring their account/skins/progression across at the very least, it would give them a better reason to pick this up. Cross play between consoles would be reasonable, but progression is probably the biggest sticking point for me personally.

          The lack of cross progression is what prevented me from playing it on the PS4 and just sticking with PC so I absolutely agree with you.

    The updated Switch could probably handle it a lot better if Nintendo could be bothered unshackling it.

    Yes we did see this coming but I don't agree with what Kotaku is saying about Blizzard's Overwatch they think it's the worst ever way to play one of the best ever games published by Blizzard Entertainment well what I would say that's not true at all I think Blizzard's Overwatch is one of the best ever games to download on the Nintendo Switch.
    No wonder Blizzard's Overwatch has won more than 100 game awards I think it's a fantastic game to download on the Nintendo Switch if you've never played Overwatch before and not to mention the game is getting updates over the next several months and with Blizzcon only 2 weeks away I hope Blizzard Entertainment gives us some news on an upcoming Overwatch sequel or update.

      Wow, they've really improved the technology behind ad bots.

      So you want to own a game on the switch for 2 weeks and then have the sequel announced?

    Did you actually play this or just watch a video? Because voice chat is built into the game.

    My only grievance is the 30fps. It doesn’t even feel like 30fps! Feels like it’s running at 20..

    First off AusHuski no I haven't downloaded Blizzard's Overwatch for the Nintendo Switch yet but I will be soon and second of all yes I watched a trailer from the September Nintendo Direct showing that Blizzard's Overwatch is coming out in October and it's already out today.
    What else are you going to say?

    Right, sounds like this reviewer hasn't even used a Switch before. You don't have to use the mobile app for voice chat, developers can implement voice chat however they see fit. Nintendo made games use the app but third parties don't. Get your facts straight. Also this reviewer also entirely misses the point of what the Switch version is supposed to be. Like the console itself, it's for gaming on the go and that for one far outways anything including lower graphics. Sure it runs at 30fps and doesn't look as pretty but it's pretty awesome having it portable. If you need a LAN adaptor to play properly then maybe check out your wifi before you complain it's the game?

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