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Overwatch on Nintendo Switch Review: "It's incredibly disorienting"

(Image: © Blizzard)

Our Verdict

A questionable choice for a port with an even more questionable inclusion of gyroscopic controls. Turn them off and play with a Pro Controller, or ya know, on a PC or console.

Pros

  • Overwatch in your hands is a fun concept
  • Some heroes play well in the new format

Cons

  • Motion controls are disorienting and ruin certain heroes
  • The game's vibrant design means overwhelming visual feedback
  • Some bugs persist

Some might say it was serendipitous: I got my own Nintendo Switch and days later, Overwatch, the game I've sunk the most time into over the last two years, was officially announced for the console. It was a no brainer that I'd be the one to review Overwatch for Switch, what with my fledgling understanding of the handheld and my copious (sometimes insufferable) understanding of Overwatch. I've been in the game's competitive console trenches for more time than I'd like to admit, and I was excited to see how it would play on the Nintendo Switch.

That excitement quickly turned to frustration, like grabbing your favorite pair of corduroys out of winter storage just to discover you can't pull 'em past your thighs. Sure, I could stand in my bedroom shrieking like a banshee, doing an interpretative dance to gyrate these pants higher onto my waist, but after I got them buttoned up, they're far from comfortable. That's how Overwatch on Nintendo Switch is - frustrating and uncomfortable.  

The decision to port

Overwatch's Soldier 76 and Brigitte

(Image credit: Blizzard)

You have to wonder: why bring Overwatch to the Nintendo Switch now? The game's been out since 2016. There's a multimillion-dollar professional league that has DJ Khaled performing at its finals and established metas on both consoles and PC alike. If you didn't get into the first person shooter on day one (or if you're like me, when you finally moved back to your home country and could afford a new console) then what would make you buy it now for the Nintendo Switch?

Overwatch is a game that's all about balance: balancing fast-paced movement with smart tactical decisions, balancing your team's comp so that healers can properly support effective DPS, balancing your hatred of Mei with your love of Moira (speaking for myself there). How does a game like Overwatch, that's dedicated solely to PvP play, work on on a portable console? The answer is: meh?

The perils of gyroscopic movement

Overwatch's Pharah/Mercy combo

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Prior to the Overwatch on Nintendo Switch release, GamesRadar spoke to Blizzard's Principal Designer, Wes Yanagi, who told us that the team "invested a lot of time in heavy optimization." And the game ran fairly decent on the Switch, at least when I played it, save for a consistent visual bug that rendered other players as floating orange orbs.

But Yanagi also discussed Nintendo's push to include the Switch's gyroscopic controls in the Overwatch port, which drastically change the way Overwatch is played - and not for the better, imo. If you're familiar with gyroscopic controls in a fast-paced FPS, then maybe this inclusion won't irk you, but for others: beware. 

Gyroscopic controls means everything moves your reticle - every sneeze, every involuntary wrist movement, every bastard cat determined to jump on your lap and beg for second dinner. Until I discovered I could map a button to center the gyroscopic camera, I was spinning wildly about in spawn rooms and during intense firefights. It's dizzying and completely ruins the way certain characters play - McCree's sharpshooting abilities and dodge roll are rendered virtually useless, not to mention playing with the Joy-Cons has the tendency to cause button lag. 

In handheld mode with Joy-Cons, I found that tanks like Orisa and D.Va felt the best, and seemed like they were suffering from the least amount of quality loss. I enjoyed playing them the most as it was minimally frustrating. However, it's pretty clear that you're better off ignoring the entire gyroscopic mess and playing Overwatch on Nintendo Switch while docked, using a Pro Controller. Which begs the question: why bother?

The visual consequences

Overwatch's Zarya and Moira

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Overwatch ain't visually subtle. The world in which it takes place is vibrant and full of visual noise, with colorful characters and explosive ultimate abilities. Even when played on PC or console, the game can get optically confusing, with explosions setting off everywhere and characters flying in and out of your field of vision. Now imagine it on a 6.2 inch screen.

On certain maps that don't even have long sight lines, characters in the background are nearly impossible to make out and the gamertags over their heads are illegible. I was frequently squinting at the screen, wondering if an enemy Bastion was aiming at me or if it was a Torbjorn setting up a turret. 

If you're playing in handheld mode with the gyroscopic controls on (godspeed), it's easy to see how the swirl of colors and touchy camera could make you feel ill. Luckily, I'm unbothered by motion sickness, but the size of the screen and the amount of stuff crammed into it can be incredibly disorienting when the camera moves at the slightest change of your wrists' angle. This port is riddled with overwhelming visual feedback.

And that visual bug I referenced earlier? It's an odd one that renders heroes as floating orange orbs, and seems to be plaguing most Overswitch users. The first time it happened was just outside a spawn room – a glowing orange blob floated closer and closer, prompting me to yell, "What the hell!?" repeatedly until a Hanzo popped up in its place. I've seen the orange orbs every session so far, but not in every game (probably about 50% of the time). 

Overwatch on Nintendo Switch is an oddly-timed port that simply doesn't translate well. I'll take my laggy Xbox match on a mediocre 32-inch television over a laggy match on a 6.2-inch screen any day. 

The Verdict

2

2 out of 5

Overwatch

A questionable choice for a port with an even more questionable inclusion of gyroscopic controls. Turn them off and play with a Pro Controller, or ya know, on a PC or console.

More Info

Available platformsNintendo Switch

U.S.-based Staff Writer here to sift through all the game news to bring you the shiniest cool stuff I can find. Mother to two rescue cats, Radgie and Riot. Struggling to flex in Overwatch thanks to the addition of role queue, as being a Moira one-trick isn't all it's cracked up to be anymore. When Overwatch infuriates me, I'll hop over to Apex Legends for some more frustration, because apparently I love to be angry.