Hands On

10 Jul

…with the hand-removing Gunslinger

The hulking level 3 now sits alone, gathering rust in a darkened corner, clicking meekly at passing enemies. They don’t care any more than the hard-hatted Texan that built it in the first place, and is now neglecting to give it a whack with his enchanted monkey wrench to refill the suffering sentry’s ammo supply. Meanwhile, the wrench sits alone, gathering rust…

Okay, so upgradable sentries aren’t actually obsolete. And this unlockable is primarily a combo-critting melee weapon. But the chequered mini-sentries that possession of the Gunslinger allows are quick to build, cheap, and perfectly tailored for as-yet uncatered-for attack Engineers. Rather than long-term area denial, these nutcases charge into a fight, pop an automated gun on the ground and run around laughing as the teeny thing cuts down unsuspecting foes thinking a physically weak defence class is an easy kill. I know because I accidentally found myself becoming one after everything beyond my wrist went missing, and it’s the most fun the class has been in ages. Plus, you can repair stuff by punching it. And you should always be able to fix things by punching it.

For actually defending a control point or locking down a Payload cart, the standard wrench/upgradable buildings combination is still too powerful to be worth switching for the weak baby sentries. But for a team on the attack, having someone to hastily erect an ambush turret or cover an advance with a sneaky sentry-lite has almost immediately become invaluable. Maintaining them isn’t really necessary – it’s easier and sometimes even cheaper in terms of metal to let one die and build another nearby – and adding the Wrangler to your setup removes most of the drawbacks. The shield negates the low maximum health, the increased fire rate makes up for the damage reduction and manual firing control makes for more efficient ammunition consumption. This hit-and-run tactic works brilliantly, and yet I still can’t bring myself to use it exclusively. The original sentry is still great at its own job, a job with toes (bear with me) which the Gunslinger doesn’t even come close to stepping on. Most of TF2’S unlockable weapons are either clear upgrades (the Blutsauger) or are bogged down with a tradeoff too great for the new gadget’s benefit (the Backburner and its missing airblast), but it is genuinely hard to pick a favourite between the Engineer’s two sentry options. Costly but devastating upgradable or fast, low-damage, low-maintainance minis? What a pleasant dilemma to have.

I love that the most reasonable method of granting the Engineer to build small, weak, disposable mini-sentries was by apparently to give him a whirring robot hand. As it happens, this mecha-glove is one of the most balanced, fun and visually impressive individual items to have been added to TF2 since release.

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