Every character in Overwatch is different. It’s one of the most obvious (and fascinating) things about the game. There are big characters, small characters, attack characters, support characters... and there’s Tracer, my new total favorite character.
Tracer is easily the most iconic Overwatch hero—she’s was the “star” of the first big announcement movie and is more or less the face of the game—but for my first few weeks, I barely played as her. She’s quick and squishy, designed more to harry the opposing team from behind than to survive a frontal assault.
When playing attack characters I tended to opt for more approachable alternatives like my mainstay Soldier 76, who basically plays like a slower, deadlier Tracer, or Reaper, who is yet slower and deadlier-er.
Playing Tracer well requires a significantly different approach from just about every other character in the game. (Genji seems closest, but I don’t mess with Genji. Maybe if I start playing on PC.) She moves so quickly that it’s easy to steer her off a cliff or into a wall, but if you plot your vectors properly, you can get in and out of almost any situation alive.
When I first started playing Overwatch I tried playing as Tracer, but I hadn’t worked out her particular tempo. I died a lot, so I decided maybe I didn’t like her. This was a mistake.
All Overwatch characters move to their own beat, constructed in the space between their movement speed, their reload speed, and the timing on their ability cooldowns. Because of her three-part speed-warp ability, Tracer’s beat has a few more subdivisions than most other Overwatch heroes. She takes a bit more getting used to.
I talked with a few of my friends who played Tracer a lot, and got a few tips. “Only shoot at people who aren’t looking at you” was a good one. “Play routes that circle around to medkits” was also solid. “Remap your jump to the left shoulder button” has been helpful.
Here’s what playing Tracer has amounted to, for me:
- Run around behind enemy lines, alone. (This is already unlike any other character I play.) When the rest of your team is attacking, pop out and shoot people really quickly. Always have an escape planned.
- Shoot people from range to freak them out but don’t even worry about killing them. Distract from the main assault and count on your team’s stronger characters to take out the enemies you distract.
- Keep a close eye on your rewind ability, and use it basically any time you take damage. Be sure you aren’t running around in the same space too long, because rewind is much more useful if it takes you back to behind a corner or some other cover.
- Basically be a huge jerk, all the time, forever.
Some levels work really well for Tracer (anything with lots of interiors and doorways), some less well (anything with more open spaces). I have the most fun playing her on teams that are organized for a Reinhardt-led main assault. It’s much less fun to play as her on a team primarily made up of fast-moving damage dealers, or one with multiple Tracers. (This is likely because I’m not actually very good at Overwatch and do better when the opposing team is distracted.)
Switching to Tracer has highlighted one of the best things about this kind of game—if you start getting bored, you can just switch to a character you never play. I’d gotten into a Soldier/Mercy/Reinhardt/Lucio groove for a while, and everything was starting to feel routine. Now I feel like I’m playing a whole other game, and I plan to be annoying the shit out of my opponents for many hours to come.