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Overwatch 2: Release date, hero reworks, and everything we know so far

Overwatch 2 Heroes
Overwatch 2 Heroes (Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Overwatch 2 is an upcoming sci-fi hero shooter from Blizzard Entertainment, known for the Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo franchises. The company is notable for its flexible approach to sequels, with owners of the previous game, Overwatch, receiving a unique Overwatch 2 Founder's Pack and access to Overwatch 2's overhauled 5v5 PvP experience. This new PvP format replaces Overwatch's original competitive multiplayer, and will feature a brand new mode called "Push" as well as all-new heroes. Notably, all cosmetic progression and unlocks will carry over from Overwatch to Overwatch 2.

For those who grab Overwatch 2's paid content, a cooperative PvE campaign is on the way. The campaign follows a new Omnic Crisis global attack by a horde of misaligned machines. To stop it, the heroes of Overwatch have reunited. Players must work together to overcome increasingly difficult story missions and on-going adventure mode-style replayable content.

Here's a complete overview of everything else we know so far about Overwatch 2, including when it's releasing, how Blizzard is planning to launch the game, and more.

Overwatch 2: Release date

(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

During the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase, Blizzard announced that Overwatch 2 will launch in Early Access on Oct. 4, 2022. This means that the game will be fully available on Xbox and PC at this time, though it won't be the finished build of Overwatch 2 with PvE.

With the sequel making so many radical changes to the original Overwatch experience, we expect the developers at Blizzard will want to make numerous tweaks and balance adjustments before launching Overwatch 2 in full. As a result, the Early Access launch of the game may not include all of the changes introduced in Overwatch 2's beta tests. 

Overwatch 2: Story overview

Overwatch 2 Tracer

Source: Blizzard Entertainment (Image credit: Source: Blizzard Entertainment)

Overwatch is typically known as a multiplayer shooter, but the game has a vast amount of lore experienced through external media, including cinematic shorts, comics, and more.

At its basic level, Overwatch takes place in a near-future version of Earth, where robotics and cybernetics are commonplace. They're so commonplace in fact, that it gave rise to an entire race of sentient machines called omnics. Omnics were originally built by humans to work in industrial and service roles, overseen by a self-improving artificial intelligence. If you've seen The Matrix, you know where this is going.

Eventually, the omnics gained sentience, free will, and even religions and cultures. Some omnic manufacturing facilities went rogue, and spewed out thousands of militarized machines which then attacked humanity, in an event called the Omnic Crisis. Overwatch was formed by the United Nations to help put an end to the Omnic Crisis, launching high-tech surgical strikes against omnic command posts and strategic targets. Overwatch proved to be a resounding success, putting an end to the Omnic Crisis, but the fallout from the world war had ramifications that still permeate the globe decades later.

The relationship between humans and omnics is complicated and differs per region. In the U.K., Omnics are denied basic rights, and in Russia, the omnics still wage war against the population. Many of Overwatch's multiplayer levels offer hints at the state of the world in different parts of the conflict, with some of the game's short animations adding other important plot details.

Overwatch 2 Winston

Source: Blizzard Entertainment (Image credit: Source: Blizzard Entertainment)

Overwatch 2 follows the stage set from the first game. Overwatch as a group became distrusted in the years after the Omnic Crisis, and countries became increasingly skeptical of this band of high-tech super soldiers who seemed able to flout national sovereignty in order to pursue omnic terror cells. Information about Overwatch's black ops arm, Blackwatch, also leaked to the press, painting the organization in a bad light, due to the morally questionable lengths they would sometimes go to get information. International pressure forced Overwatch to eventually disband.

While plot details for Overwatch 2 are scant, Blizzard has noted Overwatch 2 will have a full-blown story mode to help bring the universe to life. In the announcement trailer, we see some of Overwatch's core members band together against a renewed Null Sector. Null Sector is a group of omnic terrorists, born from the anger over how omnics were being treated in the U.K. Now, Null Sector seeks to wage war against humans and human-sympathizing omnics across the globe, launching attacks in various cities.

In the Overwatch 2 cinematic, we see Null Sector attack Paris, with Mei, Winston, and Tracer leading the engagement. Against the odds, they're also later joined by Genji, Reinhardt, and Brigitte, and swiftly put an end to the Null Sector attack. The subsequent gameplay trailer reveals that Null Sector has actually geared up for a full global invasion. Little more is known about how Overwatch 2's story will unfold, but we suspect it will revolve around the redemption of the Overwatch unit, featuring threats from Null Sector, and most likely the shadowy Talon council that seeks to exploit the chaos for its own ends.

Overwatch 2: PvE and story mode content

Overwatch 2

Source: Blizzard Entertainment (Image credit: Source: Blizzard Entertainment)

Overwatch 2 will feature deeper story-based PvE gameplay at some point in 2023, where players fight against AI enemies rather than other players. The story missions will feature co-op play, similar to some of the first Overwatch's seasonal PvE events, complete with dialogue, cutscenes, and other story beats. Blizzard describes Overwatch 2 as having a "ton" of PvE content, so hopefully, the story will have some real meat to it. One brief clip even appeared to show vehicular combat, with Echo piloting some kind of jet.

It also seems like you'll be able to missions from a world map in a non-linear fashion, raising the possibility of Blizzard adding more missions over time to keep players engaged. Some of these activities include "Hero Missions," which Blizzard describes as highly replayable co-op PvE, analogous to Diablo III's adventure mode. These missions seem to revolve around a specific hero or event.

You'll also be able to "level up" your heroes, unlocking skill customizations. Some of the ones they've shown off include a cluster bomb version of Tracer's ultimate, and the ability for Genji to throw his katana like a boomerang. Given that balance is perhaps less of a cause for concern in PvE, Blizzard can go ham on making the PvE abilities and skill modifiers a little bit more spectacular as you take on hordes of Null Sector robots in the game's missions.

Overwatch 2: Multiplayer updates

Overwatch 2 Tracer

Source: Blizzard Entertainment (Image credit: Source: Blizzard Entertainment)

Former game director Jeff Kaplan stated that despite the new PvE additions, the core team-based multiplayer competitive combat will remain the focus of the game. However, Overwatch 2 will move to a 5v5 format, removing one tank from competitive setups. To compensate, tanks will be buffed across the board, with resistance to knock backs, additional health, and new abilities, to help perform their more critical role.

In addition to all previous maps and modes, Overwatch 2 comes with a new mode dubbed "Push," where players have to protect a large robot moving across the map. Push will be a "core" game mode, used for Quick Play, Competitive, and even esports events.

Overwatch 2 will also feature updated visuals for all existing characters as well as new heroes, including Sojourn and Junker Queen. It's also set to feature an overhauled sound design with Dolby Atmos support and other advanced audio features like options for a home theater spatial sound configuration.

Importantly, owners of the original Overwatch will automatically get the Overwatch 2 Founder's Pack, which provides access to the new Overwatch 2 game client as well as an exclusive player icon, two epic skins, and other benefits. This ensures that all Overwatch players will have access to the same PvP experience. Also, longtime players can carry over all of the skins and unlocks acquired in the original Overwatch to Overwatch 2. Note that if you want to access the new PvE modes, though, you will need to purchase it.

Overwatch 2 beta: Release date and sign-ups

Orisa using her javelin in Overwatch 2.

(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

Ahead of Overwatch 2's Oct. 4 release date, Blizzard has plans to launch several Overwatch 2 beta tests. While participating in these tests, players can try out some of the new heroes coming to Overwatch 2 at launch, as well as new maps and hero balance changes. 

The first Overwatch 2 beta was exclusive to PC, but on June 28, Blizzard is releasing a second beta that will be available on console as well (the beta may also have crossplay, though we don't know for sure at this time). To have a chance at getting beta access yourself, you'll need to sign up for it on the official Overwatch 2 beta page. Note that if you were able to access the first beta, you'll automatically be able to play in the second. 

Once the second beta goes live, we expect that Blizzard will unveil more opportunities for players to get beta access if they weren't able to beforehand. Access may be given as rewards for watching official Overwatch 2 streams or the Overwatch League, for example.

Overwatch 2: Is it free-to-play?

(Image credit: Blizzard)

We've known since the announcement in 2019 that the PvE portion of Overwatch 2 will require a purchase. Recently, Blizzard announced that Overwatch 2 PvP, on the other hand, would be free-to-play, allowing gamers to jump into the award-winning experience completely free of charge. 

As previously mentioned, Blizzard is rewarding players that bought the original Overwatch with a free upgrade to Overwatch 2, along with a Founder's Pack bonus that includes a new player icon, two new Epic-tier hero skins, and other currently-undisclosed bonuses. 

Overwatch 2: Seasons and battle pass

A peek at a work-in-progress UI for Overwatch 2's battle pass.

(Image credit: Windows Central)

Along with the transition to free-to-play, Blizzard is also moving Overwatch 2 to a seasonal content model with nine-week long seasons and battle passes. Each new season will bring at least one new hero, map, or game mode (a new hero will come at least every other season, or around every 18 weeks), while each battle pass will offer 100 tiers of free and premium content that can be unlocked by earning XP through gameplay and challenges.

Overwatch 2's launch season will feature three new heroes and six new maps, including Sojourn, Junker Queen, and a new support hero Blizzard hasn't shown off yet. Season 2 will bring a new tank hero and map, while future seasons in 2023 will begin introducing PvE content.

In terms of what you can expect from Overwatch 2's battle passes, Blizzard has said that 30+ hero skins are coming alongside other cosmetics like emotes, sprays, weapon charms, and banners. Additionally, Overwatch 2 is introducing new Mythic skins, which are a tier above Legendary skins that allow for minor design alterations and color palette swaps. 

The battle pass replaces Overwatch's loot boxes as the primary way players unlock content in the game, though Overwatch 2 will have an in-game store that players can presumably use real money on. Given the game's free-to-play nature, the addition of a microtransaction shop isn't surprising.

Overwatch 2: Character roster and reworks

Overwatch 2 Mei

Source: Blizzard Entertainment (Image credit: Source: Blizzard Entertainment)

Overwatch 2 will feature all of the heroes from the original game, and all of your skins, unlocks, and other progress will carry forward. Players on the original Overwatch will still get matched with players from Overwatch 2, but to access new heroes you'll need to pick up the new game. It'll also feature new locations, including Gothenburg in Sweden, Toronto in Canada, Monte Carlo in Monaco, and more.

We have a full Overwatch character list that provides more details on how the characters play as of 2022. In addition, to reflect Overwatch 2's more "mobile" gameplay goals in a 5v5 environment, practically every class is getting new tools and changes.

Most, if not all, of the heroes will receive reworks. Here are some of the changes Blizzard is working with in the Overwatch 2 beta right now. Note that these will probably change in some way before launch.

  • Ana: Ana's sleep dart has been buffed to 15 seconds' worth of sleep time, but the healing aspect of her grenade has been nerfed to 60 points instead of 100.
  • Bastion: Bastion's Recon mode main weapon fire rate has been reduced by 50%, but the bullet spread has been reduced to zero, and the effective range has been increased. Bastion can now move while in sentry mode, and has unlimited ammo, although the damage has been reduced by 40%. Bastion has a new powerful ultimate called Artillery, by which he locks to the ground and can nuke three locations on the map. Bastion can no longer self repair, but now has a tactical grenade that sticks to enemies but bounces off walls, and causes a knock back.
  • Brigitte: Shield bash no longer stuns, but instead deals more damage at a longer range, and on a shorter cool down. Inspire's healing has also been nerfed.
  • Cassidy (McCree): Cassidy's Flashbang has been removed, and turned into a homing grenade that deals damage.
  • D.Va: D.Va's Defense Matrix now charges faster and lasts longer, and can move more quickly while in her firing mode. The bullet spread has also been reduced.
  • Doomfist: Doomfist has been completely overhauled, and converted into a tank. His hand cannon now charges more quickly, at the cost of reduced damage. Doomfist's new "Power Block" skill protects him from frontal damage, and charges up Rocket Punch into "Empowered Rocket Punch," which deals more damage, while traveling faster and farther. Uppercut has been removed, and replaced with Seismic Slam, which is a leap that deals damage and reduces movement speed of affected enemies. Rocket Punch now charges faster, but has reduced damage. Meteor Strike deals less damage, but also now slows enemies, and activates more quickly.
  • Junkrat: Junkrat hasn't received any changes, besides the fact enemies can now move slightly while trapped.
  • Mei: Mei can no longer freeze enemies with her main gun, which now only slows them down.
  • Mercy: Mercy's self-healing and primary healing have been reduced slightly.
  • Orisa: Orisa has been completely reworked as well. She now has a fusion main gun that uses a heat/overheat mechanic instead of ammo/reload. She also now has a javelin projectile that stuns enemies and knocks them back. Fortify provides Orisa with 125 additional temporary health, while slowing her movement by 20%. She can also spin her javelin to destroy incoming projectiles like rockets and bombs, while pushing enemies and increasing movement speed. Her new ultimate, Terra Surge, sweep enemies towards Orisa and charges her main gun to deal a surge of damage, while also triggering Fortify. Protective Barrier, Halt!, and Supercharger have been removed.
  • Reinhardt: Reinhardt's Fire Strike can now hold up to two charges, and his Charge skill has received some buffs to its minimum turning angle, making it easier to direct. Charge can now also be cancelled out of. Reinhardt also got some major survivability boosts, with his main shield going up to 1600 HP, alongside an armor buff to 200 points, and a health boost to 300 HP.
  • Sombra: Sombra has also received some major changes that lean towards nerfs. Her hack ability has gotten a reduced cooldown to 3 seconds, and now increases damage received by 50%. However, its ability lockout aspect has been reduced from 5 seconds down to 1 second. Hacked enemies can now be seen through walls for the whole team, and Sombra can now hack from stealth, although she'll be visible while doing so. Her machine pistol also received a damage nerf, but an accuracy buff. Stealth itself has also been nerfed. Players will be able to see Sombra from 4 meters, up from 2, and the fade in time has been reduced by half.
  • Zarya: Zarya hasn't had a huge rework to her kit, but there's a major change to her defensive bubbles. Zarya can now bubble herself twice, two allies, or an ally or herself as is the case in live, for added flexibility.
  • Zenyatta: Zenyatta has received a new "Snap Kick" passive that allows him to shove close-range enemies away with his melee, making it easier for him to hit shots and stay safe from ambushing foes.

Overwatch 2: Trailers

Here's a collection of all of the trailers and animated shorts that Blizzard has released for Overwatch 2 ahead of the game's launch.

Overwatch 2: Watchpoint Pack details

Bastion and Torbjorn fighting in Overwatch 2.

(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

Ahead of Overwatch 2's release, Blizzard has released the Overwatch 2: Watchpoint Pack, a special edition of the game that costs $40 and offers the following benefits:

  • Guaranteed access to the Overwatch 2 beta
  • Guaranteed access to Overwatch 2 Season 1's premium battle pass track
  • Two Overwatch 2 Legendary hero skins (Space Raider Soldier: 76 and Cassidy)
  • The five Legendary and Epic skins available in the original Overwatch: Legendary edition
  • 2,000 Overwatch 2 virtual currency
  • An exclusive Overwatch 2 player icon cosmetic

The pack is available now on all platforms Overwatch 2 will release on, including Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs. 

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Overwatch 2: Watchpoint Pack

The $40 Overwatch 2: Watchpoint Pack offers fans a variety of benefits that will allow them to get guaranteed access to the game's beta, unlock some unique rewards, provide some in-game currency to use when Overwatch 2 launches, and more.

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Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

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