It’s difficult to imagine, but Team Fortress 2 is nearly 10 years old. Within that time, TF2’s cast of quirky characters and blend of class-based combat and Quake-derived shooting elements entrenched the game in the hearts of many a PC gamer (though Team Fortress Classic fans might disagree). Valve had also used the game as a platform to explore the outer limits of just what the shooter genre could offer, from establishing a robust in-game economy to introducing new game modes and bizarre new weapons.
Unbeknownst to many of TF2’s more casual crowd, though, more hardcore fans of the game had also cultivated tightly knit competitive scenes. Many of these competitive games were played with strict formats (Highlander and 6v6 being the most popular formats, with the latter being the official format for professional play) that limited the number of classes that could be present on each team or banned certain sidegrade weapons. Valve didn’t start supporting TF2’s competitive scenes until the last few years, though. Moreover, only this year did they introduce the open beta for an official competitive mode, complete with player ladder rankings and team drafts.
Whether or not this decision was spurred on by a certain other game is unknown. But yesterday, Valve announced the official public release of Competitive Mode on TF2’s blog, which will be included in the Meet Your Match update coming later this week.
In typical Valve fashion, the Meet Your Match update is serenaded by a silly video featuring TF2’s iconic mercenaries.
Valve describes Competitive Mode as a “tree-climbing simulator” that loosely resembles the 6v6 format used by pro tournaments. Players join a team of five other players of a similar skill level, are faced against a team of six other players of comparable skill, then commence gameplay as normal. The following ruleset is in place (courtesy of Competitive Mode’s FAQ):
– No class or weapon restrictions
– No random criticals
– No team changes
– Fixed shotgun spreads (shotgun pellets will follow a predictable pattern)
– For symmetrical Control Point maps, best-of-3 or best-of-5 (higher ranks only)
– For Attack/Defense maps, stopwatch mode (fastest attacking team wins)
Furthermore, players must have a Premium account to compete in Competitive Mode. All this means is that one has to have had purchased either TF2 itself or an item in the Mann Co. Store.
Players will be awarded or deducted ranking points for winning or losing matches, respectively. TF2’s player ranks are delightfully silly, and can be seen below:
For those who are looking for a more relaxed experience, Valve will also be implementing non-ranked matchmaking in the form of Casual Mode. Casual Mode games work similarly to those in Competitive Mode, except that they will pit teams of 12 against each other and will not affect a player’s ranking.
A new “leveling stat” has also been added, which can be boosted by playing the game. It’s unclear how leveling works beyond this information.
In addition, several classic community-made maps will also be added to TF2’s official map list. These include cp_Sunshine, pl_Swiftwater and cp_Metalworks.
Finally, the previously announced PASS Time game mode will also emerge from its beta stage. It’s a game mode in which players take hold of a ball (one loaded with explosives) and attempt to score it in the opposing team’s goal. It’s been in development since last year, and was co-created by Bad Robot (JJ Abrams’ studio), Escalation Studios, and Valve.
Team Fortress 2’s Competitive Mode may seem like “too little, too late,” to fans and pundits alike, especially after considering how many of the game’s professional players have moved to games like Overwatch for their eSports fill. But who knows? Perhaps it’ll inject some new life into the game.