Blizzard’s new team-based FPS Overwatch revolves around the strength and attributes of its individual characters and what they bring to the team. Thus far, 18 characters are playable, with three more confirmed for release before the game is out next year. Beyond that, who knows?

The cast of Overwatch ranges from gun-toting mercenaries and war machines to scientists who use experimental technology to aid their allies. All of these characters serve one of four class roles and contribute to the overall makeup of the six-player team. Each character has a distinct look and style of play, providing players with plenty of opportunities to master specific ones.

With that in mind, we’ve put together this guide to offer a breakdown of the four class roles and each of the game’s currently playable characters, so you’ll know just what to expect when you head into the game.

Know Your Role

Offense: If you plan on taking the fight to the enemy, then you should play an Offense character. These glass cannons have no problem getting around and specialize in delivering massive amounts of damage to the enemy team.

Defense: Defensive characters specialize in locking down choke points and preventing the enemy team from pushing forward. They’re no less capable than their Offensive counterparts in killing enemies, but their strengths lie in their ability to defend objectives effectively.

Tank: The tank role is filled with beefy characters capable of absorbing or deflecting damage that would otherwise kill anyone else. They can protect their allies from incoming enemy fire and are absolutely crucial in leading any push towards objectives.

Support: Support characters boost the effectiveness of their team through heals, damage buffs and debuffs and offer a variety of support abilities. If you want everyone on your team to love you, this is your jam.

overwatch_offense
mccree

McCree

Overwatch‘s resident outlaw, McCree is heavily inspired by Clint Eastwood’s man-with-no-name. Armed with a powerful revolver that’s capable of delivering massive damage with precision shots, McCree players will want to have especially good aim. He can take targets out at a distance with headshots and make short work of his enemies at close range by first stunning them with a flashbang grenade and firing his gun in quick succession. His combat roll ability can make him hard to hit in close combat. McCree’s Ultimate allows him to line up his targets and kill them all instantly. McCree players are skilled shooters who know how to line up their shots for spree kills. Quick thinking and reflexes will get them out of danger in a pinch.

If you’re playing against McCree, you’ll want to find cover the instant you hear his words, “It’s high noon,” echoing across the map.

pharah

Pharah

One of the more mobile characters in Overwatch, Pharah has a jetpack, allowing her to hover above the battlefield and strike from above with her rocket launcher and concussive wrist rocket, which takes down shields with ease. She can propel herself into the air with the quick boost of her jump jets. However, her slow movement while in the air also makes her vulnerable to sniper fire. Her rocket barrage Ultimate can devastate entire groups of enemy players. Anyone who has played Destiny should have no problem getting the hang of her jetpack ability. Players who enjoy the vertical freedom afforded by the jetpack should check her out.

reaper

Reaper

My personal favorite class, Reaper likes to get in close and personal with his twin shotguns. He can kill most enemies in a couple of direct, close-range shots. Moving like a shadow on the battlefield, Reaper can enter wraith form, which makes him invulnerable, to escape fatal encounters or do it to get behind enemy lines and kill defenders. He can wreak havoc for extended periods of time thanks to his ability to siphon health from the corpses of the dead.

Reaper’s Shadow Step ability, which which takes a while to power-up, allows him to teleport to hard-to-reach places or sneak behind enemies and surprise them-provided they don’t see him doing it. His shotguns are ineffective at longer ranges, so you’ll want to keep your distance when engaging him and never allow him to close in. His Death Blossom Ultimate makes him a blur of shotgun fire, decimating everything around him in 360 degrees at close range.

Reaper players are those who make risky plays by heading directly into the fray, killing opponents and regenerating their health during their spree.

soldier-76

Soldier: 76

This old combat veteran is one of the easier characters to play, especially if you’re coming from an FPS like Call of Duty. Armed with a fully-automatic pulse rifle that also fires rockets, Soldier: 76 keeps his targets at a distance, pummeling them with a precision hailstorm. He has no trouble sprinting across the map, and regaining his health (and that of his teammates) with the Biotic Field ability. His Ultimate ability lets the player fire their weapon and score direct precision hits without having to aim for a short period of time – instant easy mode. Soldier: 76 players keep their opponents at a distance and wither them down with a constant barrage of gunfire.

tracer

Tracer

Gracing the cover of Overwatch, Tracer is one of the game’s most interesting characters to play. She has the ability to blink forward-three times in quick succession-allowing her to confuse enemy players by blinking behind them, or blinking across gaps and eluding her pursuers. She can also bound backward in time, regaining her health, ammunition and position to precisely where she was just a few seconds before. This ability gives her the upper hand in close battles, and it also lets her get out of trouble in case she lands herself in a bad spot. Armed with two rapid-firing pistols and a powerful grenade as her Ultimate, Tracer’s good for harassing the enemy team and being a general pain in the butt to deal with. Gamers who enjoyed the Scout in TF2 will be right at home with Tracer.

genji

Genji

Genji is one of Overwatch’s two new characters alongside Mei and D.Va. He’s a cyborg ninja who excels in close range combat, using his shuriken and sword to dispatch opponents. To defend himself, Genji can deflect attacks with lightning-quick strikes of his sword that can send any projectile headed his way rebounding back towards his opponent. He can charge directly through enemies with an attack that does damage over time to his target. As such, he’s a perfect counter to Bastion. His Ultimate allows him to cut down multiple enemies with his unsheathed blade.

Genji is for players who enjoy getting up-close-and-personal with melee attacks.

overwatch_defense
bastion

Bastion

Bastion is a literal war machine. Designed for all manner of combat, Bastion has three modes that give it a good amount of versatility. It’s especially good at locking down areas in its Sentry mode, which turns Bastion into minigun-toting meat grinder that makes short work of anyone in its kill zone. In this mode, Bastion is nigh-invulnerable to enemy attacks with its forward-facing shield, forcing enemy players to flank it, or in Symmetra’s case, bypass it with her charged energy globes. Bastion’s ultimate configures it into a tank for a short period of time, complete with a cannon firing explosive shells.

Sitting in a single spot and waiting for enemies to arrive can be boring, so Bastion can switch over to Recon mode to actively hunt down enemies. When damaged, Bastion can easily repair itself, provided no one’s shooting at it. Bastion players are strategically-minded and look for the best locations to create chokepoints and prevent the enemy team from advancing.

hanzo

Hanzo

Skilled as an archer, Hanzo prefers to use a powerful bow instead of a modern firearm. His arrows do massive damage, capable of killing enemies in a single headshot, but fly in a parabolic arc that can be difficult to master. This Japanese bowman can scale walls and other bits of terrain, allowing him to get to high ground and traverse the map more easily than others. More than just a sniper, Hanzo has two special arrows: a sonic arrow that reveals nearby enemies to teammates, and a scatter arrow that’s devastating in confined spaces, ricocheting off walls and striking multiple targets. His Ultimate lets him summon the spirit of a dragon that passes through walls, dealing damage in its wake and destroying any stationary defenses that might be in the way. Watch out, Bastion!

Hanzo players prefer to keep their distance from the enemy team, while seeking out good vantage points to make their plays.

junkrat

Junkrat

This peg-legged bomb-obsessed maniac is an explosives expert who carries a host of mines and traps. When he isn’t laying down steel traps to ensnare unsuspecting enemies, he lobs grenades that bounce off the ground and explode on impact with enemy combatants. He’s fun for players who enjoy a good game of cat-and-mouse, luring foes into his traps and killing them. His Ultimate allows him to rev up a motorized bomb and seek out enemies before detonating, much like the RC car in Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Finally, Junkrat leaves destruction in his wake, and drops live grenades when killed-to the misfortune of anyone nearby. It’s best to back off from his body after you’ve killed him.

Junkrat players emphasize cunning over anything else, and lure enemy players into deadly traps.

torbjorn

Torbjorn

Overwatch wouldn’t be a Blizzard title without the presence of a magnificently bearded dwarf. Torbjorn fulfills the role of the game’s resident engineer and turret builder. Besides setting up a stationary turret, which he can upgrade by hitting with his forge hammer, Torbjorn can lay down armor packs to boost the resilience of his teammates. Far from helpless, the dwarf carries a rivet gun that shoots long-range projectiles or a cluster of molten metal at close range, functioning as both a rifle and a shotgun. When his Ultimate’s all powered up, he gains a significant amount of armor and scrap, as well as speed, allowing him the ability to build a turret and fully upgrade it in a matter of seconds-handy in a pinch.

Torbjorn isn’t very useful when you’re on the offense, however, as there’s no way to move your turret around once it’s built – and you want to be constantly pushing forward to the objective. Torbjorn players are incredibly patient, and defend objectives better than anyone else.

widowmaker

Widowmaker

Widowmaker takes on the role of the classic sniper. To play her, you’ll need to have really good aim. This long-ranged assassin uses a versatile sniper rifle that powers up for more damage the longer you zoom in. It can switch to a fully-automatic rifle when enemies get too close for comfort, though it does far less damage. For mobility, Widowmaker can get to high ground with a grappling hook that connects to any scalable surface. It’s also handy for getting out of a bad situation. Widowmaker can also place a venom mine that poisons anyone in its range, dealing damage over time and weakening them for the kill.

Her Ultimate ability reveals the location of every enemy to all members of her team for a short period of time, allowing her (and her teammates) to anticipate enemies as they round corners. She might be a lone wolf, but she’ll be an asset to any team.

If you’re a skilled sniper who knows how to stay out of trouble, Widowmaker’s the character for you.

mei

Mei

Mei is a climatologist who figured out a way to weaponize the elements for use in battle. Backstory aside, Mei specializes in cold abilities, allowing her to freeze enemies at close range with her endothermic gun that damages, slows, and freezes enemies in place. Mei’s Ice Wall creates tall barriers that can obstruct line of sight and movement. When in trouble, she can freeze herself in a solid block of ice for a few seconds, which gives her enough time for allies to arrive to her rescue. Her ultimate ability, Blizzard, serves as a wide-area version of her primary weapon, freezing any enemy caught in the snow storm.

Mei players play a defensive role, weakening enemies by slowing them down and halting the advance.

overwatch_tank
reinhardt

Reinhardt

Armed with a big hammer for broad swings, Reinhardt is a heavily armored warrior who wouldn’t feel terribly out of place in a Dark Souls game, provided you make allowances for his high-tech equipment. This slow-moving character can protect his allies with an energy shield that absorbs plenty of damage, though using it makes him walk at an even slower pace. Reinhardt can charge in a straight line, grabbing a single target in his path to slam them into a wall, killing them instantly (provided they aren’t also tanks). He can also cause some occasional damage to enemies at a distance by throwing a flaming projectile at them. His Ultimate ability slams his hammer into the ground and stuns everyone around him, rendering them completely helpless for a few seconds.

Reinhardt’s the character you’ll want to play if you like the idea of always standing in front.

roadhog

Roadhog

This big bellied, masked monstrosity will remind you a lot of Stitches from Heroes of the Storm. He has the ability to hook enemies and pull them into close range before unloading a blast of shrapnel into them. The hook is also useful at interrupting enemies who are in the middle of unleashing their Ultimates, and for drawing out individual enemies. His scrap gun is capable of dealing massive damage at multiple ranges with two different modes of fire. Roadhog can keep his health up by taking a swig of liquid from the flask he carries around. For his Ultimate, Roadhog can crank out a barrage of shrapnel that knocks back enemies-useful for keeping enemies off the objective.

Roadhog will fare well in one-on-one battles with just about anyone else. Players who enjoy close-range combat will love playing this tank of a character.

winston

Winston

Winston is a hyperintelligent gorilla who is also a scientist. Clearly inspired by Beast from X-Men, Winston carries a short-ranged Tesla Cannon that discharges a continuous stream of electricity, allowing him to deal damage at close range. Though powerful, the stream is fairly easy to dodge if you run circles around him. Huge and bulky, Winston can jump into the fray with the aid of his energy pack, dealing a lot of damage and staggering enemies unfortunate enough to meet his landing. The gorilla can erect a temporary barrier that absorbs damage until it’s destroyed, providing his allies with a few critical seconds of cover as they capture an objective point. And unlike the Titan Defender’s bubble in Destiny, friendly players can even shoot at enemies from within. Winston’s Ultimate lets him embrace his inner animal and completely hulk out, raising his health and empowering his strikes. It’s fun to watch entire teams scatter when that happens.

Winston is for players who enjoy leaping into battle and tearing enemy defenses down with their team right behind them.

zarya

Zarya

Hailing from Russia, the pink-haired Zarya specializes in gravity manipulation. Somewhat similar to Winston’s weapon, her Particle Cannon allows her to deal massive damage at close range, though it also lobs an explosive charge that functions as a grenade. As much a support character as she is a tank, Zarya can project a barrier onto herself or one of her allies, allowing the shield to absorb attacks for a short period of time while simultaneously boosting the damage and width of her weapon’s particle beam. Her Ultimate ability lets her draw in enemies like a black hole, trapping them all in one small space and making them easy pickings for friendlies. Some characters have ways of getting out of the vortex, though-and they can still shoot through it.

Zarya players like to keep their allies close and wade into battle directly alongside them, absorbing the damage they receive and using it to boost her own attack.

dva

D.Va

D.Va is a girl in a suit of mechanized power armor. Armed with two short-range miniguns, D.Va is capable of laying down continuous, high-damage fire, though shooting her guns slows her movement to a crawl. When D.Va’s on the move, she can use her mech’s booster capability to get around quickly. In addition to having a good offense, her Defense Matrix will blast any incoming projectiles out of the air and protect her team on objective points. As a last resort, D.Va ejects herself from the mech, which then self-destructs–killing everyone around it.

Though much more vulnerable without her mech, D.Va carries a sidearm to continue the fight.

If you love mechs and power armor, you’ll want to check out D.Va.

overwatch_support
lucio

Lucio

Armed with the power of music, this roller-skating DJ projects damage-dealing sonic projectiles that can also knock back enemies and push them into danger or even off the map. Switching between two songs, his music allows him to constantly regenerate his health and that of his allies, or amplifying the movement speed of allies around him. His Ultimate allows him to tremendously boost the health of all his allies for a short time-always useful in a push.

Lucio’s roller-skates allows him to jump onto, and even ride along walls, making him an extremely mobile character. It’ll take some skill, but players familiar with wallrunning in Titanfall will feel right at home.

mercy

Mercy

Mercy is the go-to character for players who prefer to help their teammates rather than deal damage. Though she’s certainly capable of defending herself with her sidearm, it’s something that should only be used as a last resort. Mercy is Overwatch‘s take on the Team Fortress 2 Medic, but with much more mobility. She can fly directly to allies in need with her Guardian Angel ability. Her staff lets her maintain a beam to a single ally that either heals them or boosts their damage. And when everyone around her is dead, Mercy can mass resurrect them as her Ultimate, restoring them to full health. Her skill allows her to turn a rout into a win.

Players who enjoy classic support characters like World of Warcraft‘s Priest and the Medic in TF2 will love Mercy.

symmetra

Symmetra

Unlike other supports, Symmetra doesn’t heal her allies. Instead, Symmetra’s assortment of abilities make her useful in a variety of situations. While on offense, her weapon allows her to project balls of energy that pierce through otherwise impenetrable shields. On defense, her sentry turrets emit lasers that slow down enemies while dealing damage over time. At any time, she can also project a shield onto an ally to absorb damage. Her Ultimate ability places a teleporter exit, allowing teammates to get to the frontline in an instant.

Symmetra players are tactical-minded, knowing where best to place teleporters and defensive turrets. A team with a good Symmetra player on it can be hard to beat due to the tactical advantages she offers.

zenyatta

Zenyatta

Zenyatta serves well in an offensive capacity. Throwing highly precise, destructive energy orbs, Zenyatta can pick off his enemies from a distance. In addition to healing allies, this robotic monk can amplify the amount of damage an enemy receives with a debuff that lasts for as long as he lives. It’s an ability that also allows Zenyatta to track his target wherever they may be on the map. His Ultimate gives him immunity to damage and emits a healing aura to all nearby allies for a short time, though he won’t be able to use any of his abilities during this time.

Aside from having low health, his main weakness is that he has no escape skills, so he’s especially vulnerable without the rest of his team to back him up. If you’re playing him, you’ll want to move with the group.

Zenyatta players are sharpshooters who don’t mind healing their allies while they’re at it.

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