A charismatic time-traveler. A brainwashed master assassin. A gunslinging outlaw with a heart of gold. The green cyborg ninja dude. A brilliant scientist, who also happens to be a gorilla.
Masterminds, adventurers, and rogues.
The world of Overwatch is populated with all manner of larger-than-life heroes. Which one will you be?
To help you decide, we cast the spotlight on four of Overwatch's amazing heroes.
Raised as a member of a colony of genetically-enhanced gorillas meant to test the effects of long-term habitation on the moon, Winston proved to be something of a child prodigy when he proved smarter and more curious than his peers.
The close companion of Dr. Harold Winston, one of the scientists at the Horizon Lunar Colony, Winston the gorilla grew up believing in his father figure's idealistic and hopeful outlook that the world should not just be seen for what it is, but what it had the potential to be.
Through his close bond with his human caretaker and mentor, Winston continued to excel in his studies, eventually learning how to speak and assist the doctor in his scientific research. Unfortunately, the apes grew weary with the scientist's repeated experiments and led a violent uprising. The gorillas killed the mission scientists and claimed the colony for themselves.
Deeply saddened by the death of his human friends and caretaker, Winston took the name of his father figure, built a makeshift rocket, and fled to Earth. There, Winston found a new family in Overwatch, who were quick to embrace his gentle nature and impressive scientific and technological knowledge.
At last, Winston had figured out a way to put into practice the heroic ideals he was raised with. With Overwatch's untimely downfall, however, Winston withdrew to the ruins of an old Overwatch base in Gibraltar, again cutting himself off from the world he believes in.
With the rise of new enemies and the looming threat of the Second Omnic Crisis, Winston was the one who sent out the call to rally the team back together. Only time will tell who among the Overwatch will answer.
It's hard to ignore an angry, glowing red gorilla, so go bananas! Winston's Ultimate unleashes the beast, turning Winston into a berserking, rampaging one-ape army that's capable of walloping opponents and bounding across the battlefield with his jetpack.
Winston is incapable of firing his Tesla Cannon or deploying his Barrier Projector while he's raging, and that's fine – the main purpose of Primal Rage is one that it serves well, and that is to become a near-invulnerable engine of chaos and distraction for the opposing team.
Rage up, slam right into the thick of your enemies, knock 'em around a bit, then leap back out of the fray and see who takes the bait. Your opponents are going to waste a lot of time catching up to you, and if they do catch up to you, they're going to waste a lot of ammo trying to take you down.
Time and ammo better spent going after your weaker teammates. And that's exactly how you like it.
Unlike other shielding effects, Winston's Barrier Projector blocks projectiles from both sides: in other words, people inside the barrier can't shoot out of the barrier. In this way, the Barrier Projector can double as an unexpected containment field, trapping opponents inside until they realize their shots aren't going where they need to.
While the barrier doesn't restrict movement, a well-placed Barrier Projector can effectively flush an entrenched sniper out of hiding, or completely nullify a turreted Bastion.
Winston being an ape, and the ape uprising on the Horizon Lunar Colony that forms an important part of his backstory may be an obvious tie-in to the Planet of the Apes series of films. However, Winston's name and ties to space exploration go deeper.
It's been alluded that Winston's name may be an homage to Winston Scott, one of the astronauts who was assigned as a specialist on board the STS-72 Space Shuttle Endeavor. Winston's mobile jetpack's bounding capabilities also bear similarities to the EVA suits worn by the Endeavor's crew on training exercises, and on spacewalks.
Born into wealth and prestige as the younger child of the Shimada yakuza Empire, Genji enjoyed a youth of luxury. With his older brother Hanzo expected to take up the mantle of leadership, Genji indulged in a privileged life free from the burden of responsibilities.
However, as the years went by, many in his clan began to saw Genji's carelessness as both an insult and a liability. When their father died, Hanzo tracked down his reckless younger brother and insisted that Genji take more responsibility for the well-being and reputation of the powerful criminal empire they had inherited.
Genji refused, and the fight that broke out between the brothers left Genji horribly disfigured and on the verge of death. Unbeknownst to his brother, Genji was rescued by Overwatch and nursed back to health. His broken limbs were replaced by cutting-edge cybernetics that endowed Genji with superhuman speed and reflexes.
In exchange, Genji agreed to work with the peacekeeping organization. With his aid, Overwatch took on the Shimada Empire and dismantled the clan, but for Genji, the victory was a hollow one. Fearing that he had become more machine than man, Genji left Overwatch and wandered in solitude for many years.
When he re-emerged, he had come to accept his cybernetic half, and now finally having quelled the spiritual turmoil within himself, he seeks to bring justice and redemption to his family.
With his low health pool and reliance on adaptability and timing your cooldowns, Genji is widely known as one of the most challenging characters to play. As one helpful Overwatch expert points out, “As Genji is a ninja, be a ninja.”
Stealth, strategy, and spatial awareness are essential to maximizing Genji's potential. The ninja cyborg is a consummate ambush predator, excelling in dealing direct damage to single targets, so it stands to reason that he's most useful when you can get the drop on your enemies.
And to do that requires an intimate knowledge of the map: player spawn points, common bottlenecks, off-the-beaten-path passageways, and thoroughfares are absolutely crucial to Genji's gameplay. Genji's run speed, double jump, and wall climbing capabilities should likewise never be underestimated, as they allow him exceptional maneuverability across the battlefield.
Deflect is also incredibly powerful in the right hands, as it's capable of bouncing back projectiles launched from abilities and even certain Ultimates like Bastion's, Tracer's, and McCree's. When used at close-range, Deflect effectively turns Bastion's turret form into a suicide button, as it's capable of deflecting Bastion's entire salvo of bullets back into the robot's large, immobile husk.
And while it may be tempting to use Genji's Ultimate as a last ditch effort to cut your way out from being cornered a group of enemies, it serves a better purpose when saved for launching surprise tactical strikes, assassinating key support, and trumping characters in order to blindside the enemy team when they least suspect it.
With securing objectives being the focus of matches in Overwatch, eliminating key support characters who are vital to the enemy's strategy and execution is far more important than racking up kills, so let the ambush predator do what it does best: ambush predator-ing.
The Tale of Genji
It wouldn't surprise me to find out that Blizzard's got some literature majors on their writing team: the name 'Genji' is possibly an allusion to the titular protagonist from The Tale of Genji, a classical work of fiction written in 11th century Japan by Lady Murasaki Shikibu.
The Tale of Genji is notable for being the world's first modern novel, and also for Lady Murasaki's immaculate consistency: the novel features a dramatis personae of roughly four hundred characters, each of whom aged in step and whose subplots and adventures were detailed in exacting detail.
Like his namesake in Overwatch, Lady Murasaki's Genji was also an outcast from a wealthy family, who nonetheless enjoyed a carefree, playboy lifestyle. (Indeed, most of the first parts of the novel focuses on Genji's romantic escapades.)
Unfortunately, that Genji wasn't a cyborg ninja, which is a shame, since that would've meant that Murasaki's novel was also the first science fiction novel in history.
A popular unlockable alternate appearance for Genji garbs him in futuristic Bedouin attire, completely with headwrap and goggles. The Bedouin are an ancient, semi-nomadic group of people from the Middle-East.
What do a ninja and wandering desert nomads have in common? Some believe that in the past, the Bedouins had trained and employed highly-disciplined spies and assassins like the ninja of ancient Japan, who relied on stealth, mobility and an array of deadly tools with which to eliminate their targets.
The idea of a Bedouin assassin has become quite popular in video games, most notably the Assassin's Creed franchise.
Green Cyborg Ninja Guy
When Genji was first leaked, Michael Chu, the senior designer for Overwatch, referred to the character in a tweet that called him a “green cyborg ninja guy.”
“Green cyborg ninja guy” has become an in-joke in the Overwatch development team, so much so that one of Genji in-game voice lines refers to himself as just that.
A former member of the Deadlock Gang, the outlaw gunslinger known as McCree was a bane of the American Southwest, where he and his gang preyed on convoys containing military hardware. With a penchant for carrying out high-stakes train robberies, there was no stopping the Deadlock Gang – until Overwatch stepped in.
After a massive sting operation, the Deadlock Gang were brought to heel, its members rounded up and thrown in jail. Only McCree was given the opportunity to atone for his crimes, and would eventually join the Blackwatch – the covert ops division of Overwatch.
Though he was cynical and mistrustful of his newfound allies, McCree eventually came around to believing he could make amends for his past wrongs by bringing justice to the scumbags of the world.
The clandestine, paralegal nature of Blackwatch suited the wandering gunman just fine, as it granted him the freedom he needed to bring his brand of frontier justice to those who deserved it. However, as Blackwatch came to be at odds with Overwatch, odds which would eventually lead to the Watch's bloody downfall, McCree left the organization and went underground.
Years later, the pistol-carrying, cigar-chomping ex-bandit emerged from seclusion and started hiring out his services as a gun for hire. While McCree's services are highly sought after by powerful individuals on both sides of the law and every direction on the moral compass, McCree will only lend his gun to the causes he knows are just.
McCree can be a solid choice for beginners, as the primary fire from his Peacekeeper revolver offers respectable damage, accuracy and rate of fire. His alt-fire causes him to 'fan' the hammer of his gun, increasing his rate of fire at the expense of accuracy. It also reduces the damage of each bullet.
In spite of these setbacks, McCree's fan fire is excellent for mowing down low-health targets at close to medium range, like Tracer and Genji. If you manage to land every shot, fan fire can also deal a surprising amount of damage to higher-health targets: just be sure you have a backup plan, 'cause those tanks aren't gonna be very happy about being peppered by molten-hot slugs.
An easy, bread n' butter strategy employed by McCree players has come to be commonly known as the “Flash Fan” combo: start by lobbing your Flashbang to stun your target, then unload on them using fan fire while they're helpless.
It's as devastating as it is easy to put into play, but be sure to pick your targets carefully, and don't waste your Flashbang cooldown on a target that can't be easily picked off by a fan fire to the face.
McCree's ultimate, Deadeye, unleashes a spray of bullets that instantly kills targets in front of him. However, it takes a few precious seconds to fire, and the enemy is given many audio and visual cues to get out of range.
As a result, Deadeye is best saved for when the enemy has been locked down (say, from a Flashbang or are frozen by a helpful Mei on your team) or is otherwise forced to stay in place, like when guarding an objective.
Be especially careful about using Deadeye against Genji, as he can deflect that killing shot right back into that smug look on your face.
Matt Mercer is a prolific voice actor who's done the voices of quite possibly anyone who ever had speaking lines in an animated production (that may be an exaggeration, but only maybe). He's also a gamer and ubergeek who DMs and live streams his adventures in DnD on the hit online show Critical Role. Not surprisingly, Matt also plays Overwatch.
According to his victims, whenever he takes the field as McCree, the voice actor is prone to picking up his mic and intoning “It's high noon,” in his best McCree impression (which we assume ought to be pretty darned good, since he supplied the voice of McCree).
“It's high noon” is the line that McCree says when he charges up his Ultimate, a line that experienced Overwatch players have been conditioned Pavlovian-style to react to by erupting into a blind panic and scattering in multiple directions.
We see what you did there, Matt.
Fans of classic Western films will be well aware that McCree's various character appearances draw heavily from many of the genre's most iconic characters, most notably borrowing the off-the-shoulder serape look from Clint Eastwood's The Man with No Name, from Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy.
Hana Song, AKA D.Va was a championship Starcraft player renowned for her prowess in the professional gaming circuit. Her many victories made her an internationally recognized celebrity both online and off, with a reputation as a merciless competitor who played to win at all costs.
When a colossal Omnic monstrosity rose from the East China Sea, causing terrible, terrible damage to the coastal towns of South Korea, D.Va enlisted in her country's elite MEKA squadrons.
She now pilots a highly advanced, highly customized MEKA of her own into battle against all those who would threaten her homeland, and has taken to live streaming her military operations for her legions of adoring internet fans.
- While classified as a tank, D.Va is actually better suited to flanking rushes against unsuspecting opponents. Her booster rockets allow her mech to make sudden, high-altitude jumps while allowing you great control over where she lands; skilled players can be found using this ability to leapfrog over enemy lines before unloading her fusion cannons on the unsuspecting rear ranks.
- When activating Self-Destruct, D.Va's mech retains its momentum; this means that activating Self-Destruct while the mech is airborne or in mid boost effectively turns her MEKA unit into an artillery shell, capable of dealing massive damage to enemy formations.
- While in human form, D.Va's light gun does little damage, but has a blindingly high rate of fire; use this to pepper your opponents and build up energy for your Ultimate, which allows you to summon a brand new mech in which to wreak havoc.
Players like to poke fun at D.Va for embodying the worst stereotypes of gamer culture, what with her obsession with online gaming and internet culture. Fanart of D.Va continues to proliferate, often depicting her as a mischievous, feral 'gremlin' that pigs out on Doritos and Mountain Dew (the traditional foods of the gamer gremlin) while playing video games.
Blizzard, never one to shy away from embracing gamer culture while at the same time poking fun at itself, recently released a new unlockable emote for D.Va that sees her hunkering down and playing a game on her MEKA's display, all the while digging into a bag of chips and chugging down a bright green can of pop that might as well be Mountain Dew.
There's no doubt that one of the most attractive features of Overwatch is its diverse selection of quirky, deadly, international, immediately recognizable and instantly lovable cast of characters.
From the South Korean Starcraft wunderkind D.Va to the genetically-enhanced grizzled veteran Soldier 76, Overwatch so far sports a tight, but impressive roster that's true to form of what we'd come to expect from Blizzard's trademark character design aesthetics and storytelling.
It's probably too much to hope for a story-rich single-player campaign so we could further explore the rich, storied world behind these motley band of misfits, but hey, a guy can dream, right?
In the meantime, get in the game and be the hero you want to be.