Classless Warfare

14 Aug

I’ve been away since the start of the month, in a bizarre land where it’s 30 degrees centrigrade at night and no-one uses computers or the internet, so I was pretty chuffed to return and see that there was a hefty non-class-specfic update inbound for Team Fortress 2. (A topic I estimate to have written roughly 45,000 words on.)

Many might consider the 18 new pieces of headwear to be the centrepiece of this update, but personally they’re so rare to find (you can’t eran them; they’re randomly given to you some time during play) that my interest quickly shifted to the other new stuff.

TF2 updates are uniformly free, but I'd gladly shell out a couple of quid for that camera beard.

TF2 updates are uniformly free, but I'd gladly shell out a couple of quid for that camera beard.

King of the Hill is a fantastic new game mode where a single control point needs to be captured and held for three minutes. The intensity with which people will battle for control of that node is incredible, and incredibly brilliant fun to be involved with. Maps are small and tight, as with the mostly unloved Arena mode, and a few Arena maps have even been retooled as KotH battlefields. Unlike Arena mode, however, respawns come thick and fast, and being the team holding the point, fending off wave after wave of angry enemies, is exhilarating. Some maps work better than others –  the all-new map Viaduct is a hilly, snowy area which gives just enough room for all classes to shine. Nucleus, however, encloses the point on a platform in the middle of a bottomless pit. Stay there to defend and you’ll be blown up by the unavaoidable explosive spam, run away and you’ll be separated from the attackers by the pit, leaving it wide open with only some thin walkways to advance on. Despite this, it’s fast, dramatic and constantly exciting – everything Arena should have been but wasn’t.

Most of the update is merely old-ish maps tweaked for new game modes – Sawmill, for example, started life as a slightly aove-average arena map, but can now support KotH and Capture the Flag as well. I played a bit of this on the PC Gamer server, and was surprised to find it was probably the best CTF map of all. 2Fort was always too prone to stalemates –  a bunch of BLU engineers setting up camp whilst a team of RED engineers did the same on the other side, and Granary and Well were too long to traverse and too symmetrical – literally straight lines. Sawmill is a twisty, taught map with multiple routes, including vertically. The small size discourages camping and encourages fighting, and the design is superb –  the orignal Sawmill now has cabins which house a hole in the ground, each one leading to a flooded underground Bond-style secret base.

There’s a new standard Control Point map, as well, Yukon, which follows 5-Point Map conventions of being uninteresting to travel through and likely to result in either a steamroll or a stalemate. So let’s move swiftly on to the staple Unnecessary But Brilliant addition – Humilation animations. When your team loses a round, you lose the ability to shoot and move at a slower speed, whilst the winners gain speed and super-crit bonuses to their weapons. Fail to hide and you’ll be murdered and, well, humiliated. This is taken a step further with the new animations, which play out in third-person if it’s you that’s doing it. The Pyro puffs his chest out and jogs an exaggerated but still pretty terrified jog, the soldier waves his hands in the air wailing, and the demoman clutches for his bladder, crosses his legs and makes a run for it. Stop and crouch, and your character will simply fall to his knees and sob. For the first time in multiplayer gaming history, losing a hotly contested game is not only fun, but really, genuinely hilarious.

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