What happened when a ten-year TF2 veteran tried to play Overwatch

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I’m late to the Overwatch party. Instead of running around Blizzard’s colourful worlds for the last year I stayed in my comfort zone: Team Fortress 2. It’s been my go to game since I started PC gaming, and I’ve racked up nearly 400 hours in it. 

Related: keep abreast with Overwatch's new heroes

But after watching hundreds of suitably flashy gifs on the Overwatch subreddit earlier this month, I decided I’d had enough waiting, and took the plunge. I’d read a lot of pieces comparing the two games and their characters, and Blizzard clearly took lessons from Valve’s multiplayer masterpiece. So it got me thinking: would my time in TF2 benefit me in Overwatch? 

I focussed my first ten hours or play on four characters that had most similarities to my favourite TF2 classes to find out. 

Torbjörn (Overwatch) and Engineer (TF2)

Torbjorn

Engie

One is a muscle-bound Viking dwarf with a bionic arm, the other a soft-spoken Texan who calls his enemies “corn cakes”. But they both share one important passion: turrets.

Functionally, their gadgets work in the same way – you throw down a low-level gun and hit it with your melee weapon to upgrade it. The Engineer’s has three levels to Torbjörn’s two in regular play – but Torbjörn’s ultimate ability upgrades his turret one stage further, so they’re virtually the same in that respect.

Both turrets pump out damage and auto-aim, so all the skill comes in placing them in the right positions. TF2 prepared me well for this – I avoided the noob trap of flinging them down in the open, keeping them sheltered behind at least light cover so they could fire on enemies without being taken down. Pretty simple stuff.

However, I found myself playing far too passively. As an Engineer, you’re constantly tending to your dispenser and teleporters alongside your turret – as Torbjorn, I was just twiddling my thumbs and flinging out the odd armour pack. What I hadn’t quite realised was the power of Torbjorn's rivet gun, which fires molten lava in an arc or, if you right click, in a tight shotgun-style spread. 

That is essentially his main source of DPS. It’s a completely different mindset to playing Engineer and took a lot of getting used to. The rivet gun puts out a surprising amount of hurt at mid range, provided you can land headshots, which is easier said than done. 

Success as Torbjorn seems, to my eye, to rely on getting good with this weapon – and I’m not there yet. There isn't a comparable gun in TF2, and I'm still getting used to its projectile drop off, as well as when to use its primary and secondary fire. Until I can consistently land headshots, my well-placed turrets will do some work – but I'll be far less useful to my team than I am as an Engineer.

Hanzo (Overwatch) and Hunstman Sniper (TF2)

Hanzo

Sniper

Hanzo may not carry a jar of piss around to soak enemies with, but he’s pretty similar to TF2’s Sniper, specifically when our favourite Aussie is using his Hunstman.

Both characters have bow and arrows that require you to aim ahead of your target in order to land a shot. For new players used to firing guns, it can feel a bit alien. But perhaps partly because of my experience with Sniper I instantly started scoring well with Hanzo, getting gold medals for eliminations in two out of my first three games with him. 

Mechanically, there are differences between the two weapons. Hanzo’s arrows travel much faster than Sniper’s, placing his Storm Bow halfway between the Hunstman and a hitscan weapon. That makes it, from my experience, less spammable – a quicker travel time gives enemies less chance to simply walk into your arrows when you shoot at a likely spot, as you can often do in TF2. But these are differences of degrees, not fundamental shifts.

Both heroes are also most effective at similar mid-range distances, sitting behind or above your tanks, and so positioning felt natural. And it helps that Hanzo’s abilities are also easy to understand and use: you can’t really go wrong with Sonic Arrow, which reveals enemy locations, his Scatter Arrows are fairly situational, so I got away with using them sparingly, and his ultimate is straightforward.

Hanzo ultimate

It did take a bit of time to get used to Hanzo’s Wall Climb ability, which sees him scamper up the side of buildings to gain the higher ground. It’s the kind of manoeuvrability that the Sniper lacks.

I also haven’t quite got the knack of headshots – perhaps because I’m used to TF2’s notoriously large hit boxes. But I’m getting there. Playing Hunstman has given me a solid grounding in bow and arrow combat, and I’ll make a decent Hanzo yet.

Bastion (Overwatch) and Heavy (TF2)

Bastion

Heavy

The internet told me that Bastion was the nearest comparable hero to TF2’s heavy weapons guy, and so I believed it. But while both have weapons that can shred enemies in seconds, they play very differently, as I quickly found out.

The huge Russian is hardly mobile but he can at least move, unlike Bastion in his sentry form, which took some getting used to. I wanted to try and push around corners as you can with Heavy, but was immediately shut down. Run in when in recon configuration and your damage output isn’t high enough; plonk yourself down and you’re a sitting duck.

I soon learnt to use Bastion more defensively than I’d ever done with Heavy, bedding down in strategic positions, revving up, killing a few enemies, and moving to a different spot. 

However, I really had no reference for where to position myself – nothing that I could take from my TF2 days. Sometimes I’d find a good spot where I could catch enemies off guard, but more often than not I seemed to stand out like a beacon, come under fire, and have to retreat.

Sure, when you mow down a line of hopeless enemies, spurting out hundreds of bullets, it’s easy to see where the comparisons come from. But the likeness is more visual than strategic and if I’m honest, my time as Heavy has been of little help for succeeding as Bastion save for learning to track enemies with my mouse, which I could’ve done in any FPS.

I’ve tried other tanks to see if there’s any crossover, and Orisa was probably the closest I found, but she and the others are so reliant on their abilities that controlling them feels like a different world. Which, after all, it is.

Mercy (Overwatch) and Medic (TF2)

Mercy

Medic

This was the one I was most excited about. Medic is my favourite TF2 character, and I’ve ploughed more than 100 hours into the class and tens more watching pros to pick up tips. I consider myself to be a solid healer – it’s the only class I can consistently shine with in the game’s competitive mode.

So I held high hopes for Mercy. Her Caduceus staff has the same beam-based mechanics as the Medic’s Medi Gun: aim in the direction of an ally, click, and voila –  health. 

With that knowledge alone I was able to make decent progress. From my time with TF2 I’m used to keeping a careful eye on my team mate’s health bars, prioritising heals for those in immediate danger, and ensuring I keep peripheral characters topped up before intense firefights. Switching to damage boost when everybody was fully healed felt like a natural progression of the Medic’s overheal mechanic, which allows him to boost health above 100%.

Another benefit of playing as Medic was that I was able to avoid a lot of damage. I was more cautious than most, making sure I had solid objects – Rheinhart’s shield or, preferably, a brick wall – between me and the enemy team. I even got used to popping Guardian Angel to fly away from danger when it all got too hot.

So far, so good. But there’s one thing I can’t get my head around: avoiding flankers. I simply don’t know the maps well enough yet, and just when I think I’m on a good run a Tracer or Reaper will emerge from an opening I didn’t know existed and blast me in the face before I can fly away. 

Mechanically, the Medic has prepared me well – but there’s no getting away from the fact that playing as Mercy requires you to learn the maps better than perhaps any other character. I still don’t know every bend of Route 66, or all the best flanking routes on Ilios. Sadly, that will just take time – and no amount of TF2 experience can change that.

So, there you have it. TF2 has given me some advantages getting started in Overwatch, particularly with Hanzo, and moving from one to the other feels like a natural move for anybody that enjoys team-based shooters. 

But when it comes to mastering the nuances of Blizzard’s heroes, there’s going to be no substitute for practise. It’s very much its own game, and in 400 hours’ time I’m sure I’ll still be learning new tricks.

Have you had a similar experience moving between the two games? Are there any skills you’ve picked up in one that are directly attributable to other? If so, leave a comment below.

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the house of rotation avatarmark-henry avatarflickaboogeronu avatarthreePwny avatarBlizzard avatarfturla avatar+7
flickaboogeronu Avatar
5
3 Weeks ago

How have you played that game for 10 years but only have 400 hours lol

5
threePwny Avatar
4
3 Weeks ago

I hate to be that guy, but is 400 hours in a decade-old game really veteran material? I've sunk over 800 hours in Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel, neither of which is even half TF2's age. And most the time, I still feel like a complete noob, still discovering different mechanics and watching YouTubers and Redditors demonstrate things I never knew about.

Is TF2 just a simpler game, or am I really a veteran who just exclusively surrounds myself with people better than me? Oh my God, am I a sub?

4
Samuel Horti Avatar
3
3 Weeks ago

Thanks for the comment - I'm very much still picking up things in TF2! But I've got (what I hope is) a decent grasp of the mechanics of the game and the way the characters work.

I'll have to get back into B2, played it for about 10 hours and can see why people can sink hundreds of hours into it.

1
SkankwOn Avatar
77
3 Weeks ago

400 hours is not veteran in any game my friend...

I have over 1,000 hours in BF4 (and similar amounts of hours in BF3, BFBC2, BF2, UT2k4, UT2k3 and UT) so I consider myself a Battlefield and Unreal Tournament veteran.

Still suck of course .... nah :p

1
the house of rotation Avatar
3
3 Weeks ago

As someone who played 3800 hours of tf2 (almost entirely trolldier/soldier, demo, and medic, in that order), I had a somewhat similar experience transitioning to Overwatch. I found Pharah was essentially just an easier version of gunboat soldier, Junkrat was like demoman with some relatively lower mobility (but as a plus, you take no self damage from your jump pad), and Mercy felt like a more engaging medic.

Now that I've gotten more comfortable with Overwatch, I've actually found I don't really play any of these classes anymore. Mercy is the only character out of the three I started on that I still play sometimes, but I actually have more time on every other healer than her now.

Oddly enough, my favorite character to play with (excluding the 4 healers) is now Tracer. The way you kill enemies with her is completely different than as trolldier, but the mentality to playing both is very similar. They both require a lot of movement-based skill to stay alive, and they play similarly, in the sense that you want to get in, deal massive burst damage, and get out before anyone can punish you. Hope your transition to Overwatch continues smoothly!

3
Samuel Horti Avatar
3
3 Weeks ago

Thanks! Sounds like I'll find more similarities as I play more, judging by your experience. Interesting that you bounced off the three heroes with most similarities to your favourite TF2 characters...

1
Mischail Avatar
2
6 Days ago

As it mentioned many times before:

ten-year TF2 veteran -> I’ve racked up nearly 400 hours in it.

Usually people under 800 hours considered as complete noobs in tf2.

2
mark-henry Avatar
2
3 Weeks ago

There's a possible error in the opening and the closing paragraph. It says that the author has racked up 400 hours in TF2. If the author is truly a veteran, the correct value is 4000 (four thousand) hours; four hundred is just a few months of play and I'm confident that this expertise could not have been built in that time.

1
Blizzard Avatar
1
3 Weeks ago

Maybe next time as an engie you could be more mobile. I'm just saying it's not like there is a offensive wrench that allows you to get in the fight with everybody and support them at the same time...(gunslinger)...(also don't pull up the stock reason with me because you abandoned that with the huntsman).

1
fturla Avatar
3
3 Weeks ago

I can't say I want to play Overwatch just yet since I prefer trapping and long range sniping rather than instant kills or up close melee combat. At this point only the walling ability of the Mei character appeals to me but then I don't like the way she needs to be up close to finish a kill off. Once I can find out the timings of the abilities for the character I may play can I feel that I can put more time into the game but at this point there isn't enough customization in the game to validate for myself that I can make this game my own in terms of unique combat play.

1
Samuel Horti Avatar
3
3 Weeks ago

Have you looked at Widowmaker? She's a pure sniper whose can grapple hook to vantage points across the map. She deals a lot of damage and virtually none of it is close range

1
panbient Avatar
142
3 Weeks ago

That Rivet Gun from the first character sounds a lot like a combination of a few Pyro pieces. The arc sounds quite similar to the Flare Gun and

the shotgun version sounds like it might function like a visual version of the secondary / air blast on most of the flamethrowers.

And I've played almost as much Pyro as the author has apparently played TF2. Which reminds me, it might be time to revisit the ol' Dustbowl.

1
huldu Avatar
240
3 Weeks ago

I never even played TF2 for that long, maybe 3-4 years and ended up close to 2000 hours. Unlike these people I was a qwtf/q3f vet. TF2 was just never that great imo, but there was literally nothing else that even came close to team fortress style gameplay. I've not played overwatch nor do I see myself doing it. I'm just getting too old(40) for that type of play.

1
|☩| Kako [G.E.W.H.] Avatar
1

I wonder how long it took you to get a game in competitive...

1
★UP |Boophly Avatar
1
1 Week ago

like if you are a tf2 veteran would you have more than 400 hours in the game like i have played ot fpr 3 years and have over 1000 hours

1