Before we begin, this article is not designed to ignite a flame war between die-hard fans of each platform, this is simply an unbiased look into how Blizzy’s wildly popular new team-based shooter translates itself on these two quite different platforms.
I originally played Overwatch during the closed beta on PS4 back in early May and boy was I hooked; I couldn’t regret my purchase of the $200 collector’s edition even if I tried. Upon launch I had clocked almost 300 hours on the console version in both the Quick Play and Competitive modes before I made the crazy decision to build my first gaming PC (primarily for the purpose of Blizzard games). I have since been playing on PC (with around 50 hours under my belt at the time of writing), and I feel that having had a decent amount of time on each platform gives me a valid edge in writing this little unbiased versus piece.
Straight off the bat, Overwatch is a game that transitions equally well on both PS4 and PC. The reason for this has a lot to do with Blizzard having dedicated teams working on both versions in regards to balancing specifically for a mouse and keyboard versus a controller. The result of this is two similar, yet entirely different versions of the game that perform well on the respective platforms. Console Overwatch feels like a slower-paced Call of Duty thanks to the addition of aim assist (which consoles need for shooters to be quite frank, the level of fluidity using thumb sticks simply doesn’t hold up to how a mouse translates on screen). I love CoD and I had a blast with the Crucible mode in Destiny, which also feels similar to how Overwatch handles – it’s standard console shooter fare but with that ever so addictive gameplay that Overwatch delivers in spades. The PC version is a much faster experience than its console counterpart, but both work well for the tools that we use to play them.
Despite the fact that both versions are brilliant, it is becoming clear that the slightly better Overwatch experience is on PC, and since switching I have certainly enjoyed the faster pace and more frenetic action more so than on console. This is due to a variety of factors, some subjective and some not so subjective. One thing I have noticed for instance is that some heroes just perform better when controlled with a keyboard and mouse. Take Pharah for example, one hero I hated playing on PS4. I simply couldn’t get the hang of all the twisting and turning mid-air (I even had my sensitivity up in the 80s) and found myself being shot down a hell of a lot. Playing her on the PC version I am having a blast; the fluidity of the mouse has made all that missile lobbing so much easier and hell, I even get a PoTG now and then with her! Other heroes translate better as well, especially the snipers. Widowmaker is able to do much crazier things during a firefight with her grappling hook than she can on console, which again, is simply down to the fact that the Dualshock 4 controller doesn’t have the precision of a mouse. That being said, heroes like Junkrat, Lucio and Soldier 76 feel right at home to the point I enjoyed playing them just as much (if not more) on the console version. This might come down to the fact that the movements of these heroes don’t need to be as athletic and superhuman as some of the others. Playing them on PC is still much faster, but it is a credit to the Blizzard console team for giving them a great feel to play on PS4 too.
So how do the two games hold up against each other in the beauty department? My PC is by no means a monster rig (it’s quite modest actually) but I am running Overwatch at 70fps on optimised Ultra/Epic settings with only the very occasional frame rate dip to around 60-65. The game looks slick as hell on PC, but comparing it side by side with the console version both still look very close. The PS4 version by comparison looks to be running at a never-breaking 60fps with graphical detail equivalent to High/Ultra settings. It should be added though that with a competitive game like this, the biggest concern actually isn’t the graphics; a lot of pro players will deliberately play the game with most settings on low simply to get a distraction-free experience that does away with a lot of battleground clutter and effects. I am a sucker for sexiness but I also want a constant frame rate so although I could be running the game a little bit higher, I think I have found a good compromise that keeps the good looks but also maintains solid frame rate (I even overclocked my monitor for the game, but to be honest I can’t tell the difference between 60 and 70 fps). A perhaps more minor (but persistent) visual gripe I have in console Overwatch is that the UI and menus always felt ridiculously laggy and slow (especially when inspecting skins), and the PC version appears much more snappy and by extension more user friendly.
As a long time PlayStation gamer, I have a lot of mates who I play with online with on a lot of these big multiplayer titles. A huge draw with Overwatch was that a lot of my crew on PS4 were all picking the game up too and we’ve had a blast over the past months together in various 6-man teams wrecking stuff in Quick Play and Competitive. My BattleNet friends list is a little more sparse (at this point anyway), but I have a wonderful group of people who I roll with on Discord chat. In terms of always having regular mates on, the PS4 certainly won that fight in the beginning, but looking at my friends list on console now there has been a clear drop-off in participation. This makes me question if Overwatch will have the same longevity on console that it will on PC. It is hard to say at this point but like most online shooters I have played over the past decade, interest in games wanes quite quickly compared to dedicated PC ones.
Another large advantage with the PC version is the fact that updates and patches are rolled out instantly, I remember the PS4 version taking a good five days or so to get Competitive mode after the PC version launched (Xbox got the patch a lot quicker too). This reason simply comes down to legalities between Sony, Microsoft and Blizzard, as patches first need to be certified for consoles. Obviously this will have an effect on timing, and as such it isn’t the fault of Blizzard but something to think about if you are somebody who needs the good stuff as it happens.
In summary, both versions of the game are fantastic and present two unique play styles that transition well for the peripherals that they use. I prefer the PC version myself after all this playtesting, but in no way have any disrespect for my time on console, I probably had more fun on PS4 to begin with as the PC crowd is a lot more hardcore (especially in Competitive mode) but as already mentioned the console pool of players seems to be slowly dwindling on my friends list anyway so it will remain to be seen if I ever return to the PS4 version for a trip down memory lane.
At the end of the day, if you have both platforms but are unsure of which way to go, a big factor for a team-based game like this is what your friends play on. These are the mates you will be calling on when you squad up for competitive shenanigans and will make a big difference to winning or getting stuck in ELO hell when you ride the Solo Queue train. Either way, both versions are a blast and like Diablo III (which also transitioned very well to console), both are unique and patched accordingly so that no matter what you use, a stellar gaming experience is still in store!
Good guy Blizzard.