Overwatch’s new hero is a chubby hamster in a murderball

Blizzard learned a lot from the backlash surrounding Sombra’s reveal, and the company no longer drags out announcements about new characters for more than a few days. Earlier this week, the PlayOverwatch twitter account teased a new character, and today PC players can try out the hero for themselves on Blizzard’s Public Test Realm (PTR). We got some hands on time with Wrecking Ball (A.K.A. Hammond), so read on and we’ll break him down for you.

Hamster history

Wrecking Ball has an interesting backstory, and the character’s origin is related to Winston and the ill-fated Horizon Lunar Colony. Though he’s much smaller, Hammond received the same genetic and technological augmentation that increased Winston’s intelligence, and you can see he wears a tech plate on his forehead similar to Winston’s. Hammond is described in some in-game emails as very curious and a bit of an escape artist, and it seems he learned all about engineering and robotics on his excursions.

The recent major patch that updated Symmetra made some changes to the Horizon map, placing a second specimen room next to Winston’s and changing the layout to give attackers a bit of an advantage on point B. The new room had some hints about Hammond, including visual clues about his species and his plan to hitch a ride on Winston’s escape rocket to Earth.

Unfortunately, the tether connecting his escape pod to Winston’s shuttle snapped during re-entry, and Hammond crashed to Earth near Junkertown in the Australian wasteland. Since then he’s been participating in the city’s robot battles as the battlebot Wrecking Ball, earning prize money and upgrading his pod with additional weaponry. None of Junkertown’s citizens seemed to be aware that their champion was actually being piloted by an augmented rodent. Now free of Junkertown, Hammond is free to explore the rest of the world.

Transform and roll out

Wrecking Ball is a Tank character, only the second addition to that category since Overwatch launched. He’s the first tank with a three-star difficulty rating, and players will definitely need to practice with the character to unlock his full potential. Hammond has a lot of options at any given moment, so you’ll need to be more aware of your environment than usual while playing this hero. He seems a little too fragile to serve as a main tank and will likely be better suited to an off-tank role, more useful on certain maps than others. All of the following information is subject to change since the developers tend to change things based on data collected from the PTR.

Hammond seems to have been inspired by the Droidekas from the first Star Wars prequel, seamlessly transforming from a spherical mecha into a mobile weapons platform. Unlike D.Va, Hammond can’t survive outside his mech suit. While in his mobile turret form, he has access to four side-mounted machine guns with a combined 80 round capacity. The large ammo capacity can be misleading because the guns will run dry pretty quickly when the fire button is held. His reload is a fairly large vulnerability, as the full reload animation takes about two seconds.

These guns are hitscan weapons (i.e. there is no projectile travel time), deal ten damage per hit, and can deal double damage if aimed at an enemy’s head. There’s a bit of aim bloom when the guns are fired, but less than you’ll see from weapons like those belonging to D.Va or Soldier 76. Surprisingly, Hammond has the most accurate long range weapon in the Tank class.

Wrecking Ball starts with 500 HP and 100 armor, much less than you’d expect considering how much of the character is made out of metal. The round, quadruped robot body is hard to miss, and there’s no mistaking Wrecking Ball for any of the other characters. In his primary fire mode the hamster pilot can be shot at for critical damage but when he morphs into a ball, he loses this vulnerability.

I came in like a… you know

Transforming into a ball allows Hammond to access most of his more interesting techniques. There’s only a one second cooldown, so Hammond can switch between forms pretty much at will. Simply rolling around a map lets him travel more quickly than walking the same distance, though running into enemies at his normal speed won’t actually do any damage. Hammond can move and jump in this form, but most of the cool attacks come from combining the ball form with other abilities.

Wrecking Ball gets its name from the grappling claw attached to the robot’s main body, and the tether it’s attached to will extend out about 8 meters. Deploying the claw lets the ball build momentum, and also serves as the main mobility mechanic. Using the ability forces Hammond into ball form, and lets him start swinging around whatever he’s attached to. The ball is a bit more floaty than it looks, and players have a high degree of control over where it goes. Skillful use of this ability will allow players to take high ground, slam into enemies, or escape dangerous situations.

The claw must attach to a stable piece of map geometry such as a wall or ceiling, and won’t attach to the floor unless it’s a slope. The player can swing for as long as they keep the button held down, and they can change the direction of their swing by moving however they’d like to travel. If Wrecking Ball gains speed in this way the ball will begin to flame, indicating it will do damage if it strikes an enemy player. Releasing the tether will fling the ball in whatever direction it was moving when last attached, and if it was moving at speed it will continue to do so for a couple of seconds before losing momentum. The tether can be used again five seconds after it’s released, so it’s quite handy and almost always available.

Ramming into an enemy while at speed will deal up to 50 damage and also causes some knockback to any affected players. There’s no stun associated with the attack, so it can’t be used to interrupt enemy abilities or ultimates apart from knocking them out of position. It feels pretty good swinging around with the WASD keys, but I found I had slightly more control when I tried playing with an analog stick. Your mileage may vary, but it’s worth experimenting to see what works best; you’ve probably never played a character who controls like this before.

Magic hate ball

Wrecking Ball has a few other abilities that play into his role as a Tank. His crunchiest is called Adaptive Shielding, and it allows him to temporarily boost his HP by a significant amount. When the ability is activated, Hammond’s mech gains personal shields similar to those granted by Doomfist’s “The Best Defense…” passive ability. He’ll never gain less than 100 temporary hit points, but is granted an extra 100 for every enemy player who’s nearby when the ability is activated. This can bring him up to a maximum of 700 extra HP if the entire enemy team is within range. He can tell how many enemies are nearby because there’s an indicator on the lower left of his heads-up display, sort of like the one which lets you know how many friendly players are being affected by Lucio’s auras.

Adaptive Shielding is intended to let Wrecking Ball move in, scatter an enemy team, and get out in one piece. The ability takes 15 seconds to recharge, so Hammond should save it for emergencies. Unfortunately, the HP granted by this ability fades after six seconds. Activating the ability will force Hammond into turret form, though he can switch back to ball mode immediately after using it.

Hammond added another trick to his mech, and if he gets it up to a high place he can use his Piledriver attack. This ability slams the mech into the ground, dealing damage and knocking enemies up into the air in a small area surrounding Wrecking Ball’s landing zone. Landing on top of an enemy character using this ability will deal up to 100 damage, though the falloff is severe and you’ll have to have near-perfect aim to get the full amount. The pop-up effect is more forgiving, and it’s possible to launch an enemy without dealing any significant damage. This attack can be used every ten seconds if Hammond is high enough to activate the ability, and is triggered by pressing the crouch button while the mech is in the air.

G-Force: Area denied

Wrecking Ball’s ultimate ability is called Minefield, and it does exactly what you’d expect. When the ability is used, he scatters 16 floating proximity mines around the mech in a large enough radius to cover an entire control point. The mines take a moment to deploy, but stay active for 20 seconds or until destroyed by enemy fire. Mines which land on a wall will stick to it, deploying wherever they made impact. Each mine has limited range, but enemies who blunder into them will take 130 damage for each mine they trip. It’s a great zoning tool, and can be used to keep the enemy team off of a capture point or just help you move the payload a few extra meters.

The mines have more HP than Symmetra’s turrets, but can be destroyed by explosions or concentrated fire. It’s tough to blow up all the mines before they can deal their damage, especially if they’re laid in a chokepoint or small area. Mines can’t be hacked by Sombra, but can be avoided if you don’t get too close to them. The best counter to Minefield is another ultimate, especially a support ultimate from Zenyatta or Lucio or one which deals indiscriminate damage such as D.Va’s or Junkrat’s.

Wrecking Ball may help break up the two-sniper meta we’ve seen recently since the ball isn’t vulnerable to headshots. It could also help lower Brigitte’s popularity since he’s very good at disrupting a team in a favorable position and isn’t as vulnerable as Tracer or Genji. He’s very good at distracting opposing tanks, knocking them out of position and swinging back to his own team to heal up.

Hammond’s mech is fairly sturdy, but coordinated teams will be able to burn him down quickly with focused fire. He isn’t especially useful on wide-open maps like Junkertown since the grappling hook has far less utility when there aren’t any buildings to latch onto. On the other hand, some maps seem perfect for his endless whirling attacks, especially if you can attach to something like the fountain on Anubis A or the data core in the center of Volskaya point B.

His small amount of starting armor makes him more vulnerable to spread and rapid-fire weapons than most tanks, so he’ll need to be especially careful of Tracer and Reaper. He’ll also need to watch out for Sombra since he can’t shift to ball form when hacked and thus loses access to almost his entire kit. This will be a little more difficult since she’s getting some buffs to her stealth and translocator abilities in the next patch, and will be able to use both abilities indefinitely.

Having a ball

Wrecking Ball is one of the most unique characters in Overwatch, and that’s saying something. His reliance on in-game physics will make him one of the more difficult heroes to perfect, but will certainly make for some entertaining plays in the hands of skilled players. Furthermore, the character itself is one of the funniest so far, both visually and in concept. The deep, threatening robot voice communicating for a plump, friendly looking hamster is comedic in and of itself, and I can’t wait to hear some more voice lines.

Wrecking Ball should be added to the live game on PC, PS4, and Xbox One within the next couple of weeks, but you can try him out now if you own a PC copy of Overwatch.