1. You can find 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 up front is that it's Genji's home, too. See, 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 new prosthetic reality. That's where he came under the mentorship of Zenyatta, and the two have been close ever since. You can hear them refer to this relationship in 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 that on one of Nepal's three control 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 you can find a peculiar room decorated with recognizable 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 seems like a direct callout to the Shimada family.
It would seem as though Genji ninja-d his way back home to swipe a few choice artifacts.
On the left we can see a certain sword, and on the right -- aww. That's a snapshot Babyface Hanzo and Babyface Genji in better days. We don't get a lot in the way of characterization or development for the Overwatch cast outside of a comic here and and an animated short there, so it's nice to see something truly revealing hidden on one of the game's maps. Relics of Genji's past tell us that he still values that part of his life, including the brother that tried to murder him.
2. There's a giant dancing robot in Volskaya Industries
I don't know if you noticed but outside of the Volskaya Industries map there are a ton of giant robots. Seriously, it's like Pacific Rim 5 out there. They're all part of Russia's Syvatogor mech program, built to protect the country from the threat of asshole omnics like Bastion.
However you feel about their politics, you gotta admit these robots can jam.
It's tricky, but you can catch one mech pilot doing "The Robot" and pulling off some other moves in the furthest edge of the background. We don't know who's inside, but rest assured they're probably drift compatible with D.va.
3. Plenty of movie & TV references
Overwatch isn't shy about making pop culture references. In fact, they're downright shameless. Most of the obvious bits come from random one-liners from the crew -- Winston remarks "Don't get me angry," acknowledging the similarities of his Rage Mode ability with that of notorious green monster Mark Ruffalo. Other in-jokes are peppered throughout levels, often on signage. Route 66 is home to plenty of signs for "Deadlock Propane and Propane Accessories," a clear shout-out to gas grill salesman Hank Hill.
Some of the references are quite a bit older however, like this poster found in Hollywood:
"Some Like It Bot" is a dead-ringer for the Marilyn Monroe classic "Some Like It Hot," down to the instruments and high heels.
A little more modern-day but still obscure is a clever reference to Bill Murray favorite Groundhog Day, found in Route 66's diner.
When pulled over by cops after a joyride on his third consecutive day, Murray's Phil Connors jokes with the arresting officer by starting up a drive-thru order. "Too early for flapjacks?" has since become something of an annual meme, one that somebody at Blizzard is apparently a fan.
This last one is a little 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. As it so happens, that's exactly the same way that fellow robot Baymax waves hello. It might be a coincidence, but the two synthetic lifeforms are pretty similar in personality and vocal cadence that the connection is tough to deny. All we know is now I want Baymax in Overwatch and I'll never be happy again.
4. A touching tribute to a deceased fan
Many developers (including Blizzard) have taken to honoring fallen fans by representing them in-game, and that's just what happened with a recent patch in Overwatch. Blizzard must have heard about the tragic story of Wu Hongyu, a 20 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 while trying to stop a thief from stealing his friend's motorcycle. Following his death, local government bestowed Hongyu with a "Courageous Citizen Award," and Overwatch developers planted this lovely tribute in Lijiang Tower.
On the display of spacesuits, the center piece reads "Hongyu" in Chinese characters. The words above the suit roughly translate to "immortal hero" -- or as Mercy would say, "Heroes never die."
5. Animated aftermath
If you're into Overwatch, chances are you've seen at least one of Blizzard's excellent animated shorts by now. If not, you really owe it to yourself to set aside a few minutes and check them out; not only are they entertaining and well-produced, but each short has a visible impact on the map in which they take place. These details really help the levels feel like they have some meaning and 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 recognize as the Hanamura map. This is where the Shimada brothers throw down.
The place gets pretty torn up during the fight; 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 the 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 on King's Row contains, but we'll get to that later.
Maybe of the most fun of the shorts, "Recall" stars a lonely Winston twiddling his thumbs until Reaper and his goons come to call.
The short takes place in the attacker's 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.
6. Shameless Blizzard developer cameos
Not content to reference pop culture, Blizzard has also taken to shining a light on themselves. Over in the crew quarters of the Gibraltar map, you can find what appear to be the names of several developers. Programmer Paulo Pinto can be seen above at the left, and Senior Environment Artist Philip Klevestav snuck his way in there in the middle. It's kind of a shame there wasn't room enough for all of Overwatch's development team, since most players won't ever bother to watch the credits for a multiplayer game.
While those callouts are pretty obvious, Blizzard was a little sneakier with the arrivals board at the Numbani airport.
In general it's a pretty expected mix of imaginary places (Dorado, Numbani) combined with real-world locales like New York and Tokyo. But a couple of them stand out in particular; for instance, 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 totally makes sense that Irvine, the headquarters of a company that likes to take its time, would have the only flight on the list that's delayed.
7. 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 uh, what exactly does that mean? The answers aren't found in any kind of narrative-driven campaign, but in details tucked away around the environments. Watchpoint: Gibraltar is probably the easiest one to figure out. The payload is literally labeled "Satellite Drone." If that didn't give it away, there are some other hints dead-center.
As we established earlier, the attacking team on Gibraltar starts in Winston's lab, complete with broken window. You can find all sorts of suits and gadgets laying around, but the important part here is the blackboard. 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 there 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 into a large and mysterious pyramid-shaped building. Some supplementary material on Blizzard's site tells us this building is a power plant supplying clean energy to the city. And judging from the large monitors in one of the side rooms (seen above on the left), the device being escorted in this case is some kind of battery or energy coil.
When it comes to Route 66, the payload is of the regular ol' live ordinance 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 specially-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 are a little more transparent about their contents.
On Numbani, you can clearly see what appears to be the Doomfist Gauntlet encasted in an indestructible cylinder on the payload. Those who remember the original Overwatch animated short will recognize the device as an object valued by bad guys like Reaper and Widowmaker. 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 at King's Row.
There aren't a whole lot of hints in-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 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 notice that electric crackle and blue explosion when you win a match on King's Row? That's the EMP.
Rigging a satellite and restoring power to a city seem like admirable missions. But nuking a neighborhood of innocent robots is an act of terror, straight-up, 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.
8. Diablo references everywhere
This game is drenched head-to-toe in winks to other Blizzard properties. Any time you see a sign or a poster or a book on a table, it's probably a reference to one of a few key franchises. Multiple Diablo in-jokes can be spotted in the Route 66 Diner, such as the display for "Diableaux Hot Sauce."
Squint hard at one of the checks on the wall next to the hot sauce sign and you can make out a familiar name.
That's the signature of none other than Deckard Cain, also known as "That Old Guy in Diablo Who's Always Yammering On and Always Leaves A Satchel With a Journal Entry Wherever He Goes." The date the check was written is notable too -- May 15, 2012 is the release date 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 "Winnebago."
And finally, you can find another callout to Diablo in the Dorado level, only this one looks a bit different:
One of the many colorful, shootable pinatas strewn throughout the map was crafted in the visage of Mr. Box Art himself. This time, his loot is edible.
9. There's a couple 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. Forget for a minute that it's a total dick move to leave in the middle of a match -- there's another Hearthstone reference you might have missed.
Regular playing playing cards are scattered about maps like Route 66, only these have Hearthstone card backs. Yep, even when Blizzard characters play poker, they're still playing Hearthstone.
10. Starcraft nods were also inevitable
The arcade machines in Hanamura's attack spawn area are barely worth mentioning here as "hidden details" or "easter eggs." They're pretty much screaming their references to 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 pixel-ized version of Raynor from the Starcraft series. As you might have guessed, Overwatch is filthy with allusions to Blizzard's key sci-fi franchise.
Even the Zerg get representation.
In the attacker's spawn for Temple of Anubis, a mounted skull of a 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 countertop in Route 66's diner seems to fly in the face of any shared universe hints.
"Craft From the Stars" sounds like something your grandma would call StarCraft, but that's the title of the comic that features renders of Raynor and Kerrigan straight from official Blizzard promo art.
Look over the counter and at the soda fountain and there's yet another Zerg shoutout.
Furthest over to the right, what looks kind of like an evil Dreamcast logo is actually the symbol for the Zerg race. A couple spigots over to the left is a delicious-sounding beverage called "Dr. Boom," -- but we'll get to more Warcraft references later.
11. The Lost Vikings get their due
The Lost Vikings are kind of the Red-Headed Stepchildren of the Blizzard universe, their last game releasing on the SNES over two decades ago. The trio of spacefaring ruffians have recently re-surfaced in MOBA mashup Heroes of the Storm, however. That seems enough to have earned them a spot in Overwatch.
On the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, near the attacker spawn, a few names stick out. Olaf Stout, Erik Swift and Baleog Fierce each refer to the Lost Vikings themselves.
12. And World of Warcraft, of course
No collection of gratuitious Blizzard easter eggs would be complete without their perrennial moneymaker, World of Warcraft. The series is well-represented in every corner of the game. The cameras in Hollywood, for instance, appear to be branded "Kilrogg." That seems like a nice tribute to one of the Warcraft orcs called Kilrogg Deadeye, but at the same time it's also an insult. See, many of the movie posters around the map have branding that indicate they were filmed "IN AMAZING KILROGG-VISION 3D" -- which is ironic, because as someone with only one eye, Kilrogg would not be able to enjoy 3D movies.
All the same, it's still pretty neat that one of the Kilrogg cameras follows the payload through the map.
The Horde gets more facetime in the Temple of Anubis. They're pretty much everywhere.
The symbol for the Horde (seen above on the right) is carved alongside hieroglyphics on the map. You don't have to look hard, since it seems to be on every surface at the second control point.
Unfortunately, where there's Horde, 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 slum is plastered everywhere on the map, from movie posters to street signs. *shudder*
Onto better, more decent things. Like Murlocs.
A giant, noodle-guzzling Murloc greets you outside of the Hanamura arcade, the apparent mascot for Rikimaru ramen.
Then there's the ship on Temple of Anubis.
Do Overwatch ships have bombshell ladies or angry sharks? Nah. Just feisty Murlocs, complete with textualized versions of their trademark gurgling.
Like Zerg, Murlocs seem to exist at least in some form in the Overwatch universe. You can even find some on 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.
13. The easter egg Blizzard doesn't want you to see
Overwatch went through tons of changes from the beta up to release, and continues to see tweaks in content and balance. 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. Namely, there were magazines in there. Magazines with photos of Overwatch females.
This strongly implies the local no-goodniks 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 masturbation easter egg, it was excised from the game. Go to that same outhouse now and nothing's in it. Maybe the Deadlock Gang finally figured out they can take their cell phones in the shitter.
Blizzard didn't communicate a whole lot about this particular map modification, so it makes you wonder whether an artist snuck the magazines in there without the knowledge of some key members of the team. Judging by their reaction to that whole "Tracer butt pose" debacle, someone higher up probably thought that the detail didn't line up with their vision for 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.