When Blizzard first unveiled Overwatch back in November of 2014 we didn’t quite understand what a phenomenon the game would become upon release. Designed from the remnants of the company’s old project Titan, Overwatch was set to be a fresh take on the first-person shooter genre with a series of mechanics pulled from many successful franchises refined into a fun team experience that Blizzard is known for.

The competitive side of Overwatch was inevitable though, especially because of Blizzard’s focus on competitive gaming in all of their other franchises like Hearthstone and StarCraft II. Announced earlier this year, competitive mode has been one of the most highly-sought after additions to the core game since its release last month and despite a few delays in order to perfect the system, it has finally been released on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.

Here’s a quick guide to get you started.

What is Competitive Mode?

Competitive Mode is designed for players who truly want to put their skills to the test against some of the best players in the Overwatch community, focusing on a more serious approach to the game with a refined set of rules. In the new mode you’ll get access to unique rewards for playing and achieving certain ranks each season, including character portraits, weapon skins, animated sprays and more. These are rewarded for building up your personal rank by playing the new mode solo or with a group of friends throughout each season, which take place over a few months. In order to access Competitive Mode, you’ll have to reach level 25.

Competitive Play is all about character cooperation. 

What’s Different in Competitive Mode?

Competitive Mode revolves around your personal skill rating, which will rise and fall according to your performance on the playing field. In order to obtain your initial skill ranking you’ll have to complete 10 placement matches, which will net you a rating somewhere between 1(being the worst) and 100 (being the best) skill rating before you can dive into the current season. Once assigned an initial skill rating, you will gain or lose points based on your personal performance and the performance of those playing with you, meaning that beating a higher skilled team will typically net you more points toward your rating. These skill rating will carry into each match and be visible on your player card in-game.

The match format in Competitive Mode is also different, focused on leveling the playing field across the game’s three base modes. With Control, you’ll play a best-of-five format instead of the three-round system present in the game. The first team to score three points (by winning a round) wins. Escort rewards players with one point for each time they capture a point or deliver a payload to a checkpoint. Each team will play a round of offense and defense, but if a tie is achieved in those two phases the team who pushed the payload further will be declared the winner. Assault puts both teams on offense for one round, rewarding a point for each area captured – if the first team fails to capture an objective however, the match will end as soon as the second team captures the first objective. If the score is tied after the first two rounds, each team will play a second round on offense. Instead of playing with a standard amount of time though, they will only have the time remaining on the clock at the end of the previous round.

In the event of a tie regardless of the mode, the match will enter sudden death – where the game will randomly place one team on defense and one on offense. Both teams will then play one round. If the attackers capture the first objective before the time runs out, they will win the match. If not, the defenders will be awarded a point to end the tie. Currently this mechanic is only planned for the current season of competitive play.

What Rewards Do You Get?

Competitive Mode offers a wide variety of exclusive awards throughout each season. At the end of the reason every player who completed their first 10 placement matches will receive a special spray and player icon with a unique design in order to showcase their involvement in competitive play. If you manage to place in the top 500 players within your bracket, you’ll also be awarded with an animated spray for that season as well. It’s important to note that you don’t have to retain your place in the top 500 as far as we know, only reach it at some point during the season.

You’ll also get access to a new currency called Competitive Points, which are rewarded for each win you achieve while playing in Competitive Mode. If you win a match you’ll get one point to spend and based on your rank at the end of the season the game will reward you with a package of points to spend. These points can then be used to purchase gold weapons for your heroes, but at a hefty price of 300 points per hero – we know, it’s a little steep.

Penalties for Leaving

Naturally, Competitive Mode has more serious penalties than the standard modes available in Overwatch. If you step away from your game or leave a match early for any reason you will not be allowed to join another game until the match you left is complete. You are given a minute or so to rejoin a game if you are disconnected, however. The more you quit, the longer competitive mode will be unavailable to you as well – so make sure to stay in-game or risk being banned permanently from the current season and losing your rewards.