Shotguns and Bombing Runs

12 Jul

Yeah, the Frontier Justice is alright.

It’s a very ‘safe’ alternative to the shotgun, in the sense that there’s nothing really controversial about the difference between the two – to clarify my earlier befuddlement, the first shots after the sentry is destroyed become crits (assuming they were racked up), and there’s no ability to store them for later. That’s fine though, because unlike an Ubercharge or Kritzkreig, there’s no point saving them up for a planned attack – not as a class with the joint-lowest health and only three shots before needing a full reload. As the term ‘revenge crit’ implies, it’s best used to blast cathartic buckshot into the face of whoever blew up your precious sentry, and testing confirms this to be highly therapeutic and funny. Sadly, whatever ploughed through the turret is often likely to catch the Engineer behind it as well, so one-man critting rampages are more often than not cut short. Wait, sadly? I meant thankfully.

The random crit chance of the regular shotty (usually boosted by the sentry’s obscene damage output) isn’t to be sniffed at even with the arrival of the FJ, and the larger ammo capacity means it isn’t obsolete yet. Regardless, I feel a slight twinge of disappointment with the Frontier Justice, not because of the execution or operation but because it’s really just a complicated shotgun. Considering TF2 is the kind of game that replaces token shotguns with sandwiches at the earliest opportunity (or wrenches with cyborg hands), without upsetting the core game mechanics, it’s sad to see that kind of offbeat cleverness is missing here.

Much better – and surprising – is Hightower. I was wrong about it being a Payload map – it’s actually a reboot of Payload Race, the cart vs. cart  flop introduced with last year’s Pipeline map. I say surprising because I thought, in all honesty, Payload Race as a concept had died, murdered at the hands of Pipeline’s infuriating bottlenecks and unavoidable chokepoints. I did not mourn. But now it’s back, and is in fact rather brilliant. Hightower is just big enough to avoid arbitrary crossfire deaths but small enough to keep the fighting tight and focused. The result is a series of quick, tense races to blow up the opposing team’s big laser thingy, with action on the right side of frantic. Brilliantly, the final push involves standing on a lift with just enough room to accommodate the bomb and a few players (falling off, alive or otherwise, causes the lift to fall again) leading to a hilariously squashed endgame – a bit like being in a London Underground train at half five in the afternoon, only the commuters on the platform are firing grenades at you. It’s fast and dramatic, with none of the unassailable sentry spots or spammy, Spy-unfriendly killzones that killed Pipeline. Well done to Hightower, then – you’ve salvaged an excellent game mode.

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