I’m running through Chateau Guillard as Junkrat, my vision bobbing and weaving as I check my surroundings constantly. I head past the corpse of a Roadhog, thrown in the corner. There’s been a brawl here, recently enough to leave a body. Good. I need more kills; I’m in fifth place, and it’s a tight match. One or two more kills is all I need to crack the top four and get that sweet, sweet win.
I leap down into the wine cellar, throwing out my first mine. It detonates, taking out the Tracer and Genji who have been locked into a duel. McCree strafes around a column, sniping at me. I drop down to half health, but a barrage of grenades and my second mine force him to back off. I turn around to flee and find a health pack... and run into Pharah. “JUSTICE RAINS FROM ABOVE!” she bellows, and takes out both me and McCree.
These fun, engaging fights aren’t a rare occurance in Deathmatch; they’re the entire point of the mode. Sure, there’s less tactical choice, and there’s not a whole lot in the way of extended decision making... but it’s fun. Deathmatch is all about the continued brawl, about picking up as many kills as possible as quickly as possible, and everyone in the match shares that mindset. You don’t have to watch in horror as your lobby fills up with snipers, or switch to a tank so that your team can win. Some characters are stronger than others in Deathmatch—a Soldier 76 is always going to murder more than a Mercy—but it’s anyone’s game. If you’re confident enough with your skills as a Sombra or a Reinhardt, you can win. I’ve seen Mercies and Lucios competing for the top ranking, all because they knew the character that well.
Overwatch desperately needed a “blow off steam” mode, especially since the season is just starting and choked with competitive players. Lucioball and other seasonal events don’t quite scratch that itch (especially because they’re only available for a limited time). Total Mayhem and Mystery Heroes don’t have a strong hook that makes them compelling. Deathmatch scratches the itch wonderfully.
Some people won’t be as engaged as I am. They’ll prefer Overwatch’s competitive modes, where teams need to work together to contest an objective. This is, of course, a totally legitimate preference... but these players should still be happy that Deathmatch is here. We’ve all had games where our Genji will not stay on the payload, because he’s more interested in 1v6ing the entire enemy team. Well, now that Genji has an outlet for his selfish desire to stunt on fools, and it’s not in your queue.
There are a few things that would make the Deathmatch experience slightly better. Right now, players who find themselves on the bottom of the roster quit out so they can try again and hit top four in their next match, and there’s not much in the way of penalties to prevent this. Locking the same eight players into a match would reduce the chasm between the top and the bottom, and it’d be fun to see dynamics develop over time. Would low ranking players try to play kingmaker and focus fire the first place leader, or would they just go for whoever they could get in a desperate bid to sneak into the top half?
In the future, I’m hoping for more Deathmatch support. Chateau Guillard is a fun map, and I’d love to see more in that vein. Not only are new maps an opportunity to give bits of Overwatch lore in a fun, organic way, but they shake up a game mode before it can get stale.
Being able to earn competitive points in Deathmatch would also be a welcome change, even if it is at a reduced rate.
Overwatch, prior to Deathmatch, was a game I could put on the shelf for a few weeks at a time. Now, I find myself booting it up to play a few rounds daily. Sure, the luster may wear off eventually, but I find myself far less stressed and far more engaged than I do with a “normal” match. Instead of pinch hitting and filling in what my team needs, I can give into the indulgent desire to play a Bastion or Reaper game.
Deathmatch may not have a story like Uprising or atmosphere like Dr. Junkenstein, but in my eyes, its the best game mode Overwatch has put out yet.