Hanzo has been a weird character since Overwatch’s release, quickly gaining a reputation as the hero people instantly lock in if they just want to antagonize their teammates or make an undoubtedly doomed attempt at solo-carrying.
He’s also one of the most popular characters outside of the game. His good looks, haughty mannerisms and tortured backstory are all bait for fans who love to write about Overwatch. Hanzo has achieved complete cultural saturation ... but his kit doesn’t quite work.
This is a problem that the designers are finding as they tinker with Scatter Arrow for Hanzo’s potential rework. Geoff Goodman shared some very early design notes on Hanzo’s rework in a thread on the official Blizzard forums. These are from early in the internal testing process, so weigh these thoughts accordingly:
We tried replacing Scatter Arrow with Piercing Arrow, which was an arrow that had an extremely fast projectile speed and would pierce through enemies and barriers. This was pretty fun as a ‘snipey’ arrow that you could occasionally take a super long-ranged shot at an enemy widow, pharah, or just a support in their back lines. Ultimately though, it was pretty frustrating to be feeling safe behind a barrier and get headshot through it and die.
Another thing we played with was just changing Scatter significantly. The most successful version was one where it had a very fast projectile speed, could only ricochet one time, could no longer split off the floor, and had a much tighter spread. This version removed the floor scatter entirely but added some new options in either using it as a long-range sniper shot or using it more accurately off a single wall (or ceiling). This one was pretty fun but mostly just felt really hard to use consistently. There were some areas of maps where it felt useful and fun but a lot of the time there weren’t any usable surfaces around to cause a split, and using your cooldown to merely increase the projectile speed of your shot didn’t feel great as a common use-case.
Another crazy thing we playtested a few times was a new ability bound to his Reload key (which is currently unused). This ability would have a small animation delay (~2-3 seconds) after which your cooldowns would reset. This meant if you wanted to sacrifice some normal shots you could forcibly reset your special arrows. This was pretty interesting when paired with the Piercing Arrow idea, but felt pretty crazy with Sonic Arrow. This idea overall wasn’t bad but I think its shelved for now.
Hanzo certainly has the ability to be a one-shotting sniper sitting in the back lines, but it’s worth looking at the other snipers in the game and considering their kits. Widowmaker’s headshots are lethal, and the rest of her kit is built around allowing her to hit those one hit kills. Her grappling hook lets her escape, her trap allows her to focus on sniping while staying apprised of if anyone’s coming up through a certain path, and her ult tells her where everyone is so that she can snipe them. It’s a simple, elegant design. Even her automatic fire is a last resort, only to be used if someone’s in her face; it’s not meant to be part of her standard play pattern.
Hanzo, on the other hand, has a more complicated kit. He has strong area control compared to Widowmaker, which is an interesting contrast for a sniper. Some of his potential rework options that have been scrapped turn him into more of a traditional sniper. The team are still mulling over what would give Hanzo a strong identity, which would make players glad he’s on their team, and it’s certainly a complicated question.
An interesting source of inspiration may be the cinematics. Obviously, the cinematics will always be far more ambitious than the game, but look at Hanzo duke it out with Genji. He’s nimble, dangerous and swinging that bow around like he’s gonna take Genji’s head off.
Giving Hanzo more tools, or allowing him to effectively eliminate people that come to tangle with him in his sniper’s nest, is just one potential solution, and it’s likely not even the best one. What would you do to rework Hanzo, and what tools would you give him? Would you remove his Scatter Shot, or focus on his standard fire or Sonic Arrow? It’s not an easy question, and I don’t envy the development team for having to puzzle it out ... but I also look forward to the day where picking Hanzo isn’t seen as a mark against a player.