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Overwatch is running yet another seasonal event, the Year of the Rooster. Blizzard’s implementation of Chinese New Year with the serial numbers filed off has turned out pretty alright overall. The skins in particular—and really, what else is a seasonal event about?—are quite lovely, and I’m personally quite anxious to get my hands on the new D.Va skin. However, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. A Capture The Flag game mode was introduced for this particular event, and its implementation is less than ideal to say the least.

In many, arguably most, games, Capture The Flag works largely the same. Touch the enemy flag to pick it up and bring it back to your base to score a point. There are some variations in the ruleset, of course. Some games require that your own flag be back at base to capture. Some games allow you to return your own flag by touching it if it’s out in midfield and some games require that you defend it in place for a fixed period of time. What very few games do (in my experience, anyway) is require a timer for capturing the flag.

Not only does Overwatch require that you stand on the flag for a few seconds, but any damage taken interrupts the flag capture entirely. This is, to my mind, poor game design. I’ll explain why I think this is so, but first I think it’s best to establish where I’m coming from. I am a very old school player of CTF. In fact, one of my earliest experiences with it was Team Fortress Classic. If you’re wondering how that might have went, I need only show you the following video. (As a curiosity, this video is what got me into FPS gaming on PC as well as a bit of an addiction to high-speed games.)

TFC was not the only game like this that I played a lot. I played QuakeUnreal Tournament, and TRIBES. All of these had instant capture and all of these were very fast games. The dynamic of Capture The Flag was different than a control point map, and that is the core of where Overwatch fails. Blizzard’s implementation of Capture The Flag feels like a blend of CTF and Control Points that somehow managed to only capture the worst bits.

Had we had instant pick-up of the flag, we might have seen a complete change in the standard meta for this one game mode. (Variety in meta is one of the reasons to try different game modes – a common strategy in one game mode will fail in another.) Tracer and other speedy characters would have been seen as invaluable. Leaving a handful of turrets behind to defend the flag, as some do now, would have been viewed as reckless for fear of Tracer zipping away with your flag. More critically, a skilled speedy player could snatch the flag away in a turtle situation, which is all too common, unfortunately—something that is an currently an impossibility without practically killing the entire team.

And Tracer wouldn’t have been the only one. Any character with good movement would have made for excellent flag cappers. It would have been a totally different meta. We were promised Capture The Flag, but instead we got Control Points Lite.

Worse, certain abilities that probably should have been disabled … weren’t. One of the first things any seasoned CTF vet will tell you is that many games disable teleporting or other high-powered movement abilities to make it more difficult to capture the flag. Not in Overwatch! In this game, Sombra can leave her translocator on the capture point, stealth run to the flag, touch it, and instantly teleport back. What a monumental oversight!

I’d have hope that Blizzard would tweak CTF to be instant capture, and disable some of the more broken abilities while carrying the flag, but I’m not going to hold out much. The map for Mei’s Snowball Fight had a clipping issue that rendered games unwinnable, so much so that it became categorically unfun to play the game. The issue remained unfixed for the duration of the Winter Wonderland event, and so I won’t be holding out any hope for Blizzard to tweak Capture The Flag before this event is over. I’ll just lament the missed opportunity and hope they do it differently next time.

What do you think of how Blizzard implemented Capture The Flag in Overwatch? Are you fine with how it is, or would you have preferred an instant flag pick up as in most games? Do you think the more powerful abilities (like Sombra’s Translocate) should be disabled when carrying the flag? Let us know in the comments below!

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Robert N. Adams

Senior Writer

I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I haven't stopped gaming since. CCGs, Tabletop Games, Pen & Paper RPGs - I've tried a whole bunch of stuff over the years and I'm always looking to try more!