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Overwatch: A guide to dealing with high latency

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Have you ever found yourself being killed around corners? Ever wondered why those shots that should have hit and even showed a hit-marker, didn't hit at all? These are the signs and symptoms of playing with high latency. In this article, we will be going through some explanation, tips, tricks and some work arounds to address the issues of playing with high latency.

Thankfully, Overwatch has a decent lag compensation system that allows us to play and minimizes the impact that latency has on us... Which is far better than not being able to play at all. The first step is to learn how lag compensation works. We know that we're at a disadvantage but there are ways of working with and around it.

Lag Compensation & Reaction Time

How does Lag compensation work? There are 3 main elements to look at here; the server, your PC and the player's internet. While on a game server, your PC sends commands in data form to the server, the server receives these commands while simultaneously sending data back to you which all translates into the game you are currently experiencing. The delay or lag is based on your connection speed and latency to the server.

With an average of 200 milliseconds from SA to EU, which is 0.2 seconds or 1 fifth of a second, it gets a bit tricky when playing online multiplayer games for a couple of reasons; You are at a 0.2 second delay disadvantage, it will take 0.2 seconds for you to see whether your action is successful or not and also your opponents could perform an action without you being able to counter or leaving you with very little time to react.

A quick note when dealing with lag is that you also need to take reaction time into account. Why is this necessary? Because we're dealing with time and delay and it is more than possible to sync up your reaction time with the "delay" as well as train your aim and movements to such a degree where you're able to thin that disadvantage and even propel your game much further! Practice makes perfect.

Check out your reaction time before continuing. http://www.humanbenchmark.com/tests/reactiontime 



With the average human reaction times being between 200 to 250ms +/- we're essentially looking at a 0.4 to 0.45-second delay, if not more. All these variables pertain to how you experience your game and in turn, affects your individual gameplay as a whole. Just because it's harder does not mean it's impossible, in fact, it's far from it. There are many ways to deal with the delay while improving your game at the same time!

Movement Tips

While running around in the game, there is a ghost following you around! It's kind of funny to imagine but as you move around picture yourself, or your hitbox, running 0.2 seconds behind you... because that's what's happening! On your screen you're "where you are", but the server you're behind by 200ms, and that's where your enemy sees you, and where they shoot. While this may seem weird, it really isn't that bad. Here are a few instances where it could influence your game and what you can do;

When taking cover - Your enemy will actually be able to take you down even when you think you've made it behind that wall or cover but you still take damage or die. This is because on the server you're still out in the open. A workaround for this is preemptively calculating your movement and the enemy's attacks. This is basic but now factor in your ghosting hitbox too. It will take some practice but it will be a major advantage once you've got it right or as good as it can be.

Dodging, strafing & zig-zagging - This type of movement is usually based on reactions. As you see bullets, arrows, rockets, particle bombs etc... whizzing past you, it helps to use unpredictable movement while guessing your opponents next shot. Now take into account your little ghost following you, if you're unlucky you might accidentally move straight into the enemy's shot while trying to dodge. So, while you're seeing yourself dodge all sorts of pew pew's, remember it's your ghost that's vulnerable and be careful not to walk right across the enemies fire.

Aiming Tips

As mentioned, Overwatch's lag compensation system is decent, but not perfect. There are times where your aim will be on point but your shots won't always hit. You will have to sometimes compensate for the lag yourself to increase the chances of hitting your targets or even healing allies with Ana. Unlike your hitbox or "ghost" your opponent's model is synced with the server (assuming their ping is under 90+/-). While their hit boxes are synced what you see is still 0.2 seconds delayed, but this is where the lag compensation kicks in. If you shoot your target and the server makes a proper calculation based on your data sent, it will register.

A very particular issue with high latency is, when your opponents are very near to you and moving quickly, it significantly lowers the chance of your shot hitting or even registering at all. The best chance to hit your opponent is when he/she/it is standing still or moving in a straight line. This isn't just the basics of aiming because remember, you're almost seeing a delayed version of your enemy... in some cases, it wouldn't hurt to be patient to line up a well calculated shot! Even though your opponents are server synced and compensated on your game's side, it's very easy for your target to make a quick movement which will only register on your screen a split second later and in FPS games that could make all the difference.


From Medium To Long Distances:

Hitscan - Let's take MCree as an example and look at his primary fire. Hitscan is instantaneous however if we look at geometry - enemies will "appear" to move slower at longer distances. Therefore, even though the hitboxes are smaller, if you aim dead center on a smaller hitbox at longer range, the chances of the shot "missing" or not registering inside of the hitbox is much lower because of the speed it is moving.

Projectiles - Let's take Hanzo for example and look at his primary fire. After loosing the arrow and after the projectile is "live" for more than 0.2 seconds it will perfectly sync with the server and will hit 100% because the server has had sufficient time to update your projectile with the target's hitbox in the game.

Explosions - Let's look at Phara's primary rocket. If the initial projectile has been in the air longer than 0.2 seconds and then explodes on impact, causing the area of effect damage to be in play, it will perfectly register the damage on enemies that were in the radius when the explosion happened. Even if on the targets screen they moved out of the explosive radius, the server has already registered it. This works both ways if you move out of the radius but your ghost is still there, you're going to feel it.

Up Close & Personal:

This is the tricky part. When the targets are closer and your aim needs to be even more accurate. Obviously, the distance and geometry are now reversed. Targets and hitboxes are bigger but they are moving quicker which means they will be harder to hit, especially with a delay. Let's take an example. A Tracer is running circles around you. Even though you're seeing a lag compensated model, you would need to take into account that at that distance the server simply would not have enough time to register your shot accurately. In order to assist the lag compensation you would almost need to predict your shot 0.1 to 0.2 seconds ahead to give you the best chance of hitting your shot, otherwise, the server will favor the player with less ping. Remember you're aiming for the center, if not the front of the target in the direction he/she/it is heading.

A sneaky hint here is - at close range your projectile starts at the end of your weapon and not so much where your crosshair is, even though they are aligned. This will mostly affect shotguns and melee weapons, but at that range, a revolver is a shotgun.

Various Situations With Lag Correction Tips

Genji's ultimate. There is a delay on your speed movement increase and could affect your individual slashes. It wouldn't hurt getting into a slightly closer before you slash away. Also if you sync your directional movement with your target you'll have less chance of getting "phantom slashes". If you're accurate enough, your slashes will register even if your target preemptively leaves your line of sight.

Reinhardt's primary attack. This is probably the most reliable action because of the wide and how long his attack is in effect. This is similar to what we mentioned about projectiles but since Reinhardt's swing is much longer than 0.2 seconds, the server has more than enough time to register it as a hit. Here's a recent article discussing the duration of his swing which varies on the skin (lol!) Article link - CLICK ME

Projectiles. Think of shooting from a delayed trajectory to a forward point, as in think of where you fired from to where the enemy would be. It sounds silly but once you get your head around it, you'll be hitting insane shots! A good idea is to plan your next movement and shot while firing and moving in regards to your ghost and protecting it!


Final Thoughts 

We hope this guide has helped and explained how to manage the disadvantages of playing with high latency on Overwatch and hope it will help improve your game. Remember, it's tough playing with a handicap but you've done well so far soldier, keep it up!

Please feel free to let us know areas where you have struggled with high ping and areas where you find you have got above!

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