Aug 17, 2009

Long live the king! (of the hill)

So the new TF2 classless update hit last Friday, and I've had about a weekends worth of time to digest it. With it came hats, a new play mode, new ctf and arena maps, and a metric crapton of tweaks. Here's my (obligatory) two cents:

What Valve did right:
Hats. While they're a pain in the ass to get, the option to give your character a little more customization is a welcomed one (camera beard ftw) . Now if only I could get myself some of those freaking hats...

CTF_Sawmill. I never was a fan of arena Sawmill, but take out a couple of the side attack routes and it plays very nicely as a capture the flag map. Only slight niggle is that the map is so open and with plenty of water on both sides of the map, that pyros tend to be underpowered on this map.

Sandman tweaks. Un-freaking-believable what they did. Scout now can double jump with the Sandman, but can no longer stun uber-charged enemies. Also, there's a significant health penalty, dropping the Scouts health to only 95 hp. This means taking one rocket to the face, not even a crit rocket, usually means you explode. This change is amazing for 2 reasons:

  • No longer are people limited to the Force-a-nature / Sandman combo. Most people (myself included) teamed the two items together to help compensate for the Sandman's lack of double jump. Now Scouts are free to choose either scattergun.
  • The decrease in health actually forces Scouts to play as, well, Scouts. It's easier to learn how to play any class when you can vividly see your mistakes. What better way than dying just about every time you make one as a Scout? That's what the 95 hp represents - a learning tool. Jump in, deal quick damage, jump out. Learn the value of making the other team chase you and not take your objectives/engage your team.

King of the Hill - I really love this play mode. You and your team try to capture a central point and have your timer reach 0 before the other team's. Simple, yet maddeningly frustrating at times. Plus, shortly after the release the announcer kept shouting "overtime" which was hilarious. But most of all, what's great about King of the Hill is...

koth_nucleus - This map was made for King of the Hill. It's small and incredibly well balanced. The capture point is literally inaccessible until its unlocked which has the added bonus of preventing one team from camping it. There's no good place for a sentry nest, yet it doesn't preclude the engineer from setting up shop somewhere - its defenses are just not impregnable like in some other maps. So much fun to be had in this map.

What Valve did wrong:
King of the Hill nests - In koth_Viaduct, and to a lesser extent koth_Sawmill, the matches are usually won not by the team with the most skilled players, but the one that establishes its nest first. There are a few spots on these maps that are perfect for it, and that's the problem. If the other team's sentry is at level 3 and the teleporters are up, good luck turning the tide (unless the other team is really bad at protecting their stuff). Remove those nests, Valve.

Alternatively, I'd love to try Viaduct and Sawmill as-is on a server that doesn't allow engineers. THAT would be interesting.

Arena mode - It got replaced. Much like the Medic's Blutsaugher to the Syringe Gun, King of the Hill almost completely replaces it. Sure, I may indulge Arena from time to time to get a Counterstrike-esque feel, but even with the nesting problem King of the Hill is more fun than Arena.

Rocket jumping / Force-a-nature jumping - While I haven't tried these out for myself, servers chatter was alive with complaints on how Soldiers were unable to reach places they normally could with a rocket jump, or how the Scout's "triple jump" with the force-a-nature is more or less taken from them. I guess I didn't see the need for this, Valve. Why change what wasn't really broken?

Overtime! OVERTIME! overTIME! OVER time! ...overtime! OvErTiMe! oVertime! OVERTIME! OvErtImE! Come on, Valve, you didn't need to patch this shortly after the update. I may be alone in thinking it, but it was welcomed unintentional hilarity, and really gave life to the otherwise unknown Announcer.

Overall, there's a lot to be excited about in this update. While I'd always love me some new unlockables for a class (Demoman, plz), the Scout plays like a brand new class with the changes made so I can't really complain too much. Not perfect, but few things are. 9.5/10


Jazmeister said...

Remember the update where they made teleporters upgradeable? And didn't they give spies some new abilities too, like they could suddenly change the weapon they were using while disguised or whatever? I think they realised that was a missed opportunity to create a bit of a fanfare and draw some people in. Notice this wasn't a free weekend?

Jon Baker said...

Actually, was the Sniper/Spy a free weekend? I don't recall, but then again, I wasn't looking (as I own the game).