Since the release of Overwatch back in May of this year, numerous arguments concerning its similarities and differences to Team Fortress 2 (TF2) have emerged across the internet as fans of each have attempted to vouch for their game of choice. Team Fortress 2 fans in particular have been known to accuse Overwatch of being a clone, while Overwatch fans have been more than willing to retaliate. Although comparisons can be entertaining and sometimes useful to some, it has long since shifted from civil discussion to toxic internet wars.
To start, what do these two games have in common? Why are they being compared so readily?
TF2 and Overwatch are both class-based first-person-shooter games, with TF2 being credited as the “grand-daddy of the genre” after maintaining a monopoly since 2007. Overwatch utilizes a 6v6 match system that organizes players into servers without requiring them to manually search through a server list, as players have needed to in the past with Team Fortress 2. However, after TF2’s addition of the 6v6 competitive mode in the recent ‘Meet Your Match’ update, the playing-field to compare the two titles has been leveled in some ways. In addition to this similarity, both games feature objective-based maps, including the popular payload game mode present in both games.
Some have also argued that some of the 22 characters in Overwatch are ‘copies’ of TF2’s 9 character classes. Others claim there are no parallels between the games at all. Personally, I think there are common traits and play-styles between the titles, but no Overwatch hero is a ‘clone’ of a TF2 class. An important thing to note is that play styles in Overwatch are modified by changing characters while Team Fortress 2 players can change weapons to alter a class to match their play-style, although the stock weapons tend to be the most balanced.
For me, characters are often what attracts me to a specific fandom. Although it may sound odd, considering the nature of the game, the characters in TF2 have been one of the biggest reasons why I’ve been unable to put the game down for the past few months. This is the same reason why I’ve taken an interest in Overwatch. Although I enjoy the gameplay itself, the characters have really made these games special for me. It would be ridiculous to ignore the similarities between the characters in these games, yet they all present their own unique strengths, weaknesses, and personalities that set them apart from one another. That being said, I want the focus of this article to be on the characters rather than any other inevitable similarities these games have due to being part of the same genre.
Unfortunately, there are so many fantastic heroes in Overwatch that there are simply too many to compare every single trait they may have in common with a TF2 class. For the purpose of this article, we are only going to be looking at the heroes with the traits that are most similar to a TF2 character, starting with the most underappreciated healers.
Mercy vs Medic
One thing players of these characters have in common is their frequent frustrations with other players misusing the support they receive from these two healers – any Mercy after a wasted ultimate or a Medic after a wasted Ubercharge could tell you this. That’s before teammates spam the signal to call for their healers.
Mercy is an incredibly mobile character, able to use her Guardian Angel ability to quickly reach injured heroes. Her wings also allow her to slow her fall from a higher location. Mercy’s primary weapon is her Caduceus Staff, able to heal her team or grant an attack buff, making her one of the most effective healers in the game. Her ultimate, Resurrect, can also revive nearby dead teammates at once. One of her biggest weaknesses, however, is her lack of offensive ability. With only the Caduceus Blaster, about as deadly as a spitball launcher, to defend herself with, she can become an easy target for enemies.
Medic doesn’t have the same mobility as Mercy but is equally important to his team. His ability to over-heal allies can make it much harder for the enemy team to get kills, especially when paired with Heavy’s high base health. While Team Fortress 2 does not have ultimate abilities, Medic does have the Ubercharge, capable of granting 8 seconds of invincibility to a player using the stock Medi Gun. Medic is better equipped to defend himself than Mercy with his arsenal of bonesaws and syringe guns but he still isn’t the best offence class in the game. Like Mercy, Medic is a target for enemies due to his role in the game.
While they serve a similar role in assisting their teams, their mannerisms are quite different. Mercy is a pacifist that only joined Overwatch to help people on a larger scale, explaining her desire to heal rather than harm and her limited attack abilities. Medic, on the other hand, had his medical licence revoked and has a morbid curiosity that lends to bizarre experiments and a lack of respect for human life as a whole.
Torbjorn & Symmetra vs Engineer
What do these three characters have in common? All of them use sentry guns to deal damage; two of them can also build teleporters. Because sentry guns stay in place, this lends to these characters taking on defensive and supporting roles rather than the front-line attack.
To start, let’s take a look at Torbjorn.
Torbjorn places turrets that are very similar to the sentry guns in Team Fortress 2 and can be upgraded with his hammer. The hammer can also be used to attack if needed. He also has the Rivet Gun to score some kills to gather scrap for upgrading his turret and creating armor packs. This mechanic can encourage players to leave their turret’s side to get some manual kills.
Symmetra is more of a support character compared to both Torbjorn and Engineer, who serve a defensive role, but her Sentry Turret and Photon Projector gun give her enough damage capabilities to hold her own. Unlike the other two characters, she has the Photon Shield to protect allies with as a greater incentive to branch out to her team rather than remaining stationary. The Sentry Turret is, unlike Torbjorn’s Turret, focused on reducing speed rather than dealing high damage.
Engineer’s role in Team Fortress 2 is a bit of a mix between Torbjorn and Symmetra’s roles in Overwatch, along with his own quirks. Engineer’s default Sentry Gun is a lot like Torbjorn’s and his wrench can be used for both upgrades and defence like the hammer. With the Gunslinger equipped, he quickly builds a Mini-Sentry that shoots faster than a standard Sentry Gun but comes at the cost of lower damage per bullet and less durability. Engineer can also build a teleporter to help transport allies to the front line much faster and can build a Dispenser to provide ammunition, scrap metal, and health for himself and his team. Unlike Torbjorn and Symmetra, Engineer tends to stick to his Sentry-guarded camp spot.
All three characters may utilize a similar arsenal of weapons, yet the ways these abilities are used in their respective games vary. As far as their backstories go, Torbjorn was actually responsible for inventing more machines than Engineer, even though Engineer has 11 PhDs. Instead, Engineer often used his grandfather’s blueprints. Symmetra is an architect rather than an inventor like Torbjorn and Engineer, but her dedication is just as admirable. The one thing they all have in common as characters is their great intelligence and excellent skill in their craft.
Junkrat vs Demoman
Junkrat and Demoman utilize many of the same tactics on the battlefield, excluding Demoman’s “Demoknight” loadout that restricts him to using only a sword and shield. Using Demoman’s standard arsenal of explosives, he and Junkrat are some of the most similar of all the characters in terms of play-style.
Junkrat’s Frag Launcher fires grenades that explode after three bounces or as soon as they strike an enemy. He can also place a Concussion Mine to lay a trap for an enemy, or he can even launch himself into the air for added mobility. The RIP Tire, a remote controlled bomb, sends a spinning tire hurling in the direction of his choice, allowing him to detonate it at will or ten seconds after activating his ultimate to deal damage to players in another area of the map while remaining at his previous location.
Similar to Junkrat, Demoman uses his Grenade Launcher to fire grenades into the enemy lines for devastating area-of-effect damage output. His Sticky Bombs can be strategically placed in doorways to booby-trap a choke point. Demoman can detonate these bombs when it is most convenient to do so, unlike his grenades that detonate after a bounce. Like Junkrat’s Concussion Mine, Demoman can use Sticky Bombs to send himself flying into the air for added mobility, yet this comes at a cost to his health.
While Demoman and Junkrat may play similarly in game, their mannerisms as characters are completely different. While Junkrat is a radiation-poisoned criminal with an obsession for bombs and causing international chaos, Demoman is simply continuing the family trade passed down from his parents. Demoman’s parents were both demolition experts and they raised their son to follow in their footsteps. Although he may enjoy explosions, some of his passion stems from alcoholism and avoiding trouble with his mom rather than the rush of global terrorism and desire for revenge against the Omnics that Junkrat experiences.
Zarya & Roadhog vs Heavy
One obvious similarity between Heavy and Zarya is that they are both strong and Russian. Heavy’s size is also a characteristic he shares with Roadhog; they both suffer from low mobility and are easy targets due to their size. Rather than having one clear parallel, little characteristics of Heavy are seen in quite a few Overwatch heroes; the most notable ones are present in Zarya and Roadhog
Zarya has the Particle Canon as her main weapon, enabling her to deal damage at close range. Her alternate-fire enables her to pick off enemies at further distances than her primary-fire. The Particle Canon also enables her to provide herself with a shield, and her secondary ability allows her to place one on an ally, providing her with a buff when it absorbs damage. She can also use her ultimate to ensnare enemies in her Gravity Bomb that both halts and damages the affected enemies.
Roadhog, like Heavy, is incredibly slow compared to his allies and is also an easy target due to his size. Fortunately, he has high health to help offset this weakness. Roadhog’s primary means of attack are at close range, using his Scrap Gun to either shoot a cone of shrapnel in front of him, or fire a small ball of debris that will detonate at a distance. His hook allows him to make up for his poor mobility by pulling an enemy right in front of him, setting them up for his close range attacks. Roadhog can also restore some of his health with an inhaler. His ultimate allows him to shoot shrapnel that knocks back enemies for a short time.
Heavy is an easy target for Snipers and Spies, due to his size and low mobility, especially when his minigun is revved up. Heavy’s damage output is best at close range and falls off with distance, much like Roadhog and Zarya’s primary-fire. Also like Roadhog, Heavy can fully restore his health if he uses his Sandvich, regenerating 30 seconds after use. He can also drop it to be used as medium health pack for an ally, but enemies can also take advantage of it if given the opportunity. Heavy’s melee abilities consist of swinging his fists, a tactic not used frequently in matches.
In terms of personality, Roadhog is nothing like Zarya and Heavy. He’s a radiation-poisoned bodyguard bent on destruction and crime. On the other hand, Zarya is a world-class bodybuilder that gave up her chance at fame to protect her loved ones from war in her home in Siberia. Heavy, like Zarya, saved his family from the gulags during the Russian Revolution that his father lost his life in. His family then hid in the rural mountains of Siberia and Heavy took to providing for them. Both Heavy and Zarya are strong, dedicated fighters that selflessly protect their loved ones from harm, making them alike in both personality and game-play.
Tracer & Reaper vs Scout & Spy
As much as many would be inclined to compare Scout to Tracer for their great speed advantage and low health, Reaper’s weapon choice and play style are closer to Scout than Tracer. Tracer’s ability to get behind the enemy lines with great ease makes her more like Spy, although her play-style is still drastically different. While these four characters may share common gameplay characteristics, they all have very different playstyles.
Tracer is one of the fastest Overwatch heroes (surprisingly, Lucio is technically faster according to numerical data) and this speed makes her incredibly mobile. Her Blink ability recharges every few seconds, providing her with short speed bursts that send her ahead by a few meters. Tracer can also rewind time for herself alone, sending her back to her previous position along with the health and ammo she had at that time. These movement abilities with her pistols make it very easy for her to duck behind enemy lines, considering how critical tactics are to playing her well. Finally, Tracer’s Pulse Bomb can adhere to a surface to catch an enemy by surprise after a short delay.
Quite possibly the edgiest character in both Overwatch and Team Fortress 2, Reaper uses shotguns as his primary attack weapon. Rather than reloading these, he simply discards them after firing the combined eight shots from both guns. He’s too hardcore to use the same gun twice, after all. When combat tides turn against him, Reaper can use Wraith Form to become immune to enemy attacks and to pass through foes, although he is unable to attack while doing so. Using Shadow Step essentially lets him teleport to a destination of his choice. His ultimate, Death Blossom, empties both shotguns in rapid succession, damaging all enemies in range.
Scout, most commonly known for his speed, is most effective with flanking and hit-and-run tactics. The Scattergun is his weapon of choice, along with a pistol as a secondary weapon, and a baseball bat as his melee. His high speed makes it easy for him to rush over to his target and deal damage with whichever weapon the player finds most suitable and duck to safety as quickly as they arrived. Although he has lower health than the other classes, his speed can offset this weakness, even in a one-on-one encounter with a Heavy.
No character in Overwatch truly plays like Spy. Spy can disguise himself as an enemy player by selecting a disguise from his kit, or he can take on the appearance of an enemy, which includes any hats and cosmetics they may have. Spy can also turn himself invisible to make it easier for him to sneak up behind his target to backstab them with his butterfly knife. For farther targets, he can shoot his revolver to land a clean kill. He has low health, yet his ability to kill enemies in one hit via backstab makes him incredibly deadly. The only Overwatch character that truly has a play-style somewhat like Spy’s is Tracer due to her low health and ability to slip behind enemy lines to score kills. Much like Spy, Tracer requires plenty of strategic maneuvering to be played well.
In terms of personality, Tracer is a brave young woman willing to take risks and do what’s right no matter what. In stark contrast, Reaper is a mercenary lurking in the shadows, targeting Overwatch heroes from the original organization for unknown reasons. Scout is the youngest of eight boys, having learned from a young age that he needed to be fast to survive and sporting a boisterous attitude that makes him hard to ignore. Spy takes the opposite strategy, using stealth and deception instead. Unlike Scout, Spy is also incredibly smooth with women and has even managed to seduce Scout’s mom. Other than how reserved the character is or is not, none of them have a lot in common.
Widowmaker & Hanzo vs Sniper
A good shooter game wouldn’t be complete without a good sniper class; Overwatch and Team Fortress 2 are no exceptions.
Widowmaker’s gun functions as a sniper rifle or fully-automatic gun when the situation calls for it, ensuring she can pick off distant targets yet not leaving her defenceless if an enemy comes too close. Her Grappling Hook can help her go soaring away from the danger, but can also be useful for setting her up for a better vantage point. The Venom Mine can also be left for enemies to trigger, leaving poison in its wake. Infra-Sight, her ultimate, allows her entire team to see the heatmaps of the enemy team through walls for a short amount of time.
Hanzo’s standard attack is firing his bow, which may remind some players of Sniper’s Huntsman. Unlike the Huntsman, Hanzo can use different arrows that significantly differ from his standard shot. The Sonic Arrow ability marks any enemy in the radius of the attack, making them easier to himself and his team to land their blows. Scatter Arrow sends an arrow forward that then splits into fragments that can bound off of walls and obstacles to strike multiple targets. His ultimate, Dragonstrike, sends a dragon spirit in a straight line in front of him, damaging any enemy it hits on its path. It even passes through walls.
Sniper uses a sniper rifle (it’d be disappointing if he didn’t) to take out enemies. With careful aim, he can even take down a Heavy at full health with a headshot. Using the Huntsman instead of the standard loadout gives him a bow, providing the player with a different shooting experience. Sniper can equip jarate, a jar of pee, as a weapon to throw at players, making affected enemies take critical hits from all attacks until its effects wear off or are removed by an ally. His kukri blade can also protect him from a close-encounter, but his best work is done from afar.
While Widowmaker plays more like Sniper with his standard rifle, Hanzo plays more like Sniper with a Huntsman equipped. As for personality, both Sniper and Widowmaker take their work seriously and work hard to take out their targets. Hanzo, while also being an assassin, has a duty to rule an empire that takes a toll on his time.
Soldier 76 & Pharah vs Soldier
These offence characters can often be found at the front lines, dealing splash damage with their main weapons to keep the enemy at bay. Their mobility is average, yet gains a major advantage with the tactical use of abilites and weapons.
Soldier 76’s main weapon is fully-automatic gun, supported by his Helix Rockets to deal area-of-effect damage. His Sprint ability can help him close gaps and keep targets within range, as well as helping him escape if needed. Tactical Visor, his ultimate, locks his aim onto a target in his field of vision, making it much easier to eliminate foes. The Biotic Field, once deployed, provides a zone that gradually heals both himself and allies in range, allowing him to both deal damage and passively assist his team.
Pharah primarily attacks with a rocket launcher, dealing area-of-effect damage. She can also use the jets on her suit to let her fly in the air. While rocket jumping is possible with Pharah, her Jump Jet ability does this job more effectively for her than adopting the same rocket jumping tactic used by Soldier players. Concussive Blast knocks back every enemy caught in the blast range, providing her with damage, mobility, and crowd control that can be devastating. Finally, her ultimate, Barrage, shoots many rockets to flatten the enemy lines.
Like Pharah, Soldier can dish out area-of-effect damage with his rockets that can quickly shatter a front line. The same rockets can also be used to rocket jump, shooting at the ground to send Soldier into the air for much greater mobility. This does come at a cost to his health; a poorly aimed jump could easily lead to death. He also has a shotgun and a shovel in his arsenal, but his most effective damage is done with his rockets. Like Soldier 76’s Sprint, Soldier can equip the Disciplinary Action to give himself and an ally a significant speed boost.
All three characters are driven by duty, yet Soldier is not so sane in his reasoning, unlike Soldier 76 and Pharah. Rather than having a personal agenda or a valid military duty to carry out, like 76 and Pharah respectively, Soldier deludedly believes himself to be a soldier despite never having officially served in the army. While Pharah truly served her country’s military force as a peacekeeper like her mother had been, Soldier sent himself on a Nazi killing spree during WWII and awarded himself medals he crafted to commemorate his supposed acts of heroism.
Mei vs Pyro
Mei and Pyro both use elemental attacks to take down their foes, yet they use their abilities to serve different roles on the team.
At short range, Mei can shoot a concentrated blast of frost to slow, and eventually freeze, an enemy in place. For medium range, the Endothermic Blaster can also fire icicles. Paying homage to her backstory, Mei can re-enter her Cyro-Freeze state to heal and avoid all damage but also stopping her from attacking or moving. To control the map, an ice wall can be put up, stopping enemies and allies alike from passing until the wall eventually falls. Her ultimate shares the name of the company producing the game, Blizzard, which slows and damages enemies. Enemies caught in it for too long will take more damage and be frozen solid.
Pyro’s flamethrower can, at a somewhat short range, cause harm to the enemy long after they are gone as burn damage drains the enemy’s health. On the other hand, Pyro can use an airblast (similar to a sound blast from Lucio’s Sonic Amplifier) to either extinguish allies on fire or to push enemies back, sometimes off of a cliff if given the opportunity. They can also use a shotgun and fire axe to take down enemies, yet many non-default items will guarantee critical hits when used against enemies already set ablaze in exchange for an elimination of random critical hits.
While both Pyro and Mei utilize element-based attacks, Mei is of sound mind, unlike Pyro. Mei, a lot like Captain America, froze herself in a laboratory failure that threatened her survival. She proceeded to continue her climate research and innovations on her own after being found. Pyro, on the other hand, sees the world through the lens of Pyroland: a mystical place in their mind filled with rainbows, bubbles, and other happy things. They fail to see that the “bubbles and laughter” they see are really flames and screams.
Another interesting thing to is the difference in setting and atmosphere of Overwatch and Team Fortress 2. Team Fortress 2 is set in New Mexico in 1968, often utilizing desert settings with rustic barns for RED Team’s base and some more modern architecture for BLU Team’s base. Some maps feature snow or non-American locations, but they are not as common as the desert maps. Overwatch, in stark contrast, has maps in locations all over the world with settings ranging from bustling modern cities reflecting the 2070’s setting of the game to quieter landscapes. Many of the maps feature the highly advanced, futuristic technology of the game’s era as well. Since Overwatch is set roughly 100 years after Team Fortress 2, the settings of the games are completely different, lending to a different atmospheric feel.
While Overwatch and Team Fortress 2, as expected, exhibit some common gameplay features, the characters from these two games are hardly the same. Even when significant similarities exist between two characters, the personality and ‘feel’ are completely different. Because both games display so many differences between the characters and the gameplay itself, they both hold their own places within the market for class-based first-person-shooters; neither game outshines the other. Smaller communities are enthusiastically embracing both titles, and I count myself among them. I can’t wait to see how both games and their communities will fare in the years to come!