Overwatch’s new mecha death hamster is a ball

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One of the first things that excited me about Overwatch, long before I got the chance to play it, was hearing about Widowmaker’s grappling hook. I needn’t tell you that grappling hooks are the most entertaining toys video games have ever given us – partly because I’m sure I and everyone else who writes about games has already told you, and partly because it’s a self-evident truth.

But not all hooks are created equal. Widowmaker’s turned out to merely facilitate a fiercely boring ‘A to B’ mode of travel, where you don’t even need to think about momentum. Enter Wrecking Ball, a hamster named Hammond who’s pulled grappling hooks into a bold new frontier.

I’m going to call him Hammond, because Wrecking Ball is an unwieldy name that doesn’t do his personality justice. Not that there’s actually much to his personality – he’s a hamster that doesn’t speak – but what’s there is gold. His high pitched squeaks juxtapose wonderfully with the deep robotic booming of his mech, and the sight of his little paws at the controls is inevitably adorable. He yawns, he sneezes, he wriggles. It’s an excellent piece of character design, but I’m not writing about Hammond because he’s cute. I’m writing about him because his abilities easily make him my second favourite hero in the game.

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He exudes fun. That grappling hook is on a five second cool-down, and it’s a swinger not a zipper. That means you can do stuff like turn into a ball, leap off the edge of a map while firing your hook at a wall, use the momentum on the upward swing to send yourself sailing through the air and then use his piledriver ability to slam into the ground and send every nearby enemy hurtling into the sky you just vacated.

He revolves around mobility to a degree that no other hero comes close to. You need to learn where the right grappling points are to pull off these sort of stunts, but on some maps it’s possible to go from the spawn to the frontline in about three seconds. I plan on learning how to do that at some point, but in the meantime I’m happy to roll around at the speeds he can reach without such gimmicks. Even without grappling to accelerate (which engulfs the ball in flames, damaging and knocking back anyone you hit), this boy can move. Whipping out your guns, firing, then rolling back into ball form can all be done before an enemy has had time to turn around.

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You may well want them to turn around though, because his job isn’t necessarily to kill people. It’s a role I’m only half used to playing: rather than damaging enemies outright, his main aim is to distract and disorient. His guns feel piddly, especially if you swap to him from a high damage hero like Mcree, but that’s only fair. His job is to swing in from an unexpected angle, knock people about a bit, then get the hell out of dodge. He can pursue squishy heroes, sure, but any time spent chasing is time spent taking a tank away from where he shines – weaving back and forth between the front and the back line while setting up kills for his teammates.

It’s a tricky role to grasp, and I’ve heard him described as a hero with a high skill ceiling and a high skill floor. Learning how to move is hard at first, but the more difficult task is learning where to move him. He can’t directly protect his teammates apart from by putting his body between them and incoming fire, so playing him like Reinhardt would be a mistake. He can’t match the damage of D.Va though, so playing him as a ‘dive tank’ in the same way isn’t advisable either. The location of your teammates is crucial, because Hammond often contributes the most by letting them dish out damage.

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I play a lot of shooters, so I’m decent at aiming. What I’ve really got a knack for, though, is getting into and escaping hairy situations. That’s Hammond’s MO.

There’s something about the psychology of the chase that I love tapping into. With Genji, that might mean running up the side of a doorway, then attacking a pursuer from above and behind as they walk through. With Hammond, that could mean attaching myself to the top of an archway, then rolling forward up and around to punt whoever’s chasing me into an abyss. I haven’t actually managed that yet, but the day I do you can bet I’ll update this article with the gif.

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I have punted a few people though, and God has it felt good. I’ve always liked that element of characters with knockback abilities, though I’ve never got on with the rest of their tool kits. I’ve embraced Hammond’s, though, and the handful of punts I’ve pulled off so far have been immensely satisfying. The times I’ve sent myself careening into the void, less so. It’ll be a long time before I feel comfortable picking him in competitive play, but I’m confident I’ll get there. I’m one of those people that justifies only playing DPS heroes because I’m terrible at everything else, so I’m looking forward to squashing that guilt with Wrecking Ball. I mean Hammond.

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I tend to dip in and out of studying Overwatch strategy, so I should mention that a lot those thoughts have been informed by this video. They all make sense to me though: he lacks offensive power, but he’s lightning fast and has all the distracting power in the world.

He’s the best mechanised death hamster the world has ever seen.

9 Comments

  1. Neurotic says:

    My knee-jerk reaction to the 28 reveal: Hammond the Hamster / Richard ‘The Hamster’ Hammond from Top Gear.

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    particlese says:

    Yes!! This sounds right up my alley. At the risk of being shot at by several sorts of people: one thing I would have loved in Lawbreakers is proper support of offensive and defensive play which keeps the awesome movement but doesn’t require me to try to aim. And that’s apparently the deal here… (I can occasionally play that way in LB when balance allows, but it doesn’t happen very often.)

    From another direction, Overwatch has plenty to like from my perspective, but the biggest thing keeping me from playing it has been the movement (plus having several games where the movement is fantastic), and this little dude sounds properly fun to move about as. Maybe I’ll be surprised by some of the others, too, though, who knows. On the free weekend I did play, I never really played much Lucio, for example, and I’ve heard his movement can be fun.

    • dukes82 says:

      Junkrat, Tracer, D-VA, Winston and Widow also have some fun movement mechanics. Out of curiosity, what other games are you referring to with fantastic movement?

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        particlese says:

        I feel like such an answer needs qualification since there’s a lot of subjectivity involved, but right up front: Lawbreakers and Ori and the Blind Forest are the ones which immediately spring to mind for me, after filtering out some others which feel great but aren’t particularly interesting despite whatever subtleties are there (such as Doom 1/2, Quake 1, and Devil Daggers) or where a couple imperfections also quickly come to mind (Super Metroid).

        The first two feel generally really nice and fluid, whereas OW seems more stacatto, though that could just be the animations (and my lack of experience, in OW’s case) lying to me. The first two are full of variety and nuance, which OW clearly and almost certainly has (respectively). And the first two games never make me feel like the game itself is getting in my way of having fun, with maybe one or two mild exceptions. Additionally, the FPSes which came to mind can all be quite fast (no UT99 there, which I love, but not for its movement), but OW seems designed to be slow, and it looks it in most videos I see of it (e.g. excluding the Hammond ones). To both these last two points, Overwatch’s long haul from spawn to the action, was probably my biggest annoyance with Overwatch’s movement – both because it seems like an unnecessarily long distance and because everyone seems pretty slow. So what Matt’s said here is music to my ears!

        I’m guessing there are more hidden possibilities for fast movement than I realize, such as Junkrat’s mines (I just recalled seeing a video about those which made him look fun), but the game still left me with the impression that it wants to be played slowly and strategically with little room for spatial craziness, which is fine, but not what I’d look for with an FPS.

        Hope I’m not being too annoying bringing up Lawbreakers in these Overwatch articles’ comments lately; OW would be my replacement for LB if I continue playing online FPSes (I don’t have the raw aiming ability to enjoy QC), so I’m becoming cautiously interested in OW again as the official curtain of 100% death drops on LB. There are some parts of OW I already love and other parts I detest, but since movement is the one thing which seems to make or break a game for me these days (where applicable), that’s what I tend to focus on.

        Crud…apologies for that being a ramble and a half. Wanted to answer but didn’t have the the ability to do so properly and to edit coherently before falling unconscious for some hours. :)

        • Excors says:

          the game still left me with the impression that it wants to be played slowly and strategically with little room for spatial craziness

          I think I’d partially but not fully agree with that. It is meant to be played strategically, not like deathmatch – you should always group up with your team to have 6v6 fights; don’t go in alone since you’ll simply die and your team will be down 5v6. “Staccato” seems more appropriate than “slow” – most of the special movement abilities are on cooldowns, so you can do them once every five seconds or so, and the rest of the time you’re fairly immobile. It can get a bit annoying if you’re trying to e.g. chase an enemy and your cooldowns are just a second too late to let you catch them.

          But if you’re a relatively decent player, and especially if your team has decent coordination, you can set up in a good position and wait for your cooldowns and then do some speediness and/or craziness to surprise your enemies. See something like link to clips.twitch.tv where the blue team dives on the white team – Winston leaps in, D.Va flies in, Tracer blinks in, Genji dashes in, all at the same time, and the already-weakened split-up white team gets obliterated before they have a chance to respond.

          Or link to clips.twitch.tv where the defenders are on hard-to-reach high ground, so Doomfist uses a fancy trick to climb up high then punches himself over to the defenders, just after Winston and D.Va jump/fly up there, and Mercy can fly towards teammates so she’s following the Doomfist, and they all converge on the enemy. (Then it goes horribly wrong for the attackers since Winston gets caught in a Junkrat trap and killed, while Doomfist gets pulled off the high ground by Orisa and can’t get back up – there are lots of ways to counter the enemy’s movement.)

          Or if you just want to go fast, Lucio has speed-boost and wall-riding and can do stuff like link to gfycat.com

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            particlese says:

            Ah, thank you for taking the time and effort to address all that! I’ll check out those links when I get out of work.

            Despite its frag-centric attitude, Lawbreakers actually has similar team and ability dynamics which can make all the difference in a match (but which usually go out the window if a giant smurf shows up, of course), so it sounds like that relative downtime when you’re busy positioning (or coming back from spawn) is what really irked me the most. Lucio and Hammond might end up my go-to characters, then – at least until I play enough to stop minding the slower bits. :)

          • Premium User Badge

            particlese says:

            A couple seconds in to that Lucio run, my face let out an involuntary “Ohhhhhh YES!” Looks like a roughly familiar style of movement, a heck of a challenge to do well, and the sort of challenge which is totally worth the practice.

            I was also pleasantly surprised by that Doomfist clip, and thoroughly confused by the white vs blue one. Your commentary certainly helped, but it’s one of those things where I’ll need more experience to have any real appreciation for what’s happening.

    • Excors says:

      He does need decent aim to make the most of his capabilities, more than D.Va (who has a wider spread and shorter range) and much more than Winston (who doesn’t aim at all). But he can still be reasonably useful with mediocre aim, just by knocking into people and distracting them and drawing fire away from his team, unlike e.g. Widowmaker who is utterly useless if she can’t click heads. And you can compensate for poor aim with other skills – positioning, target selection, knowing when to advance and when to retreat, etc.

      Even if you’re bad, the matchmaker will try to give you a 50% success rate anyway, so all that really matters is whether you have fun playing that character.

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