If you had shown someone a screenshot of the Nintendo Switch's home screen with an icon for Overwatch in 2017, chances are they'd call it a fake. In fact, there were almost certainly fakes just like this a few years back.
The arrival of Blizzard's first-person, team-based action game on the Nintendo Switch is now a reality. One that feels like it shouldn't be possible. But why not? Overwatch is a scalable game on PC, runs on modern consoles and doesn't have too demanding a visual style. In theory, the game should work just fine on the Switch. In execution, Overwatch succeeds in its transition, cutting corners where necessary to make the game playable. That's the key word -- playable.
Just because Overwatch works on the Switch, doesn't mean it should be the platform of choice to experience all the game has to offer. Even just installing the game is a lengthy process, starting with the initial download. From there, it updates with the latest patches, something made seamless on other consoles and PC. On the Switch it's incredibly clunky, takes way too long and takes up too much space on the console's memory, internal or not.
Once the game is installed, sure enough, you're off to play Overwatch. Everything present in other versions of the game is present here, including menus, text and icons that don't seem properly scaled unless viewed in docked mode. If the main hook of this port is to play the game in handheld mode and on the go, why make it so hard to read?'
Jumping into the game itself, it's quickly evident what was sacrificed to get the port to run. Lighting effects, shadows and character models are all toned down, with textures popping in and out or looking blurry throughout. In motion everything looks fine, just don't take the time to stop and smell the roses.
The gameplay itself also totally works, even with its limited frame rate. The real issue here is the Switch's inherent internet capabilities, or lack thereof. Taking Overwatch on the go means relying on a wi-fi signal or a cellular hotspot to stay connected. For a game like Overwatch, this means getting loaded into and out of a number of matches before finally landing on one with a stable-enough foundation, only to get kicked out mid-game.
And when you do finally load into a stable match, connectivity issues cause constant lag, stuttering and even scenarios where all of the character models in a game disappear leaving little flashes of red and blue light in their places to signify an ally or enemy. At times like these, the game is absolutely unplayable. With a stable connection at home, however, those problems are few and far between.
With all of these issues, there's only one realistic scenario in which this is the way to experience Overwatch: if you've never played it before and the Switch is your only console. Otherwise, there are far cheaper and more enjoyable ways to play the game.
Could Blizzard have solved for this? Well, getting in line with others in the industry and introducing cross-play or cross-progression could certainly have helped. For those already in the Overwatch ecosystem, there are years of events, character skins, voice lines and sprays stacked up on PC, PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. If one could easily transfer their data back and forth, then sure, there's a hook to having a version of the game wherever the player is.
But this isn't the case. Everyone is starting fresh on the Switch. And on a console where online multiplayer is a paid subscription feature, it becomes even harder to make the case for an almost-full-priced version of a three-year-old game. It's a fun novelty, and it's definitely enjoyable when it works, but there's not much beyond that that this version of the game has going for it. There's not even a persistent PVE mode for players who just want to mess around with the characters and practice, outside of training.
All this is to say, it's still admirable to see such an iconic third-party IP make its way to the Switch, and it helps to make the case for console parity moving forward, wherever possible. For many ports to the Switch, like The Witcher III: Wild Hunt or Dragon Quest XI, there's an appeal to having a lengthy single player game on the console that can be chipped away at. When you throw in the multiplayer aspect, and without an easy ethernet option or dedicated cell service, it's that much harder to make a case.
If you're looking for more of the Overwatch you've come to know, or even just want to explore it as a proof of concept, then by all means. If you're hoping for more connectivity and something special in the Switch port, then you might not find what you're looking for.
Overwatch is now available on the Nintendo Switch. A review copy was provided by the publisher.