I don’t love Wrecking Ball, also known as Hammond, also known as Overwatch’s latest hero.
I’d like to love Hammond, but ultimately all this character feels like is a return to the most cringeworthy aspects of Blizzard’s history of worldbuilding. Hammond feels like little more than a Cow Level, or a Whimsyshire, or a Crabby, except this time you can play as him and we’re supposed to find this, I guess, hilarious?
Blizzard isn’t exactly a stranger to putting jokes in their games, but something about Hammond feels… out of place. I actually like his design as far as the game goes—adding a physics-based, erratically-moving character feels like exactly the shot in the arm that recent changes to favor precision and skill lack. He’s fast and versatile, exactly the sort of design that I fully expect to be nerfed into a hitscan cannon character in the next few months as higher-level players complain of imbalance.
All that stuff is fine. I like that, even. What bothers me about Hammond is that he is feeding into the worst parts of the already-shaky Overwatch lore. The game’s in-game history and character dart between the poignant and the goofy, feeling more like a Marvel team-up film on steroids than any sort of believable world.
The game often comments on real-world parallels like discrimination and social movements, war and poverty, but never to any real degree. The few more well-regarded aspects of the game’s occasional dips into seriousness (like the complicated political history of the Overwatch unit and its eventual splintering into factions) compete with characters like Junkrat and Roadhog, who are mostly in the game because Mad Max is cool and um, wouldn’t it be cool if Australia was like Mad Max?
Hammond is that Overwatch, not so much the Overwatch of D.Va, a girl who worked her way up through competitive esports to become a national hero, even being touted as a real world symbol of feminist movements in Korea.
Hammond, a hamster from the moon, has a Play Of The Game highlight intro riffing on D.Va’s iconic bubblegum pose. Another highlight is a clear riff on Miley Cyrus’ 2013 video for “Wrecking Ball.” It’s not exactly “offensive,” but it is… just not that funny. Crass, I would say.
Maybe I’m wrong. It’s a subjective evaluation, after all. Overwatch is my favorite game with the potential to be a game that I think could outgrow its competitive nature and actually indulge in the more interesting aspects of its lore—Hammond just doesn’t feel like a great signifier of what’s to come.
Dante Douglas is a writer, poet and game developer. You can find him on Twitter at @videodante.