Overwatch is so densely pact with fantastic gameplay you might not have noticed a bunch of secrets that Blizzard has hidden in the game. Number One: you can play in Genji’s room in Nepal. It’s easy to tell that Nepal is Zenyatta’s hangout, what with the floating robot monk statues everywhere and all, but what the game doesn’t tell you upfront is that it’s Genji’s home, too. After being mortally wounded in a fight with his brother, Hanzo, and patched up with cybernetics, Genji came to Nepal to find peace with his old self and a new prosthetic reality. That’s where he came under the mentor-ship of Zenyatta, and the two have been close ever since. You can hear them refer to this relationship in the pre-game chatter, if you listen closely.

Since Nepal is Genji’s adopted home you’d figure he’d find a place to carve out for himself. And sure enough you can find it in one of Nepal’s three controlled mode maps. On the Nepal map known as “Village”, which you might know as “The one where the control point is a tiny room of DEATH”, near the control point on the second floor where you can find a peculiar room decorated with recognisable artifacts.

On the right you can find a painting that should look familiar. Sword-wielding brother? Check. Bow-and-arrow bro? Check! Giant dragon? You bet! It’s not a coincidence this all seems like a direct call-out to the Shimada Family. On the left we can see a certain sword, and on the right- awhh, it’s a snapshot of baby-faced Hanzo and baby-faced Genji in better days. Relative Genji’s past tells us that he still values part of his life, including the brother that tried to murder him. Number Two: there’s a giant dancing robot in Volskaya Industries. I don’t know if you noticed, but outside of the Volskaya Industries Map there’s a ton of giant robots! They’re all part of Russia’s saboteur-or-Mech program built to protect the country from the threat of asshole Omnics like Bastion. It’s tricky, but you can even catch one Mech pilot doing the robot and pulling off some moves in the furthest edge of the background. Number Three: Plenty of movie and TV references. Winston’s “Don’t get me angry” directly acknowledges the similarities of his rage mode with Bruce Banner’s “Hulking out”. In “Route 66” theres’s a “King of the Hills” reference: ‘Deadlock Propane’ and ‘Propane Accessories’.

There’s even a clever reference to the Bill Murray-favourite “Groundhog Day”, found in “Route 66″‘s diner. In “Groundhog Day”, when pulled over by the cops, Murray jokes with the arresting officer by starting up a Drive Thru offer. “Too early for flapjacks?” And somebody at Blizzard is apparently a fan. Some references are a bit older. “Some like it bot” is a dead ringer for the Marilyn Monroe classic “Some like it hot”, down to the instrumentalist in high heels. The last one’s a bit shaky but someone brought up a convincing link between Overwatch and Big Hero 6.

On the left you can see Zenyatta’s ‘Hello’ emote which is a circular wax on wave. It also happens to be the /exact/ same way that fellow robot Baymax waves ‘hello’. It might be a coincidence but the two synthetic life forms are pretty similar in personality and vocal cadence, and the connection is just too tough to deny. All we know is now I want Baymax in Overwatch and I will never be happy again Number Four: a touching tribute to a deceased fan. Blizzard has a history of honoring fallen fans by representing them in game, including the now-tragic story of Wu Hongyu, a twenty year old fan who was notorious among his friends for being a big fan of Captain America and, of course, video games.

One day before Overwatch was set to release, Hongyu was killed when he tried to stop a thief from stealing his friends’ motorcycle. Following his death, local government bestowed Hongyu with the ‘Courageous Citizen’ Award, and Overwatch developers planted this lovely tribute in Lijiang Tower. On the display of spacesuits, the centre piece reads “Hongyu” in Chinese characters. The words above this suit roughly translates to “Immortal Hero”, or as Mercy would say, “Hero’s never die!” Number Five: animated aftermath.

If you haven’t checked out the Overwatch Animated Shorts yet, you really owe it to yourself to set aside a few minutes and watch them. Not only are they entertaining and well produced, each short has visible impact on the map in which they take place. These details really help the levels feel like they have some meaning in history beyond “One time a Junkrat killed four people with his Ult here.” The Genji-Hanzo focused short “Dragons” is set on what players will recognise as the “Hanamura” map. This is where the Shimada brothers throw down. In addition to some shredded lanterns and ninja stars stuck in the wall, you can see an arrow meant for Genji’s head still stuck in the ground. You can’t remove the arrow by shooting it so for now it’s a permanent scar on an otherwise lovely wood paneling.

Then there’s the short “Alive” in which Widowmaker successfully pulls off her assassination mission. Mondatta was one of Zenyatta’s allies, a peaceful figure that was championing unity between man and machine. Widowmaker smiled as she gunned him down. Now a martyr, Mondatta greets players on “King’s Row” in giant golden statue form. It’s kind of ironic, given what the payload of “King’s Row” contains, but we’ll get to that later.

Maybe the most fun of the shorts, “Recall”, stars a lonely Winston twiddling his thumbs as Reaper and his goons come to call. This short takes place in the attackers’ spawn of “Watchpoint: Gibraltar”, and it’s easy to spot Winston’s office and the window through which he chucked a hapless merc. True to form, Winston’s desk is still covered in jars of peanut butter. Number Six: shameless Blizzard developer cameos. Over in the crew quarters of the Gibraltar map, you can find what appears to be the names of several developers. Programmer Paul Pinto can be seen to the left, and senior environment artist Paul Xlevestav snuck his way in there in the middle. Blizzard was a little sneaker with the Arrivals board at the Numbani Airport. In general, it’s a pretty expected mix of imaginary places like “Dorado” and “Numbani”, combined with real-world locales like “New York” and “Tokyo”. But others stick out oddly: Why would the “Cork, Ireland” Airport be featured over the “Dublin” Airport? Does an “Irvine, California” Airport even exist? The explanation, of course, is that several of these locations correspond to Blizzard Offices, specifically “Irvine”, “Cork”, “Seoul”, “Paris”, “Austin”, “Shanghai”, and “San Francisco”, and of course it would totally make sense that “Irvine”, the headquarters of the company that likes to take its time, would have the only flight on the list that’s delayed.

Number Seven: the secret stories behind those payloads you’re escorting. Overwatch doesn’t exactly tell you what you’re doing most of the time. Sure, you’re told to ‘attack objective A”, or “escort the payload”, but what exactly does that mean? The answers aren’t found in any kind of narrative-driven campaign, but details are tucked away in the environments. “Watchpoint: Gibraltar” is probably the easiest one to figure out. The payload is literally labelled “Satellite Drone”. If that doesn’t give it away, there’s some other hints dead centre.

As we established earlier, the attacking team on Gibraltar start at Winston’s lab, complete with broken window. You find all sorts of suits and gadgets lying around but the most important part here is the black board. Written in chalk, you can find step-by-step instructions for what exactly ‘escorting the payload’ means. In this case it’s guiding a Satellite Drone to a rocket at the end of the level, which will reactivate the members of Overwatch, some of which, uh, will already be helping to escort the payload. Each escort mission is a little different, however. On “Dorado”, the attacking team is tasked with moving a rusty, old hovertruck that’s hauling a large and mysterious device to a large and mysterious pyramid-shaped building.

Some supplementary material on Blizzard’s site tells us that the building is a power plant supplying clean energy to the city. Judging by the large monitors on one of the sides of the rooms, the device being escorted in this case is some kind of battery or energy coil. When it comes to “Route 66”, the payload is regular, old, live ordnance variety. But, how it got there is a bit more interesting. Attackers on “Route 66” begin in a diner that seems to have been a hideout for the Deadlock gang, McCree’s previous posse. Even though their comrade left for Overwatch, they were still up to their old tricks. On the right side of the diner you can see a detonator and blueprints for what appears to be specifically placed charges designed to blow up a bridge.

Sure enough, that part of the level is covered in wrecked train cars. The payload in this case would be the target of this high-stakes heist, likely a bomb of some kind. Other payloads a little more transparent about the contents. On “Numbani”, you can clearly see what appears to be the Doomfist Gauntlet encased in an indestructible cylinder on the payload. Those who remember the original Overwatch Animated Short will recognise the device as an object valued by the bad guys like Reaper and Widowmaker. But there are also plenty of posters of Doomfist around Numbani, hinting at a series of owners for the Gauntlet.

Hopefully one, or all of these Doomfist-wielders will be playable at some point. The most disturbing payload, however, has to be the one on “King’s Row”. There aren’t a whole lot of hints in the game about the vehicle you’re escorting, but Junkrat does have a pre-game voice line when attacking on the map. ‘So we’re delivering a bomb to scrap some ‘bots, and I’m getting paid for it.’ So you’re blowing up some robots? Zenyatta doesn’t sound like he’d be cool with that.

But the developers confirmed in an interview that what you’re doing is driving into the home of the local Omnic population, and nuking them all with an electromagnetic pulse. Ever noticed that electric crackle and blue explosion when you win a match on “King’s Row”? That’s the MP. Rigging a satellite and restoring power to the city seems like an admirable mission, but nuking a neighbourhood of innocent robots in an act of terror, straight up, is made all the more disturbing by the possible involvement of Omnics like Zenyatta and Bastion. Even if you win your assault on “King’s Row”, you still kind of lose. Number Eight: “Diablo” references everywhere. Multiple “Diablo” in-jokes can be spotted at the “Route 66” diner, such as the display of “Diableaux Hot Sauce”. Squint hard at one of the cheques on the wall at the Hot Sauce signing you can make out a familiar name: that’s the signature of none other than Deckard Cain. The date the cheque was written is noticeable too. May 15th, 2012 is the release of “Diablo III”. Jumping over to “Hollywood” for a second check out the branding on the trailer at the end of the map.

No doubt that’s a reference to “Diablo”‘s avenging angel, Tyrael. I guess it has a better ring to it than ‘Winnebego’. And finally, you can find another call-out to “Diablo” in the Dorado level, only this one looks a little bit different. One of the many colourful, shootable piƱatas strewn throughout the map was crafted in the visage of Mr. Box Art himself. And this time, his loot is edible. Number Nine: there’s a couple of “Hearthstone” easter eggs, too. No doubt you’ve noticed the abandoned workstations with “Hearthstone” playing on their monitors. They can be found on several maps, and they’re not exactly hiding it. Forget for a minute that it’s a total dick-move to leave in the middle of a match, there’s another “Hearthstone” reference that you might of missed.

Regular playing cards are scattered about in maps like “Route 66”, only these have “Hearthstone” card backs. Yep! Even when Blizzard characters play poker, they’re still playing “Hearthstone”. Number Ten: inevitable “Starcraft” nods. The arcade machines in “Hanamura”‘s attack spawn area are barely worth mentioning as ‘hidden’ details or easter eggs. They’re pretty much screaming their references in your face. A little easier to miss, however, is the name and logo of the arcade found right outside. Under ’16-BIT HERO’ stands a pixelised version of Raynor from the “Starcraft” series. Even the Zerg get representation. In the attackers’ spawn for “Temple of Anubis”, a mounted skull of the Zerg Hydralisk rests on the wall. It has confusing and, frankly, terrifying implications for the Overwatch Universe but it’s there all the same. The counter-top at “Route 66″‘s diner seems to fly in the face of the shared universes. ‘Craft from the Stars’ sounds like something your Grandma might call “Starcraft”, but that’s the title of a comic that features renderings of Raynor and Kerrigan, straight from the official Blizzard promo art.

Look over the counter and at the soda fountain there’s yet another Zerg shoutout. Furthest over to the right, that’s the symbol for the Zerg race. A couple of sections over to the left is a delicious-sounding beverage called ‘Dr. Boom’, but we’ll get to more “Warcraft” references later. Number Eleven: “The Lost Vikings” get their due. “The Lost Vikings” are kind of the red-headed step-children of the Blizzard Universe, their last game releasing on the SNES about two decades ago, but the trio of space-fairing ruffians have recently resurfaced in the mobile mashup “Heroes of the Storm”.

On the Walk of Fame in “Hollywood” near the attackers’ spawn, a few names stick out. Olaf Stout, Erik Swift, and Baleog Fierce. Number Twelve: “World of Warcraft”, of course. Naturally, “WoW” was represented in every corner of Overwatch. Cameras in “Hollywood” appear to be branded ‘Kilrogg’, as a nice tribute to one of the “World of Warcraft” Orcs, Kilrogg Deadeye, but at the same time it’s also kind of an insult. See, in many of the movie posters around the map have been branded that they were filmed in ‘amazing Kilrogg-vision 3D’, which is ironic because as someone with only one eye, Kilrogg probably can’t really enjoy 3D movies.

All the same, it’s pretty neat that one of the Kilrogg cameras follows the payload through the map. The hoarde gets more face-time in “The Temple of Anubis”. They’re pretty much everywhere. The symbol for the hoarde is carved alongside hieroglyphics on the map. You don’t have to look hard since they seem to be on every surface at the second control point. Unfortunately, where there’s the hoarde, despicable alliance scum must follow. The “Hollywood” map is set at the ‘Goldshire Pictures Studio lot’ which prominently features the alliance symbol as its own crest. Goldshire itself is certainly derived from the Human town of the same name, seen in the early game when playing “World of Warcraft”. The name of the putrid alliance scum is plastered everywhere on the map, from the movie posters to street signs. A giant noodle-guzzling Murloc greets you outside the “Hanamura” arcade, the apparent mascot for Rikimaru Ramen. Then there’s the ship on “The Temple of Anubis”.

Do Overwatch ships have bombshell ladies or angry sharks? Nah, just spicy Murlocs complete with textualised versions of the trademarked gurggling. Like Zerg, Murloc seem to exist at least in some form in the Overwatch Universe. You can even find some in the “Hollywood” map: that looks like a box for Rikimaru Ramen, complete with a UFO-driving Murloc. Now that’s a hero we’d like to see in game.

Number Thirteen: the easter egg that Blizzard doesn’t want you to see. Overwatch went through tons of changes from Beta up to release, and continues to see tweaks and content imbalance. One change fans noticed, however, was a little different. In an early version of the game, one of the outhouses on “Route 66” had… an extra feature. Mainly there were magazines in there…

Magazines with, um, photos of Overwatch females? This strongly implies the local no-good nicks of the Deadlock gang were using the likeness of Mercy and Symmetra as spank material. Not long after the folks at Reddit spotted this lewd mastabation easter egg, it was excised from the game. Go to that same outhouse now and there’s nothing in it. Maybe the Deadlock gang finally figured out you could take your cellphone into the crapper. So it makes you wonder whether an artist snuck those magazines in there without the knowledge of some key members of the team.

Judging by the reaction of the whole Tracer Butt-pose debacle, somebody higher up probably thought the detail didn’t line up with their vision of the game. It’s probably for the best, because if the easter egg still existed we’d probably all still be arguing about it instead of complaining about assholes who pick Sniper on attack escort. CLICK TO SUBSCRIBE.

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