Overwatch 2 is a disaster on Steam Deck

Heroes looking at the sunset
(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

I'm in the attacking team's waiting room at Esperança. I'm playing support, Kiriko to be precise, and I take position behind our tank Reinhardt. The pre-match countdown ends and we charge out the door, ready to push the payload. It's a chaotic start but we win the opening fracas and begin our procession to the checkpoint, until a Widowmaker kills me, dampening my vibe faster than heavy rain during British Summer. I respawn but notice something is wrong: I can't move. All of a sudden, Overwatch 2 on Steam Deck doesn't seem such a cool idea.

Overwatch 2's recent arrival on Steam has been mixed at best. In fact, the official game page would have you believe it's been 'overwhelmingly negative', with some of the most rampant review bombing since The Last of Us Part 2's Abby took her new golf club for a spin. 

However, we're not here to ruminate on the reasons behind this, although if we were then we'd likely focus on the cancellation of the PvE mode as it was initially pitched when Overwatch 2 was announced back in 2019. Instead, my task was to play the game on Steam Deck to find out how it runs. The short answer: it's not good. 

Losing control 

Overwatch 2

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Now it would be remiss of me not to point out that Blizzard hasn't marked the game as 'verified' or even 'playable', with the former meaning it works as it should, while the latter suggests it’s likely to have mild drawbacks. In other words, I went into the game expecting a less than ideal setup, and that's what I got.

During every PvP game I played, the controls cut out. At first this was usually after dying, but before long I would lose control from the moment the character selection screen appeared at the very start of a match. I could still use the touchscreen, and I was able to return to the Steam menu using the specific home button, but everything else essentially disconnected. Sometimes, if I was lucky, the controls would reactivate for a minute or so, but most of the time, I would watch on powerlessly as the game's warning message displayed, telling me I was about to be kicked for inactivity.

Weirdly, training mode was unaffected by this glitch, if you can call it that. No matter how long I spent testing out characters this way, no control problems arose, but the moment I went back to online play, I was left with the guilt of letting my teammates down as my hero stood there like a broken NPC. This major issue is clearly the biggest, and potentially only, reason Overwatch 2 can't be verified on Steam Deck, because in every other way, the game is functional.

Where it does work 

A hero rises into the air, bathed in light

(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

Graphically it's fine on a tiny screen, running at 1280x800, 60 FPS. Of course it doesn't hold a candle to max PC settings or current-gen console versions of the game, but the handheld convenience will always make this element easy to overlook.

The controls are smooth enough, too, at least if you're used to playing with a gamepad. The joysticks feel a bit clunky compared to their sleeker, Xbox counterparts, but it won't take long to adjust. 

When playing without a headset, the Steam Deck's speakers are sufficiently adequate for relaying the sounds of enemy footsteps. Overwatch 2 is a game that benefits from voice chat, but you won't miss any in-game barks or prompts playing this way. 

As for battery life, on a full charge the Steam Deck claims to have just shy of two hours worth of energy with the game running. Naturally, I didn't finish many matches, so I can't say I properly tested this, but in training mode I found the battery level depleted commensurate with its estimation. 

The bottom line 

Ultimately, all else is irrelevant when the game runs so inconsistently due to its control issues. In an online PvP title, smooth continuity is vital to a positive experience. Until Blizzard finds a way to eliminate this huge flaw - not that we've any reason to believe they will - Overwatch 2 on Steam Deck is unplayable. 

We'd consider Overwatch 2 to be one of the best FPS games, despite its performance on Steam Deck. But if you're looking for an alternative multiplayer adventure, our list of the best co-op games is worth checking out. 

Freelance contributor