Wish Overwatch 2 returned to 6v6? This Workshop custom game brings it back, complete with classic hero balancing

(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

What you need to know

  • When Blizzard Entertainment relaunched Overwatch as Overwatch 2 in 2022, it converted the game's 6v6 format into a 5v5 one with one less tank per team. This change was intended to speed the game up and promote more active playstyles, though it was (and still is) extremely divisive.
  • Now, though, 6v6 can be enjoyed in Overwatch 2 with classic hero balancing thanks to a new Workshop custom game called "Overwatch 1 Emulator," made by a team of talented players.
  • The mode reenables 6v6, reverts all Overwatch 2 reworks and balance changes, recreates abilities from the original game with near-perfect authenticity, and brings back cut maps like Temple of Anubis and Volskaya Industries.
  • Like all Workshop modes, Overwatch 1 Emulator is playable on both the console and PC version of Overwatch 2; you'll find the code for it in the text below, along with a link to its Discord server where players are organizing play sessions.

When Blizzard Entertainment relaunched its popular 2016 PvP hero shooter Overwatch as Overwatch 2 in late 2022, its biggest — and most controversial — change to the game was the shift from a 6v6 format to a 5v5 one. Aiming to quicken the overall pace of the game and promote more active playstyles, the developer removed one tank hero from each team. But even though it also buffed tanks up to make tanking without a partner easier, the shift to 5v5 was nevertheless extremely divisive. Some enjoy the faster gameplay and greater impact individual players can have on a match, but others miss things like tank synergies and the original game's stronger emphasis on team-wide strategy.

Personally, I fall in the former camp (though having to tank alone does put a lot of pressure on you). If you're in the latter, though, you'll probably love the new 6v6 Overwatch Workshop custom game I spotted on Reddit last night. It's called Overwatch 1 Emulator, and on top of adding a second tank back to each team, it uses special scripts to revert all of Overwatch 2's reworks and balance changes while also removing the heroes it's added and bringing back maps it cut, essentially recreating the last version of Overwatch 1 with near-perfect authenticity.

The Workshop code for the mode is KHTG0, and like all Workshop experiences, it can be played on both the console and PC version of Overwatch 2 (that means crossplay compatibility, as well). You can jump in with a group of 11 other like-minded 6v6 enjoyers whenever you want, and there's an Overwatch 1 Emulator Discord server I recommend joining to find folks to play with. Notably, this community also hosts weekly scheduled lobbies every weekend, complete with a homemade MMR system and both ranked and unranked-style matchmaking.

Two teams playing the Overwatch 1 Emulator fighting on the King's Row map. (Image credit: u/ecksdeetsafrepus on Reddit)

While Overwatch 1 Emulator doesn't remake the original game exactly due to certain limitations — for example, Doomfist is a DPS again, but the recreated version of his classic Rising Uppercut ability doesn't have animations — what u/ecksdeetsafrepus and their team put together comes exceptionally close. While playing it, every hero has the exact same health (including the correct ratio of HP/armor/shields), barrier HP, cooldowns, and abilities they had in Overwatch 1's final patch. The mode also disables things like Overwatch 2's role-specific passives that allow supports to automatically self-heal and reduce Ultimate charge gained when damaging tanks.

The technical wizardry used to get any of this working is impressive, though my favorite is the soluton used to bring back Orisa's Protective Barrier shield. The creators first used a quarter of a sphere object to model the barrier, then wrote a script that makes it block damage if it's in front of an ally when an enemy player attempts to shoot them. Then, to visually represent the area covered by the shield, colored orbs were spread all over its surface area.

The final result (see the image above or below) looks a bit weird, but is remarkably functional — though unlike the original barrier, it fails to stop abilities like Roadhog's Chain Hook. Notably, u/ecksdeetsafrepus says that for now, it's being called "a balance feature that nerfs double shield," which is one of the infamously annoying strategies that became popular in Overwatch 1's later years.

A screenshot of 6v6 Overwatch 1 Emulator action near the final point of the Blizzard World map. (Image credit: u/ecksdeetsafrepus on Reddit)

While I do ultimately prefer the gameplay of Overwatch 2 myself, I'm very happy that something like this now exists for fans who'd like to enjoy Overwatch as it was before Blizzard restructured it. If you're one of them, make sure to check it out and join the Overwatch 1 Emulator Discord so you can squad up with fellow OW1 enthusiasts.

Want to play the mode with Overwatch 2 heroes like Junker Queen, Kiriko, and the others? There's an alternative version of it called Overwatch 1++ that unlocks and makes some balance adjustments to them to bring them more in line with the rest of the game's cast.

Overwatch 2 is one of the best Xbox games and best PC games on the market for fans of competitive multiplayer shooters, and it's available now for free on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows PC, PS5, and PS4. Recently, Blizzard committed to making all Overwatch 2 heroes free for everyone once Season 10 kicks off on April 16, including the new damage hero Venture.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.