Six Heroes left, and it could argued that I saved some of the very best for last.
Offense Heroes are your aggressors, getting kills via flanking and/or highly damaging weapons. For experienced FPS players, these are often the ones that feel the most familiar, pulling mechanics and playstyles from other popular games. As always, I’ve ranked them in order of personal preference in regards to their usefulness.
Breakdown: The fact that McCree is due for a nerf very soon is a testament to how much of a threat he’s become in the early game. One of the most popular Heroes to pick, he’s effective at both medium and close ranges and can act as a sort of “anti-flanker”, able to stop many of the other Offensive Heroes in their tracks.
The Peacekeeper is a six-shooter that deals great damage per shot, making many of the lower-HP Heroes easy quick kills. There is a damage fall off from a distance to consider, though the goal with McCree is to get up close and trap the enemy one-on-one. That’s where the threat of his alt-fire comes in. “Fan the Hammer”, as it’s known, will empty his clip in a shaky burst of fire. If every shot connects, it will kill all but the sturdiest Tanks in one go.
The Flashbang-Fan the Hammer combo is the thing that makes McCree so dangerous. The Flashbang will stun the enemy just long enough to you to steady your aim, making sure the burst is concentrated. This means that a McCree that isn’t in cooldown has the potential to essentially one-shot kill anyone that gets close to him. The distance on the Flashbang takes some getting used to, but it can stop certain Ultimates if timed correctly.
McCree’s walk speed isn’t great, so his Combat Roll is his best (well, only) defensive tool. It will reload the Peacekeeper upon use, so it also works as a way to immediately prep a Fan the Hammer after taking a few primary shots.
His Deadeye Ultimate will target all of the enemies in his field of view, setting them up for a string of instant kills after they’ve been locked on. The amount of time it takes to lock-on is dependent on the distance and health remaining of the target. The element of surprise is key to using Deadeye as McCree will loudly announce what time it is before doing so and moves very slowly during the targeting. Being out of sight is the difference between “High Noon” and “High NoGAHhhh”
As mentioned, McCree is slow and doesn’t work at long range. He has a looooong walk back to objectives without a teleporter and being out in the open can be hard to escape from if you’re spotted. You also don’t want to get caught on cooldown, as the threat of a Flashbang is going to be the primary threat to keep people on their toes. His Ultimate is the only tool he has against groups and is very obvious. McCree is a very strong character but you also need to be clever.
Heroes to Target: The flankers, mainly Reaper and Tracer. They have to come to you and will regret doing so. Wait for Reaper to get out of Wrath Form so he has no way to escape your Flashbang. Supports and Tanks will also make for easy targets.
Heroes to Avoid: McCree’s range issues make him easy pickings for snipers. Genji is also the one flanker to watch out for since he can actually Deflect the Flashbang.
Breakdown: Genji is a menace. He’s a highly mobile flanker that can run into a fight, tear things up, and be gone before anyone even knows what happened. A highly skilled Genji can wipe out an entire team on his own and many players think twice about even attempting to engage him, since he has a lot of versatility that gives him an advantage in direct encounters.
Like his brother Hanzo, Genji has the ability to wallrun, with the addition of a double jump. This is key because a Genji player is always moving in and out of battle, repositioning to create better opportunities for himself. When you see good Genji players (and I’ll fully admit that I’m not one) perpetual motion is the recurring theme.
His primary Shuriken is a three shot burst that flies straight and is good for a longish to medium range. The alt-fire is a horizontal spread that comes out a little bit faster and is better for up close and even occasionally small groupings of enemies.
Swift Strike is a forward charging slash that doubles as a mobility tool. If it manages to be the killing blow, the cooldown disappears, making it possible to pull of some insane Shinobi maneuvers on a string of weakened opponents. Genji will bolt forward in whatever direction he’s facing, so this means that he can also get sent into the air or up on a platform. In combination with his passive abilities, he should be able to get out of a sticky situation fairly quickly.
Deflect is his most important tool for offense and survivability and is what makes him such a dangerous Hero to face off with. Any bullets sent his way will simply bounce off of him and back to wherever he’s facing. The most frequent use of this will be for countering a frazzled enemy that’s firing as you run towards them, but the Deflected shots can also be used to take out another target, like a nearby Support. It will negate any melee damage and can even counter some Ultimates. Getting good with the timing of Deflect is one of the most important skills to master as a Genji player and will literally save your life more times than you can count.
Upon activating the Dragonblade Ultimate, he will wield his sword for 8 seconds, dealing high damage to anyone within melee range, so it’s obviously best used on groups in a path within a short distance. The neat thing about Dragonblade is that Genji’s other abilities like Defect and Swift Strike will still work, so you aren’t nearly as vulnerable as most other Heroes when using their Ultimates.
If you’re new to the game, Genji may as well not exist on the Hero selection screen. He is arguably the hardest Hero in game to master and has to put in work to achieve results. You need reflexes and a gameplan, as a Genji running into the battlefield with neither is just an easy target with nowhere to run. There are also a few Heroes with weapons you can’t Deflect, making a one-on-one fight with them a tricky proposition.
Heroes to Target: Genji is one of Bastion’s strongest counters, able to either run behind and flank his weak spot or simply Deflect all of hit Sentry fire back at him. The same applies to a Torbjorn turret, though it’s tricker. Widowmaker can also have a hard time since you’re a fast target and can sneak up on her.
Heroes to Avoid: Zarya, Winston, Symmetra, Mei – anyone with a weapon immune to your Deflect.
Breakdown: Man, what a dumb character. Sorry. I’m trying not to editorialize too much in this but Reaper stands out in a field of dramatically more inspired designs. This does not stop him from being one of the most frequently chosen Offense Heroes, however. He is one of Overwatch’s most dangerous close range threats, able to move through enemy lines easily and sneak up on you before you notice the shotgun pointed at your face.
Reaper is all about flanking. He’s not much of a team player and will mostly run off to do his own thing, no doubt whilst listening to Korn on his Walkman. Sneaking up and getting the kill with his Hellfire Shotguns is always the gameplan. The slow fire rate is made up for by the damage output, though you need to be constantly up close and harassing to be the most effective.
As a loner that will likely never be hanging out with a Support, Reaper’s survivability is helped by picking up Soul Orbs, which are drops that only you can see from the corpses of enemies. Without these, his only other way of staying alive is via Wrath Form. It has a multitude of uses, but it will primarily be for sneaking in or out of a contested area. He’s completely immune from damage and will move faster, with the added bonus of removing any debuffs that may be on him at the time. Shadow Step has similar utility, allowing him to teleport to a location within sight. This is key to taking out turrets, snipers and anyone else that can’t deal with Reaper up close.
The Death Blossom Ultimate is very basic, causing him to shoot wildly in a circle, taking out anyone that the stray bullets may touch. It’s useful for clearing a path or even dropping in the middle of a control point, but keep in mind that Reaper can still be killed in mid-animation, stopping the Ultimate completely. It’s best as a follow-up to a set-up move, making it safe to execute while still ensuring the kills.
Range is an issue with Reaper, making him a high risk Hero to play, especially if you don’t have confidence in your ability to get in close without being seen. He’s loud and not exactly subtle, so anti-flanking can shut down a lot of his tricks. He also leaves himself wide open if he teleports right in sight of an enemy, giving them time to aim right for the shape of your head before you’ve even materialized completely.
Heroes to Target: All of the Tanks, baring Zarya, can have a very hard time dealing with Reaper. He is one of the only close range counters to Mei, able to Wrath Form out of her freeze. He’s also another solution for the annoying Bastions or turrets that your teammates can’t reach.
Heroes to Avoid: Reaper has problems with most of the other Offense Heroes in the game. There is nothing he can do to Pharah, since you can’t teleport into the sky and have no way of damaging her. McCree can flashbang Reaper and stop him from Wrath Forming away and both Tracer and Genji are faster with better ranged options.
Breakdown: Pharah controls the skies in Overwatch. She has one of the highest damage outputs in the game and will be very hard to stop if the enemy team isn’t equipped to deal with her. She’s able to get to places most other Heroes can’t and generally dominates open spaces.
When using the Falcon Rocket Launcher, it’s best to remember the old rule – “don’t aim where they are, aim where they are going to be”. Hitting mobile targets directly is highly damaging but often not possible, so the splash damage and knockback from the rockets are going to make up a majority of your output. This obviously makes Pharah a long range threat and can be used to pester windows and doorways, catching anyone hiding in cover. Shoot for walls or the floor in front of an enemy, especially if your aim is lacking.
Most of Pharah’s time will be spent in the air, triggered by her Jump Jets, which give her a head start. Hover is her way of maintaining altitude and moving back and forth to reposition. You have to feather the button a bit to get a feel for it and staying in the air as long as possible will usually be to your benefit. With practice, you’ll almost never need to touch solid ground for very long. The alt-fire button will activate Hover as well as the jump button, the former being a bit more comfortable for PC players, in my opinion.
Concussive Blast is oft-forgotten, good for its knockback and getting snipers from their perches, but it’s much more useful as a mobility tool, giving you a sort of wall jump when well timed. In combination with her other abilities, she can get around much faster than most enemies would expect, keeping the pressure on. Pressure is the most important factor in Pharah’s game, making sure the enemy doesn’t have time to look up and take a shot at you.
The Barrage Ultimate is one of the most powerful and straightforward in the game, sending a torrent of rockets at an area and doing AOE damage. It’s another move that’s better set-up by a teammate, be it Mei’s Blizzard or Zarya’s Graviton Surge. This also prevents her from getting shot out of it, which is not only possible but rather embarrassing.
Pharah’s usefulness depends on the map and situation. She’s out of her element on the ground or in tight spaces, unable to create the distance that she needs to be most effective. She can get flustered up close and take damage from her own rockets if not careful. Even when flying around, you are a very exposed target that can’t move very quickly, so direct counters from certain Heroes and abilities can render her useless. She can be a very fun character to use but requires practice and good decision making.
Heroes to Target: You’ll want to take an almost bullying mentality when picking targets, going after Heroes that you know can’t do anything to fight back like Junkrat, Reaper, and Reinhardt. Supports are, as always, high priority as well.
Heroes to Avoid: Attackers that only need line of sight can take Pharah out quickly, like Widowmaker or McCree. Roadhog can Chain Hook her out of the air and Zenyatta’s Orb of Discord will also make it hard for her to hide.
Breakdown: It’s ironic that Tracer is Overwatch’s cover girl considering that you almost never see her. That’s not to say that she’s never picked in games (quite the opposite), but her playstyle revolves entirely around zipping through an area unnoticed. The prototypical flanker, she’s the fastest Hero in the game and has multiple ways to escape from a bad situation. A good Tracer is very very annoying for the other team and will be hard to hit.
The Pulse Pistols are high rate-of-fire weapons that do good damage. Headshots are the obvious priority since your time in a battle will usually be brief and the clip is pretty small. This is why Tracer is always doing something; moving or Blinking so she has a second to reload. Blink itself comes with three charges and will bolt her forward in whatever direction she was already going. Players often forget that this means she can also use it to go backwards, which is a helpful retreat if a Recall isn’t available. A common mistake players will make is using all three Blinks in one go when a single use would have done the job. Unless you’re rushing back from a respawn, it’s usually unnecessary.
Recall will take Tracer three seconds back in time, including the location she was in and the amount of health she had. This is her only survivability tool and should be used as soon as a fight has gone south. Using Recall after you’ve been in the same battle for 15 seconds is useless. A good “combo” of sorts to get down is to shoot a full clip, Blink forward for a melee attack, then Recall and continue shooting. Blink-Pulse Bomb-Recall is also good for threats like turrets or Bastion.
The Pulse Bomb isn’t very flashy but will stick to a surface and do a good chunk of area of effect damage. It’s less of a group killer than a way to deal with high priority targets like a teleporter, turret, or a big Tank that’s giving the team trouble.
Like Genji, Tracer can be difficult to use. She’s a very fragile target and rarely has her team to back her up. By that same token, she doesn’t offer much utility either, likely to see her group even less often than the enemies do. She is one of the most ability-dependant Heroes in the game and is a sitting duck on cooldown. Maps with a lot of bottlenecks like Hanamura can also be hard to make any progress in.
Heroes to Target: Supports are always easy flank targets, but Tanks like Reinhardt or Sentry Bastion are great to attack from behind. You can harass snipers but make sure you’ve closed the distance.
Heroes to Avoid: McCree, Roadhog, Mei; anyone with an ability that stuns you. Heroes with homing weapons like Winston or Symmetra also don’t need to see you to do damage.
Breakdown: More vanilla than a… thing containing high amounts of vanilla, Solder 76 is the default create-a-wrestler of Overwatch, a no-frills attacker that’s extremely easy to use and understand for anyone, regardless of their shooter experience. With that simplicity, however, comes consistency. While a lot of other Heroes rely on gimmicks and subterfuge to be effective, all he has to do is point and shoot.
The Heavy Pulse Rifle is one of the most accurate weapons in the game but will lose that property if shot continuously. The trick to maintaining that accuracy is to shoot in bursts. This method is his best option for long range attacks, though you’ll generally want to stay at more of a mid-range for most encounters. The good damage and sheer familiarity that most players will have with using such a straightforward weapon makes it easy for getting results. The alt-fire Helix Rockets have similar properties to the ones that Pharah use and should also be fired in the same way, taking into consideration the splash damage.
Solder 76 can use Sprint without ever needing a cooldown, almost as if it were a passive ability. It’s his only mobility tool and is still slower than some other Heroes, but he can run forever. You can’t shoot while Sprinting and there is a delay before you can draw your gun again. This can be a good time to throw down a Biotic Field to buy yourself some breathing room. The Field itself makes 76 the only Offense Hero with the ability to heal teammates, meaning he’s a valuable contributor if he stays with his team.
Like with most of the other Heroes in this category, his Ultimate, Tactical Visor, requires you to either be sneaky or have a set-up beforehand. It’s a literal aim-bot that will allow you to burst through a grouping of enemies at an accelerated rate, though keep in mind that headshots are not possible when it’s active, defaulting to enemy chests instead.
Soldier 76’s weakness is, well, his lack of definitive strengths. He’s average pretty much across the board, not fast enough to be a flanker or sturdy enough to soak up damage. There are no surprises when dealing with him and a soldier possessing basic shooter tropes can be in over his head when dealing with a lot of the more specialized and bombastic Heroes in the game. The skill ceiling for Soldier 76 is low, meaning that his potential is roughly the same.
Heroes to Target: 76’s accuracy makes him one of the team’s better tools against a Pharah. He’ll also be able to pick off Supports up close without giving them a lot of breathing room.
Heroes to Avoid: Tracer will run circles around you, making it hard to get a shot in, though it’s possible. 76 is also the perfect candidate for a Mei to freeze since his options for escape are limited. Snipers, as always, can out-range you and you don’t have the mobility to beat them in a lot of cases.
Well, that does it for my Hero Breakdowns and the massive undertaking that was OVERWEEK. Hopefully this makes the jump into Overwatch a little less intimidating for new players and maybe even teaches fellow intermediates something that may not have already known. I may consider doing something similar once more Heroes are added to the game, depending on how things go. Personally, I think the game could afford one or two additional Support variations and perhaps even an extra Tank just to even up the roster a little bit.
Tomorrow will be some pre-E3 thoughts before we return to your regularly scheduled program of weird indie games and bad jokes.