Overwatch hitscan heroes aren’t easy. Of course, nothing about shooting your weapon in Overwatch is simple. From rockets to bullets, the game offers a huge variety of heroes with weapons that function wildly different from each other. With new hero Ashe on her way to the live game, it’s time to break down how hitscan-based heroes like her function, how to improve your aim, and what you should practice to excel at the role.
What is Hitscan?
“Hitscan” refers to the mechanics of specific weapons in Overwatch. Heroes like Pharah shoot large rockets that have travel time before they impact their target—these types of guns are referred to as projectile weapons. Widowmaker, McCree, Soldier: 76, Bastion, Tracer, Symmetra (her primary fire), Ana (when scoped in), D.Va, Wrecking Ball, and Zarya (with her primary fire) all instantly damage their targets when they fire their weapons. These are the hitscan weapons. With hitscan weapons, there’s no need to lead your shots and predict enemy movement, because the bullets have no travel time.
This difference matters because it demands a separate aiming style. Some heroes are limited to one style, while others let you choose. Tracer’s Pulse Pistols are automatic, which means you hold the trigger down and keep your crosshair over the enemy. McCree’s Peacekeeper revolver shoots individual shots. You have to determine the right moment to pull the trigger since the rate of fire is so low. Of the two aiming styles—“tracking” and “flicking”—Tracer can only perform one. Although McCree, Ana, Widowmaker, and Ashe can swap between both.
Tracking vs. Flicking
For the purposes of this guide, we’ll focus on heroes like McCree (and the very similar Ashe) that use both aiming styles. Tracking shots with these heroes means carefully synching your crosshair up with your target and firing as needed. It’s a simple concept, but given that many Overwatch heroes have incredibly fast vertical and horizontal movement abilities, it’s much harder to execute in a real game. That’s why flicking exists.
Flicking describes the quick movement your crosshair makes to pass over your target and allow you to hit them. Instead of tracking their movement, flicking starts aimed away from the target and quickly locates them again before shooting. You’ve probably seen some amazing clips of Widowmakers flicking to and from several headshots in quick succession. Flicking is generally harder to pull off than tracking, but it’s much faster and more efficient if you actually hit the shots.
Mixing the Two
Most players should use whatever aiming style they’re comfortable with and whichever suits their mouse sensitivity. For many users, this includes both. In Overwatch, heroes come in various sizes and have many abilities that can mitigate, block, or even deflect your shots. Your aim must take into account whatever hero you’re trying to hit. Sometimes you track a Roadhog. But when he stops moving to heal himself, you might flick up to his head to double your damage and ice him faster than you would via body shots.
Mouse sensitivity is a much-discussed topic because the settings differ for so many people. What works for a professional player might not work for you. In fact, it probably won’t. The best thing to do is pick something and tweak it to your liking. Generally, flicking is easier on higher sensitivities because you can move your crosshair to the intended location faster. Tracking is easier with lower sensitivities. There’s also a relative aim sensitivity when zoomed setting for Ana, Widowmaker, and Ashe that you can tweak based on your preferences (check out this Reddit guide for the math on how to make this equal to your un-scoped sensitivity).
Remember: the lower the sensitivity you have, the more physical space you need for your mouse to move. That’s why many players use extra-large mousepads.
As for your mouse’s DPI settings: you should use whatever is most comfortable for normal desktop activities. Your Overwatch sensitivity can be adjusted separately.
When it comes to customizing your crosshair, you want it to be visibly unobtrusive, while still as helpful as possible. Like sensitivity, this is an incredibly personal setting. Although most people stick to small crosshairs that primarily help you center and align your camera. Hitscan aim isn’t really about trying to get your crosshair over the enemy. It’s about becoming comfortable with both the center of your screen and your control sensitivity. That way you can watch enemy movements and use muscle memory to hit your shots.
Playing Hitscan Heroes
Most maps in Overwatch have useful, accessible high-ground areas. As a hitscan hero, you should take any opportunity to be above the enemy team. It doesn’t just make it easier for you to dodge incoming fire (by simply backing up out of view). It also makes it easier to hit headshots, since enemy heads are more visible from that perspective.
How do you play against heroes that can hit you instantly and are also looking for headshots? You make your movement unpredictable—and their ability to track or flick to you nearly impossible.
A/D Strafing (“A” and “D” referring to the common left and right PC movement controls), or quickly strafing left and right, makes your character very hard to predict. As soon as it looks like you’ll stay on one side, you’re pivoting to the other side. This technique has a weakness, though: the space in the middle of both positions is always the same. Anyone familiar with hitscan will know to wait for that moment to shoot. Of course, you can use this against other hitscan players, too.
You can prevent this by randomizing your left and right movement. Go left a little long and then hang back. Maybe go right for a split second then left even longer. Work in some crouching so they can’t hit your head and you’ll be very hard to hit. Do note that while you’re doing this, you will also have trouble aiming. So this is generally useful when you simply need to avoid getting hit (like while an ally flanks your distracted attacker) and nothing else.
Here’s another useful tip. Avoid peeking corners when you know a hitscan hero like Widowmaker or Ashe is waiting for you. Instead of walking straight out from behind cover, try coming out crouched or mid-jump to throw off that initial shot. It’ll give you time to fire back or reach a new, safer location.
In desperate situations where you absolutely need to avoid getting headshot, you can swing your camera around so your back is facing the enemy. This works because most characters’ head hitboxes (the surface areas where they can take damage) are almost impossible to hit from behind. This is important if you’re going for a jump-shot via Widowmaker’s Grappling Hook or Ashe’s Coach Gun. Jumping creates predictable movement in Overwatch. So all you can do if you’re in danger of being shot while airborne is spin around and obscure your head.
The Crouch Game
Any Widowmaker expert knows that hitscan players like to crouch during a duel. Technically, it’s for the reason I explained earlier: it’s hard to hit people who randomly crouch. The common misconception is that it’s only used for that reason. In Overwatch, the most lethal hitscan heroes, Widowmaker and Ashe, have a short period between each shot built into their weapon’s firing rate.
You can memorize this pattern and crouch to dodge when you think the enemy is ready to fire. You can tell by watching the character models. The player will pull the scope in from their face. That’s when you should start the firing countdown in your head. The trick isn’t to crouch randomly, because any good hitscan player can adjust their aim. Crouch in response to what you think their next move is.
This is more of a general awareness tip for Overwatch, but it’s especially helpful on hitscan heroes. Always keep track of the enemy hitscan heroes. If you know where they’re standing, you have a distinct advantage. You can utilize that to catch them by surprise and get a free shot or two on them.
For example: think about the enemy Widowmaker on the high-ground taking shots at your team. If you grapple up to an equal height, or go for a jump shot, she will have no idea where you’re coming from. That allows you to hit the killing blow first.
This tip applies to natural hitscan counter heroes like Tracer and Genji. Both have extreme mobility (time skipping and wall climbing) to pounce on stationary heroes. Pay attention to where they are, too, so you don’t get ambushed. Then learn to expect where they’ll come from so you’re prepared.
Tracer, for example, will has a hard time reaching high ground because she has no vertical movement. You can also bait out Genji’s Deflect by hitting him with a quick shot while he’s unaware. Or try planning an escape (like hopping off a ledge or getting ready to grapple). Then wait for him to dive you and juke out of the way.
Unlike in most shooters, Overwatch heroes have various different hitbox sizes. That means you need to practice observing and reacting to each heroes’ movement style and where to shoot them.
You can create custom games with bots that deal little or no damage and can only be hit with headshots. You can do so on every map in the game. Not every hero is available as a bot, however, so spending time in normal games is necessary as well. But there’s still value in practicing how forgiving a tank’s head hitbox is versus support heroes like Ana.
If you put all of these together, or even take a game or two to focus on one, you’ll start to grasp your role as a hitscan hero in Overwatch. It’s certainly different than most other shooters. Your opponents vary so greatly and are sometimes unfair match-ups by design. Don’t focus too hard on your ability to aim, because it’ll get better with time. Instead, practice positioning yourself aggressively and intelligently. You’ll start to see how to consistently perform well against any team composition in the game.