Overwatch, a highly popular first-person shooter, was released by Blizzard in 2016.
Activision’s Call of Duty franchise began in 2003, and the most recent reiteration (Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War) was released in November 2020.
Although not directly competing, they both have high player bases, and both being first-person-shooters, share some aspects in common.
So, which is better?
Although ‘better’ is a subjective term, there are several points of comparison from which we can draw conclusions and pick a winner. CoD: Cold War has some advantages, being four years younger than Overwatch, and some categories are player-dependent – which style of game you prefer.
Read on for a full comparison of graphics, gameplay, characters, game modes, and more!
Overwatch is a cartoonish game (similar in appearance to Fortnite in some ways) with distinctive graphics.
However, a simple Google search will reveal multitudes of posts complaining about ‘fuzzy’ graphics. Although it is not aiming for extreme realism, it may still be missing the mark.
In contrast, CoD: Cold War has highly praised graphics. It’s a game that focuses on hyper-realism; thus, to be fully immersive, the graphics must reflect the real world and be as convincing as possible. This is very different from Overwatch: an immediate comparison cannot be made.
However, although the styles cannot be compared in terms of superiority, the quality can be. Overwatch was released four years prior to Overwatch, and the game’s relative age plays a role in the standard of its graphics. CoD: Cold War is a much newer game, and its graphics reflect that.
The only thing that Overwatch wins on is its minimum specs: although both Overwatch and CoD: Cold War can be run on an i3, Overwatch only stipulates 4GB of RAM as being its minimum requirement. CoD: Cold War requires 8GB of Ram.
Call of Duty is usually played multiplayer, with a significant proportion of people reportedly not finishing the campaign. However, Cold War has done itself justice with its campaign, with Laurence Mozafari claiming it’s “easily one of the best Call of Duty campaigns ever made”.
Overwatch differs greatly from this; not only does it not feature a campaign, but the nature of its play-style means mastering the game requires a very different approach. There is a choice of 31 characters, all with different abilities and play styles, on several international maps and multiple game modes.
Complex for different reasons, this doesn’t answer the question of which is better. And it can’t. Cold War’s campaign is crisp, engaging, and rewarding, while Blizzard’s Overwatch is complex and dynamic. They appeal to different audiences and as such have different communities and fan bases.
However, the fact that Cold War has a campaign mode and offers greater story, lore, and world-building gives it the edge; it has the potential to appeal to a wider audience and not just those who enjoy multiplayer first-person shooters (FPS). For this reason, Cold War wins this category.
One of the most appealing things about gaming is the ability to characterize your characters, and both Cold War and Overwatch take advantage of this in their own ways.
In Cold War, you have the ability to rename your character and choose their military background, which then affects some dialogue within the campaign. Next, you can choose your gender – including non-binary, impressively – and personality traits. Whether you choose aggression, paranoia, teamwork, or any of the other many options, these all impact gameplay.
In contrast, the lore of Overwatch is static and hasn’t been developed much since the game was released in 2016. However, you can find or purchase skins – cosmetics that change the appearance of a character – for any of the 31 Heroes. The number of Heroes, and their respective abilities, provide further variation.
Cold War hasn’t been left behind here, however: the Battle Pass provides the option for further skins and operators to unlock through gameplay, giving further potential to customize the game.
As skins are available on both games, whether you prefer the variety that comes with Overwatch’s Heroes or the high levels of customization available on Cold War is a matter of personal preference. Therefore, it’s a tie.
Linked with gameplay, this section considers the different game modes available on both Overwatch and CoD: Cold War, and considers which is superior, or provides the player with a more varied experience.
As we know, Overwatch only offers multiplayer game modes, and they are all objective-focused. If it weren’t for the variety of Heroes available, it would start to feel repetitive; however, it clearly has a great deal of appeal and player base.
CoD: Cold War is different right away. It has three game modes: the campaign, multiplayer, and the return of Zombies. However, its Zombies mode falls a little flat. Further patches may improve its graphics, but no amount of patches can fix a game mode that hasn’t changed in over ten years.
Similar to Zombies, the multiplayer mode is largely unchanged. Given the success of Modern Warfare, this continuity is unsurprising.
However, they did try some new things. There’s a new objective-focused Combined Arms, and Dirty Bomb is entirely new. A little like a battle royale mode, although you can respawn after a short time, and once again being objective-led, it feels a little like a combination of several game modes. This lack of direction leads to some confusion, though the attempt at innovation is important given the lack of it with Zombies.
So, how does it compare to Overwatch?
Once again, the question of which is better depends entirely on your perspective as a gamer. Zombies have let Cold War down a little (unless you’re an enduring fan of the original Second World War version, which it seems to be playing on repeat), but in general, its game modes are good.
Overwatch features the same basic game modes on various maps, and as mentioned above, all are objective-focused. There’s been little change in over four years, and though it’s possible to grow through skill and cosmetics, there’s very little progression to the game.
Still, although its popularity is waning, it remains a popular game with a large player-base, and the variety within the maps and characters is clearly appealing.
Although it largely depends on personal preferences, the prize for game modes goes to CoD: Cold War; though its Zombies mode is disappointing, it offers more variety for the player.
Competitive games often have issues with toxic communities. This is especially clear with games such as Fortnite and CS: GO. How do CoD: Cold War and Overwatch compare, then?
Overwatch, perhaps because of its free nature and ease of access for all, has experienced high levels of toxicity since its conception. On April 19th, 2020, one of the only black players in the Overwatch League called out its racism on Twitter.
However, CoD too has had a long history of trash-talking in the lobby, and CoD toxicity is generally not limited to abusing a player’s skill in-game. The voice-chat feature on CoD, and other games, allow players to insult each other even more easily, and creates a very toxic environment.
So much for CoD generally: how about Cold War in particular? The matchmaking process means most players stick to their own parties, but the implementation of death mics, which allows the victim’s last words to be heard by players. So far, this seems a change for the better.
Although the streamer xQc did find himself targeted by online abuse when he tried to break up a lobby discussion, community toxicity seems to be lighter than the previous CoD games, which is a definite change for the better.
With that taken into account, we must conclude that CoD: Cold War has a better community than Overwatch – or at least, Activision has taken better steps to prevent in-game toxicity than Blizzard.
Currently, the standard edition of CoD: Cold War is £49.99 in the UK and on sale for £33.33. In comparison, Overwatch is £34.99 full-price and is currently on sale for £16.99. (These numbers are for PC only; on other platforms, they may vary.)
Of course, Cold War is a new game where Overwatch isn’t, but when you purely look at cost, Overwatch wins.
When you take into consideration what you get for your money – that’s for you to decide.
Whether you want to play either game is down to personal choice and preference. Overwatch and CoD: Cold War offer different things.
However, when taking into consideration the gameplay, game modes, customization, community, and price, Call of Duty: Cold War just creeps into the lead. It costs a lot, but you get a lot for your money, and it offers you more variation regarding gameplay. If you like hyper-realistic graphics, moreover, this is the game for you.
However, if you want to play something that doesn’t take itself too seriously, with some brightly colored characters and intriguing abilities, give Overwatch ago. You might find you like it.