The Nintendo Switch has been on the market for less than three years, and its portability has already changed the way many people want to play their games. Overwatch, like many of Blizzard’s other titles, has maintained a sizable base of players and fans in the years since it came out. The two seem like a natural fit for each other, especially considering Nintendo’s much more open policies on third-party games nowadays. That makes it all the more disappointing (though not exactly surprising) that the Switch version of Overwatch is so lacking. From performance and visuals to controls and even portability, the noticeable downgrades effect the game to the point that it’s far less enjoyable than the other versions.
To be fair, the fact that Overwatch is even playable on Switch is a feat in itself. Those who have never had access to this widely beloved team-based shooter still have a lot to look forward to, and the compromises of the Switch port will be less obvious to people picking up the game for the first time. This version is also up to date with all of the characters, cosmetics, maps, and modes already available in the other console versions, and will be getting all the same updates going forward. Even on the Switch, a good match of Overwatch is still a good match of Overwatch: two well-coordinated teams of unique characters battling back and forth over an objective can be as intense and exhilarating as ever.
The problem with this port is the amount of other details that can get in the way of that fun. For starters, the Joy-Con controls are flatly inadequate. Not in the layout itself, per se – button bindings can still be fully customized – but in the controllers themselves. Whether playing docked, undocked or handheld, the stubby sticks and small buttons are far from ideal in a fast-paced first-person shooter. The Switch-exclusive gyro aiming is more of a flaw than a feature, and makes it feel like driving a car rather than aiming a weapon. Thankfully, you can turn those motion controls off as soon as you feel them for the first time. Unless you have a 70-dollar Pro Controller or some other alternative, there isn’t really a comfortable way to play.
Performance is another issue, despite the game’s frame rate holding steady most of the time. Overwatch on Switch is locked at 30 frames per second, which is an unexpectedly bad thing when you’re trying to line up a precise shot or use an ability at just the right time. What’s worse, though, is the fact that the frame rate can drop below 30 during crucial moments, like the final push for an objective or multiple ultimates being triggered at once. The overall resolution is visibly lower as well, particularly on textures and character models. While it doesn’t usually have a major effect on the game itself, there’s a lot of very noticeable pop-in and character models will sometimes be represented by strange moving orbs until they actually load.
One might argue that the portability of this Switch version is its main selling point, but that’s not a very strong point in the case of Overwatch. Since it’s almost entirely an online multiplayer game, taking it on the go is much less appealing unless you know there will be a robust wi-fi connection wherever you’re headed. Cross-play with players on other platforms is still absent, so matchmaking only happens within a smaller pool of Switch players and exacerbates the problem of search times for role queue and arcade modes. On the other hand, that’s probably a good thing for players on other systems, given the huge difference in performance and input between versions.
Overwatch on Switch is technically functional, and that’s the best thing that can be said about it. If you don’t care about the game’s tactile input or graphical output and aren’t planning to be very competitive, maybe this port will be enough to suit your needs. Still, we would only recommend this version to those who have no other option.
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Overwatch is now available on Nintendo Switch for $39.99. A code was provided to Screen Rant for the purpose of this review.