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Feature Article

From PC to Console: Can Overwatch Make the Jump?

Still frantic.

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In 2013, Blizzard made one thing clear: console players would not be left in the dark when it came to Diablo III. The traditionally PC-focused developer released the action-RPG on last generation platforms before bringing it to PS4 and Xbox One as well. And aside from several features that didn't make the jump, Diablo III was largely intact in its new form.

With Overwatch, Blizzard hopes to repeat that success. It's the studio's first foray into the first-person shooter genre, and since the halcyon days of PC shooters such as Team Fortress 2 and Counterstrike, consoles have spawned their own committed FPS communities. The studio wants to take advantage of that fact.

We recently spent time with Overwatch on PS4 and Xbox One. In terms of content, the console variants will be identical to their PC cousin--maps and characters remain the same, and updates will, by and large, release simultaneously. But the overall experience differs when you swap mouse and keyboard with bumper buttons and analog sticks.

The first thing I noticed was the analog sticks' sensitivity. The controller's aiming function is obviously slower than that of a mouse, which can execute 180 degree turns at a moment's notice--but even with a level playing field, when all players are using controllers, the default sensitivity felt a little slow after my time on PC. Overwatch is a fast-paced game, so by increasing the camera's responsiveness a few notches, I lined up more headshots with the sniper Widowmaker, supported my team faster as Lucío, and lobbed Junkrat's grenades with higher accuracy.

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The increased sensitivity helped me acclimate, but thankfully, Overwatch's characters are varied and dynamic enough that skill isn't always a factor to begin with. Unlike the precision required when playing a character such as the archer Hanzo, others functioned just as well on my DualShock 4 as they did with a mouse. Winston the tank, with his leaping and melee abilities, is a prime example. So too is Torbjorn the builder. They feel tailored to Overwatch's matches regardless of the platform.

One other scenario prompted me to customize the controls a bit. Certain characters have more abilities than my DualShock 4 felt suited for. Mercy the healer, for instance, has a secondary pistol she can switch to. On PC, that action is as simple as tapping Q, or any key you see fit to map it to. On the controller, however, options were more limited--the weapon swap was consigned to the right directional button by default. This meant removing my thumb from the analog stick during crucial firefights.

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I didn't have time to remap the ability to another button during our demo, but when the game enters open beta, I'll likely move the weapon-swap to the triangle button, which activates the hero's ultimate ability by default. It was a minor complaint to begin with, and customization options mitigated it almost entirely.

By and large, Overwatch feels like a natural fit for consoles. Its firefights are fast-paced. Its characters control smoothly. Its maps are just as easy to navigate with analog sticks as they are with a keyboard and mouse. Like it did with Diablo, Blizzard is taking pains to support the console community, despite the studio's focus on PC in earlier years.

Overwatch enters open beta on May 3 on all available platforms. Until then, we'll keep playing the PC version as we get more familiar with the maps, the characters, and all of their abilities.

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Mike Mahardy

Writer and Host. New Yorker. Enthusiast of gin, cilantro, and rock and roll.
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