“Competitive Contradictions”

Overwatch is one of the best multiplayer shooters to see the light of day in a long time. Taken by its variety of combat and diversity of heroes when I reviewed it back in May, Blizzard Entertainment’s personality driven, team-based shooter remains a frequently revisited title for me each week. However, for as much fun as I was having jumping in and ranking up within Quick Play or Weekly Brawls, I found myself craving an experience that embraced a more serious take on the colorful shooter. With the recent arrival of Competitive Play over a month after the title’s original launch, players waiting to put their skills to the test in a more challenging environment, now have the opportunity to do so. Having been in the wild across PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One for a few days now, Competitive Play has had time to fall into place. Unfortunately, Competitive Play actively goes against the values of what made me fall in love with Overwatch in the first place. The mode is at odds with the identity of Blizzard’s successful new IP, seriously contradicting a few of the building blocks that make the game great. Simply put, Overwatch’s Competitive Play isn’t what I signed up for.Overwatch's Competitive Play Isn't What I Signed Up For (Braxton Haugen)Looking at Competitive Play from the top, there isn’t necessarily a sloppy disarray of flaws visible from the surface. It takes time spent within the mode to realize the shortcomings. For a game rooted so deeply in teamwork, even one pivotal player dropping out midmatch could mean the difference between a win and a loss. Considering how much impact Competitive Play lends to the outcome of a match, ranking down simply because of others’ incompetence to remain in the fight can become common occurrence. My worst experience landed me in two separate lobbies where slowly, one by one each team member left, resulting in an impossible 1v6 battle for me to Win. This happened twice for me within my time with Competitive Play, ruining the fun and effort spent up until that point in the match.

To be fair, when someone leaves your team while in combat, all other players on that team are given the option to quit without a leveling penalty to their competitive rank. That said, you still walk away without the deserved XP and progression through the original leveling system. The longer I spent within the mode, the more pandemonium unleashed. From players leaving lobbies left and right, to unnecessarily prolonged matches, Overwatch has taken on more water with its incorporation of Competitive Play than anything else it has done since launch. It’s opened a box of toxicity that has the potential to taint the game’s special community, a threat that’s already coming to fruition.Overwatch's Competitive Play Isn't What I Signed Up For (braxton+haugen)It honestly feels strange to find myself frustrated with Overwatch, a newfound realization that clashes with the wave of positivity I’ve embraced since it’s release. In theory, Competitive Play doesn’t make the game worse, for there are still good ideas to be found in the varying degrees of mayhem currently making up the mode. Easily the smartest idea would be judging your competitive rank based on wins rather than personal statistics, for if based on the amount of kills, or metals earned each match, rounds would be absolute chaos. However, even with elements of cleverness such as this, Overwatch’s Competitive Play fails to offer enough to keep me engaged in the current scene. The incredible gameplay and constant stream of variety surging through each moment are still present, yet fall short of channeling that enjoyment into anything rewarding or consistently motivating on the backend.

On top of Competitive Play’s frustrating vision of match to match progression, rewards prove to be somewhat of an issue as well. While competitive matches will still net you the required XP to rise your base level–in turn bringing you closer to unlocking the next loot box–they lack their own set of fleshed out rewards necessary to drive players to return. Per usual, all rewards are cosmetic-based, with the likes of a special spray, player icon, and opportunity to exchange Competitive Points for cosmetic golden weapons available for every hero. Though small in terms of volume, the new cosmetic incentives seem harmless, but when looking behind the curtain, prove to be troublesome. Chief to this would be the gold coated weapons. I get that Blizzard wants to give the golden weapons a mystique of rareness, but at the pricey cost they’re currently going for, I can’t even come close to getting behind the idea. Dropping 100 Competitive Points would be a substantial purchase price, making the 300 they’re listed at as of now, ridiculously absurd.Overwatch's Competitive Play Isn't What I Signed Up For (BraxtonHaugen)Upon writing this feature, the post was initially titled “Overwatch’s Competitive Play Is A Mess.” Until further reflection led me to what it is now. Competitive Play isn’t bad, it’s just a jarring departure in refinement from what we’re used to seeing with Overwatch’s other facets. The mode itself is in need of substantial change and polish before it can stand tall with the rest of the game’s strengths. Competitive Play feels implemented into a game that was in need of it, yet failed to hit the mark on what players were looking for. From my perspective, the newly introduced way to play has caused more harm than it has good, interjecting ample frustration into an otherwise welcoming community and offering little reason to invest in the competitive scene at this point. Fortunately, taking feedback and working it into the project is something Blizzard has excelled at with Overwatch since its early beta stages, leading me not to fret about the long-term future of Competitive Play.

Yet as it stands now, I think I’ll be sitting the remainder of season one out.

Connect with me on Twitter and let me know your thoughts on Overwatch’s Competitive Play. Find me @BraxHaugen.

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