The latest Overwatch update didn’t just give Tracer a different, slightly more in-character butt pose; it also gave players a reason to fight until they can’t fight anymore (that isn’t butts).
I speak, of course, about competitive play. Now, if you so choose, you can play Overwatch’s beta to rank up throughout monthly seasons and be the overest damn watcher there ever was. Here’s how it works:
“Earned some battlefield experience and ready to step up your game? Prepare to prove yourself in Competitive Play! Designed for those seeking a more serious challenge, Competitive Play is our new game mode in which players can compete and ‘rank up’ through a series divisions and tiers in monthly seasons.”
It’s worth noting, however, that you can’t just leap into the deep end and get eaten alive. You have to be at least level 25 to don your competitive gorilla glasses.
Ranked play is common in first-person shooters and competitive games in general, so it’s been sorely missed in Overwatch. That’s not to say this early version of it is without its problems. While the new patch also clarifies Overwatch’s match leaver penalties, competitive has a pretty serious abandonment issue at the moment. Blizzard chalks this up to competitive play’s best-of-three-rounds format (something absent from regular play) and a lack of competitive-specific leaver penalties, which they’ll be adding in the not-too-distant future. They explained in a forum thread:
“It’s possible some players are leaving just because they’re not familiar with the multiple game format of a competitive match. We’re also working on improving the communication about this. The entire system is in an early state with several components (competitive only leaver penalties, cosmetic rewards, numeric Heroic ranks, leaderboards, etc.) still to come, so please bear with us and just keep on giving us feedback and bug reports.”
So Blizzard is still working out the kinks. In the grand scheme of things, though, this is good news. In a landscape crowded with multiplayer games that straddle the line between hobby and goddamn lifestyle, Overwatch needs something to make it stick. The question, however, is whether Overwatch is the sort of game competitive players will want to heavily invest time and mindshare into. It’s a fantastic shooter, but it’s also over-the-top and chaotic.
Right now, the most popular competitive multiplayer shooter is Counter-Strike, a game of precision and pure (or as close to pure as you can get) strategy. Don’t get me wrong: Overwatch is a deceptively strategic game, but it’s also a bit more, well, casual. But then, perhaps one Counter-Strike-type game is enough. Maybe its polar opposite is just what the competitive gorilla doctor ordered. Here’s hoping.