Team Fortress 2 was released nine years ago (wow, right?) and today Valve announced that the upcoming Meet Your Match update will finally bring the long-awaited matchmaking and a full-on Competitive Mode to the game.
Yes, this is another instance of "Valve Time": Matchmaking was announced as a “high priority” feature in April 2015, and a Competitive Mode beta group was set up in January. But better late than never, and now that it's on the verge of going live, all the bases appear to be covered. The Competitive Mode FAQ says matches will be six-on-six affairs with no class or weapon restrictions, no random critical hits, no changing teams, and fixed shotgun spreads. Symmetrical Control Point maps will be fought over in best-of-three or best-of-five matches, while Attack/Defense maps will play by Stopwatch Mode rules.
Inspired by CS:GO and other games, TF2 Competitive Mode will have 18 ranks to be earned, ranging from “Fresh Meat” to “Death Merchant,” and also bronze, silver, and gold medals that will be awarded post-match for outstanding performance in the score, kills, damage, healing, and support categories. Penalties for leaving games before they're over will be harsh: Abandoning a game in progress will count as an automatic loss and result in the deduction of points, which could actually cost you an earned rank. You'll also be temporarily banned from joining new matches, and the more matches you abandon, the longer each ban will last.
To take part in Competitive Mode, you'll need to have a Premium TF2 Account (details on that can be , but the short version is that if you own a purchased version of the game in any format or have bought something from the Mann Co. store, you've got it), and must provide a phone number on your Steam account, to help "ensure a greater degree of account security and player accountability, which reduces the likelihood of cheating and abuse.” If you can't or don't want to provide your number, you can opt for a Competitive Access Pass instead. They'll be available for an “introductory discount” of $10 when the update goes live; the full price hasn't been announced.
The introduction of matchmaking will also have a big impact on how Team Fortress 2 can be played “casually,” the announcement says. “Now, instead of jumping randomly into an in-progress game, you'll be matched into an unranked 12v12 game with players of similar skill. This means no more auto-balancing—you'll be playing a match from start to finish, with actual winners and actual losers.”
To Valve's credit, it's not shying away from the obvious comparisons to Overwatch, whose Competitive Mode went live just over a week ago. “Before today—literally the moment before you started reading this sentence—the only way you could enjoy matchmaking on your computer was through dating sites. That got us thinking. What if you took the promise of dating site matchmaking, and, instead of getting matched up based on Snapchat's face-reshaping filters and lies about how much you love hiking, it was based on your actual real-face dating performance? That's when it hit us: Take matchmaking and apply it to videogames,” it wrote on the . "'But what about...?' you say, and we cut you off mid-sentence, gently place our fingers on your lips and whisper: Matchmaking has never existed in videogames before.”
Fair enough. Valve hasn't said when the Meet Your Match update will go live, but Day 2 of the update is “coming soon.”