Sat. Oct 1st, 2022

Video created by Ross Buran and edited by Aulistar Mark. Click here for transcription.

Two weeks ago, Ars visited Blizzard Entertainment’s headquarters in Irvine, California, to get hands-on time with the popular hero-based multiplayer shooter. overwatch on Nintendo’s portable Switch game console.

We also spoke to game director Jeff Kaplan and overwatch Switch producer Wes Yanagi on why Blizzard decided to do this now, what the challenges were, and what players could expect differently from the Switch version from launch into the future.

Watch the video above for the interview. For impressions, keep reading.

First impression

I’ve played over a thousand hours overwatch on PS4, plus a few dozen more on PC. I played so much overwatch that the ultimate meter is permanently burned into my OLED television.

A lot of people reading this have probably played overwatch, so I don’t think we need to spend a lot of time talking about gameplay, modes or anything like that. At least at launch, the Switch version is identical to the game on other consoles, which in turn shows only very minor differences from the PC version.

Instead, let’s talk about how the Switch version differs from playing on PS4 or Xbox One. That means a few things: graphics, performance, portable play, and the addition of gyroscopic controls.

Graphically, it’s hard to notice a big difference on the Switch’s small screen in portable mode. I got the impression that it targets 720p with variable resolutions to maximize performance. I never had trouble seeing things, and the image wasn’t noticeably blurry; it just looked like so many other Switch games. However, I noticed that the textures on character models were a bit lower than I’m used to when I look closely. And Blizzard told me it’s made some changes to animations and environmental physics (neither of which really affect gameplay) for performance reasons. I didn’t notice it though.

Unfortunately when I played in docked mode it was in a small viewport in screen capture software OBS on a computer monitor. The low resolution looked fine, but I can’t say what it will look like on a 65-inch TV. Worse than on Xbox One X, I can imagine, but probably fine anyway.

overwatch nicely played in portable mode; even on the Switch Lite, the screen wasn’t too small to keep up with the action. I don’t like the thumbsticks on the joycons or the Switch Lite for these kinds of games, but we’ll talk about that in a moment.

Does 30 fps cut it?

As a pretty serious PS4 player I was a bit skeptical overwatch on Switch for two reasons: first, I’d heard the game runs at 30fps, and while I think that’s fine for certain kinds of single-player or non-twitchy games, for a few years I’ve felt competitive first – person shooters need to run at least 60 fps to be fun.

A higher frame rate has long been a standard for PC players, and the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have almost universally run 60fps online shooters since their launch. There are only a few exceptions, most notably: Lot 2† And overwatch runs at a minimum of 60 fps on all platforms (except very old PCs, I think) since its launch in 2016. This is the first time a version of overwatch is aimed at just 30 fps.

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enlarge overwatch runs on the Nintendo Switch.

Samuel Axon

First, 30 fps didn’t bother me as much as I thought; it helps that everyone you play against is also playing at that frame rate, so you’re not at a disadvantage. And in my time with the game, it locked at 30 fps. Variation in frame rate in competitive shooters is a no-go. Fortunately, in most cases this is not a problem.

I think you could also say that the Switch overwatch scene just won’t be as competitive. Let’s face it: if you really love it overwatch for the serious competition you are going to play on a different platform. Nintendo players have a certain culture and competitive shooters don’t quite fit that. Tellingly, game director Jeff Kaplan said he’s looking forward to Switch players experiencing casual seasonal events like Junkenstein’s Revenge, and he didn’t talk much about Competitive Mode.

Just to be clear, 30 fps is a compromise. But I’m not sure if it’s a big one for the target audience on this platform. If you want to play at the highest level of competitive play, this isn’t the platform for you, and you already knew that. I thought the Switch was fine for jumping into QuickPlay, a seasonal event, or an Arcade match. And I think framerate consistency is more important than higher framerates, and overwatch on Switch delivers on that front.

Rulers and Gyroscopes

The other reason I was skeptical about this Switch port was that while the Switch Joycon’s analog sticks are fine for many types of games, I generally found them frustrating to use with first-person games. The Pro controller is of course a different story, but not everyone has one. And of course you can’t use it in handheld mode.

Thankfully, during the hands-on time, I was able to play in a variety of modes: docked to the Pro controller, unplugged with joycons, and, in short, on a Switch Lite — my personal Switch of choice. And that gave me a strong sense of how the game plays in different players’ situations.

The sticks were a real problem for me. I didn’t feel like I was playing as well as I did on the PS4.

And when I first started playing on the Switch, straight away the gyroscopic controls are disabled. I played without them for so long that I wasn’t interested in them at first. But I spoke to one of the other attendees at Blizzard’s event, an experienced Splatoon 2 streamer passing by MissClick, and she praised their virtues. Evidently Splatoon 2 players play with a similar gyroscopic aiming option enabled – with practice they can reach almost mouse and keyboard levels for a higher skill limit than analog sticks. have not played Splatoon 2, I had no idea. But she convinced me to give the motion controls a shot.

Even in less than an hour of playing I started to recognize their value. You make wide and decisive moves with the sticks, but you magnify those moves with precise aiming via the motion controls. The motion controls helped me get some headshots that would have been difficult otherwise. With enough practice, I saw motion control become indispensable. They just aren’t easy to learn; it’s already a challenge for console players to keep up with two analog sticks, and this was essentially the same as adding a third.

Not everyone wants to relearn all their muscle memory to get nice headshots. You can play without the motion controls, but I feel like the same hierarchy of gyroscope players surpassed those with only thumbsticks as in Splatoon 2 can originate. So if you want to stay on top, you may need to learn. Keep in mind it’s coming in.

A worthy port for a certain audience

I liked it overwatch on Switch more than I thought I would, and if you’re a casual player I can recommend it. It is especially appealing to players who are completely new to overwatch† like so many hugely popular games, it can be intimidating to start playing after everyone else has developed their skills for a few years. But on Switch, I imagine you’ll encounter other newcomers as well, making it a better place to get on board.

However, if you’re looking for top-level competitive play, the existing platforms are a better fit for you.

Still, overwatch remains one of the best multiplayer shooters I’ve played in years, and I’m impressed with how well it translates to the Switch, especially if you’re open to gyro aiming. And with playing the game on mobile and disconnected now an option, I may just be able to avoid making that OLED burn-in worse with my next thousand hours on overwatch

List image by Samuel Axon

By akfire1

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