Theoretically, 1pm on the third day of the Major qualifiers is an awkward time to write a column. As I write this intro, the first map of Vici vs Vitality just finished with an overtime win for the French team.
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Overwatch’s newest hero has just hit the Public Test Realm, and it’s one of the most mechanically and visually different heroes we’ve seen to date.
It’s probably the last thing most people were expecting and, while he probably won’t be seen in professional competition for a little while, Hammond the Hamster tank (aka Wrecking Ball) has the potential to really shake things up.
First of all, there’s no dirt on your screen and you read that correctly. The new hero is a hamster who fits into the tank category.
Most tanks are big and bulky and Hammond is no exception, due to some shifty science experiments enlarging his size, coupled with the large mechanical ball he inhabits.
This ball is where all if the hero abilities come from – including the one that gives him his namesake and is perhaps the biggest gamechanger.
To get around, Hammond can retreat into his ball and roll around, which greatly increases his movement speed. He can also deploy a grappling claw, which allows him to swing around almost indefinitely and build up speed for damage-dealing collisions, as well as get to hard-to-read areas.
An Adaptive Shield can even be activated to make you more durable both in and out of ball mode but staying spherical feels like the way Hammond is meant to be played. He is awkwardly named Wrecking Ball after all and there’s even an added ability to hit your crouch button while in the air to slam down hard on enemies.
These factors make Hero 28 one of the most mobile tank heroes we’ve seen because he’s far less hampered by cooldowns than Winston or D.Va.
When he’s not in ball mode, Hammond can use his main weapons, known as Quad Cannons, and is a lot slower in motion. In this sense, he feels a bit more like a lesser version of D.Va in both movement and attack. Trying him out on the PTR, this is definitely where he felt the most vulnerable and also the least fun.
Walking slowly while shooting simply doesn’t compare to spider-maning around the room bashing into enemies.
The ultimate ability is also a bit different from most in that it has a more lasting effect. Minefield lays out a grid of mines which explode when enemies get too near. This allows for zoning in ways that other ultimates don’t tend to as the mines stay there until detonated or destroyed. Taking out these mines by shooting them also took a lot longer than I expected, so while this ult probably won’t wrack up many kills, it’s definitely going to be useful when it comes to delaying enemy teams.
I can see Hammond breaking onto the scene a bit like Brigitte in that he’s not a standard hero for his class. His offensive style play feels more like a DPS than a true tank, so we will likely see him in the hands of off tank players or DPS, who usually jump on to Roadhog rather than a main tank.
He also reminded me a bit of Doomfist with his ability to crash down into the action while still having the potential to survive, which means we could see him as a common pick on last-ditch attempts on defence.
This also makes him a potentially strong pick for the ever-popular dive composition. There hasn’t been a hero, aside from maybe Tracer, with the potential to get in and out of a fight as quickly as Wrecking Ball could, but I can’t tell exactly who he’d replace on a regular dive roster. He feels like a jumbling mix of ideas – much like Brigitte did when she first hit the PTR.
These meld together well and are a lot of fun to play but doesn’t fill a solid spot in the meta, which again could be good for shaking things up, or might render him totally unused.
It’s likely Wrecking Ball will go through changes before we see him unleashed onto the competitive scene as most new Heroes do. There’s the potential to have him beefed up and slowed down to fit more of a tank role with longer cooldowns, but Overwatch does seem to like doing things a bit out of left field.
The team has previously revealed the concept hero of Jetpack Cat (which is exactly what it sounds like) was dismissed as going ‘too far’ for Overwatch but ultra mobile intelligent hamster ball tank is perhaps just the right kind of wacky we need to shake up this shooter.