What does hitscan mean in Overwatch?

What it means to click heads.

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

The roster of characters in Overwatch is highlighted by a plethora of unique weapons and abilities that make every match a new experience.

One of the primary ways that players differentiate heroes from one another in the game is by the way that their weapons shoot. 

There are two main types of weapon fire: hitscan and projectile.

Projectile weapons work similar to the way that they sound. When fired, the ammunition of a projectile weapon travels at a set speed and trajectory in a specific direction. 

If you’re trying to shoot a target that’s moving and you’re using a projectile weapon, you’ll need to lead your shot or predict your opponent’s movement to hit them. Characters that follow this weapon type include Hanzo, Junkrat, Roadhog, and Mei.

On the other hand, ammunition from hitscan weapons is instant. There’s no delay between you clicking your mouse button and the bullet hitting whatever was in your crosshairs.

If you’re playing Widowmaker and line up your crosshair onto a player’s head, you’ll instantly deal headshot damage to the character once you click the button.

This leads to a set of skills that differs from players who use projectiles. Instead of leading or predicting your shots, you must get good at what is called “tracking” your shots. Tracking a shot means that you can keep your crosshair locked onto your opponent while they move around.

These characters use hitscan as their primary weapons: Ana, Ashe, Bastion, D.va, McCree, Reaper, Soldier:76, Sombra, Tracer, Widowmaker, and Zarya.

While hitscan weapons are extremely powerful because of the accuracy that it allows players to have over projectile weapons, Blizzard balances those weapons by adding things like “spread” and “damage falloff” to them.

Spread

Screengrab via Blizzard Entertainment

A good example of spread is with characters like Tracer and Reaper. While both characters have hitscan weapons, their ammunition isn’t all fired in one direction.

Tracer’s pistols will do stronger damage when you’re close to an opponent. But the further away they get, the ammo will fly in various directions. Since Reaper is wielding shotguns, his ammunition will spray as well.

To a lesser extent, this is true with Soldier: 76 as well. But his spread comes from holding down your fire for too long. 

If you quickly tap your mouse button repeatedly to fire Soldier’s rifle, you’ll consistently hit whatever is in between your crosshairs. If you hold the button down, however, the shots will be significantly less accurate.

Damage falloff

McCree hot potato
Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Though some hitscan characters can be lethal from range, like Widowmaker, many rely on being at a certain range to be effective. This is because of the damage falloff that exists on many hitscan weapons. To prevent some hitscan heroes from being too powerful, their ammunition will do less damage the further away a target is.

While McCree’s normal fire doesn’t have any spread to it, his pistol is significantly less impactful from far distances than it is from medium and close range.

For some characters like Tracer and Sombra, there’s a combination of both spread and damage falloff that balances the power of their weapons.