Overwatch's Winter Wonderland holiday event is in full swing, bringing with it a pile of new holiday-themed cosmetics and, like the Summer Games and Halloween Terror events before it, a unique game mode Brawl. This time around, we're treated to Mei's Snowball Offensive, a 6v6 elimination format where everyone plays as Mei with a modified primary weapon.
Instead of the normal freezing spray and icicle gun, Mei has a single-shot snowball cannon that kills in one hit, but can only be reloaded by sucking up snow from assorted piles around the map. (Matches are played on the new arena map Ecopoint: Antarctica, by the way.) Her other abilities—Ice Wall and Cryo-Freeze—remain intact, though hitting her ultimate gives you unlimited ammo—err, snowballs—for a short time. And like the Halloween Terror event, Junkenstein's Revenge, the whole thing is narrated—this time by superdad Soldier: 76, who sounds only a little bit annoyed that he's commentating a snowball fight and not a black-ops mission.
Right off the bat, I applaud Blizzard for giving us a new game mode (at least for the duration of the event) with a fun concept. Mei's Snowball Offensive takes the elimination format—already one of the best new additions to Overwatch—and gives it a lighthearted but surprisingly intense spin. Because you've got one snow bullet in the chamber and Mei's abilities have pretty long cooldown, the duels between mirror-Meis are all about who spends those resources first, and dancing around to gain better positioning.
The one-hit-kill format draws heavily from local multiplayer games such as Towerfall Ascension, Samurai Gunn, and Nidhogg. But unlike those games, the time from being eliminated by a flying snowball to the next round can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. One-hit-kill arena brawlers work well when the time to get back in the game is minimal. You respawn almost immediately in Samurai Gunn and Nidhogg, while Towerfall rounds only last around a minute at the most. Meanwhile, if you're eliminated first or second in Snowball Offensive (which can happen almost immediately if you aren't up on your defensive Mei game) you spend quite a while watching other little snow demons hurl balls of ice at each other.
Don't get me wrong—the game mode is fun. But I think it would have benefited greatly from either letting you respawn (almost) immediately, having games end when a team reaches a certain number of eliminations, or if there were less players on each team—3v3 or 4v4 would probably usher games through to rounds two and three at a much more reasonable speed. Alternatively, a dodgeball-style mode, where getting an elimination allows one of your fallen teammates to return to battle, would also have fit in well.
As it stands, Mei's Snowball Offensive is an enjoyable sideshow, if only for the unique voice lines. But as it stands, I don't find myself wanting to hop back in for any reason other than to score the free holiday loot box.