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Regardless of the game, balancing in multiplayer has always been a fickle thing. Every weapon has to have some kind of downside and a counter to it, otherwise no one would be using anything else and the overall gameplay experience will suffer. This is especially true in a game like Overwatch, where changing how fast a character moves or how fast their weapon shoots can drastically change not only how effective they are, but also how effective other characters are at countering them. Naturally, this means that certain characters may be perceived to be incredibly powerful, or at least until someone figures out how to counter them.

The latest character to allegedly be more effective than most people are comfortable with is McCree, Overwatch’s space cowboy. In theory, he is intended to be the ultimate anti-flanker for teams that are on the attack: his weapon has a respectable amount of range and firepower, but his abilities help him destroy fast moving enemies at close range. In practice, it appears as though players are exploiting his abilities to destroy every enemy at most ranges.

When good intentions fail

Long range, short range, mid range, McCree can smoke them all (at least until Blizzard brings down the nerf hammer)

Long range, short range, mid range, McCree can smoke them all (at least until Blizzard brings down the nerf hammer)

On paper, his abilities aren’t even that terrifying compared to all the other abilities in Overwatch. He has a flashbang that stuns enemies for a second or two, he can roll, and he can rapid fire his 6 shot revolver at the cost of accuracy—all necessary abilities for him to shut down the fastest characters of the game. Unfortunately, when you put all of his abilities together, they turn him into the most frustrating character in the game with very few counters. 

A very popular tactic with McCree is to simply walk up to an enemy, throw a flashbang, fan fire his revolver, and then roll to instantly reload if needed. Obviously, you can also roll into people to close the gap and then flashbang them, but the end result is the same: McCree can deal anywhere between 210-420 damage in the blink of an eye, and that’s not even accounting for him rolling and instantly reloading. This means that Overwatch’s healthiest characters, who usually have somewhere around 500 health, can die before they can retaliate with their close range weapons. 

Want to counter him at close range with Mei? Not going to happen since he can flashbang you and kill you instantly before you freeze him. Want to shoot him to death at medium range with Soldier: 76? He can roll into you and flashbang you. Want to gang up on him? Better hope that you aren’t clustered together because his flashbang can hit multiple people with its very generous Area of Effect. Of course, that’s not to say that McCree is invulnerable, but it would certainly seem like it if you are fighting him by yourself.

Causation and correlation

Funny enough, McCree usually isn't standing around to protect the healer

Funny enough, McCree usually isn’t standing around to protect the healer

That being said, McCree’s flashbang is integral to his role. Without it, Tracer and Genji can just run circles around him all day. Similarly, McCree needs to be able to rapid fire his revolver with a reasonable degree of accuracy otherwise someone like Reaper can just walk away after the flashbang wears off. Fortunately, there are two potential changes that would not affect McCree’s intended role of being Overwatch’s anti-flanker. 

The first would be to simply nerf his Fan the Hammer ability. One such way might involve changing it so that each bullet fired during Fan the Hammer only does say, 15 damage per shot when at the optimal range of three feet. For each shot that hits the target, another 10 damage is added to the next shot. Given Genji and Tracer’s relatively low health, this should not compromise McCree’s ability to counter them (especially considering how his flashbang does damage as well). Even Reaper, the healthiest of Overwatch’s flankers, would not be able to survive such damage, but Tanks and anyone else who fights from more than three feet away would be able to survive such an encounter with most of their health intact. 

The second nerf would target McCree’s ability to magically reload his weapon when he rolls (thus preventing him from instantly unloading another Fan the Hammer volley). Rather than instantly reloading his gun for him, his combat roll could force him to reload his weapon (if needed) upon exiting the animation, but at a faster rate (say, 50%). In doing so, this would discourage McCrees from playing too aggressively, and it would certainly encourage them to use their revolver as a revolver rather than as some kind of an absurd machine gun. 

The most slippery slope

Regardless of how Blizzard decides to balance McCree (and how much some of us want to see him nerfed into the ground) however, it should be noted that not every claim of a character being overpowered or “a simple Quality of Life change” may have merit to it. Is McCree too powerful right now? Yes. But just like how Bastion and Torbjorn were considered to be incredibly overpowered during Overwatch’s open beta period, sometimes it just takes time for players to figure out what’s the best counter for a given situation. Otherwise, all of Overwatch’s characters are OP in some way or form, and proposing changes on such claims gets us nowehere.

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Anson Chan

Staff Writer

You ever wonder why we're here? It's one of life's greatest mysteries, isn't it? Good thing games exist so that we don't have to think about it. Or at least I don't have to think about it. Instead, I'll just play Halo or something.