Yesterday, Overwatch’s roster finally welcomed the gauntlet-wearing supervillain Doomfist. And the question on everybody’s minds is, Was he worth the wait?
After a few hours experimenting with him on Overwatch’s public test region, it’s hard to tell how Doomfist will fit into the larger cast. Doomfist is a offense hero whose cybernetic gauntlet deals targeted, up-close damage to opponents. Kinetic and mobile, he’s a blast to play. And we haven’t seen anything like him before—to me, his combo-based playstyle more befits a Marvel vs. Capcom fighter’s than an Overwatch hero’s.
Doomfist is a melee fighter whose skillset leans more on well-timed punching combos than twitch reflexes. His primary fire is a hand cannon, a weak but easily-spammed bullet burst that comes right out of his knuckles. He’s also got a rocket punch, where he powers forward Superman-style, knocking back whomever his fist hits. His uppercut doubles as a high jump and, when he uses his Seismic Slam attack, he hops forward and smashes the ground, a little like Reinhardt’s ultimate ability. His ultimate ability is a devastating Meteor Strike (which he says out loud). He jumps up and slams his fist down, creating a crater that wrecks anybody within seven meters of him.
Doomfist’s abilities pigeonhole him as a close-range combatant who wrecks when he’s spitting distance from opponents. And those abilities stack much like a fighter’s would in, say, Street Fighter, and can easily knock out two opponents within seconds. Nailing those two to three-move combos elicits a small high. But with a mere 250 health (before his passive ability, which adds barriers per enemy hit) and no true escape ability, Doomfist is not as intimidating as his name might suggest.
In the dozen or so Quick Play games I played (where players were not all Doomfist) on the PTR, Doomfist never received an achievement card. It seems like he suffers the same problem as Sombra: It’s unclear what distinguishing stat he should be pursuing. He’s not doing tons of damage. And certainly—as with nearly every Overwatch hero—it is not his kill/death ratio. He has a bounty of counters, including Torbjorn, Winston, Roadhog and basically every sniper. And if he doesn’t close distance between himself and an opponent, opponents’ longer-range attacks will pick him before he can even raise his gauntlet.
It’s not unusual for an offense hero to thrive in up-close combat and also suffer from chronic squishiness. Like Doomfist, heroes like Tracer and Genji are highly mobile, able to surprise enemies by appearing right next to them, chipping away tons of damage in an instant. But unlike Doomfist, most of these offense heroes have obvious escape abilities. Doomfist can enter a combat situation in style, doing small damage with his Hand Cannon and then diving in with a Rocket Punch, Uppercut and Seismic Slam to level an opponent or two. But when he’s done? He has nowhere to go.
That means shield tanks like Reinhardt and Orisa, who are right now considered essential to a lot of team compositions, will struggle to protect Doomfist (Although up against those tanks, he can be devastating). So it is Zarya, with her mobile shield bubbles, who will be Doomfist’s knight in shining armor.
What Doomfist lacks in fortitude he makes up for with his Meteor Strike. It’s an unbelievable ultimate ability that will change the tide of many, many matches by killing several opponents at once. It also pairs well with more crowd-controlling ultimate abilities like Reinhardt’s, Zarya’s or Mei’s.
Doomfist’s assets are fresh and spectacular, but his deficits hard to redeem. Without a clear goal in mind, like most damage or kills, and without many supporting abilities, players may find Doomfist unrewarding, even if playing him makes Overwatch feel like a 3D fighting game.