I’ve been getting back into TF2 recently, and all was going well. I was taking a break from my usual class of Pyro and racking up some good experience as a medic, that is until Valve dropped the unlockables bomb today. Basically what they’ve added, for those not paying attention, is unlockable weapons that replace the standard medic equipment. These are not all just better versions of the originals (excluding the Uber-Saw), there are advantages and disadvantages to the new selection. Fine, great, fantastic. Unfortunately these unlockable weapons are unlocked via personal achievements. Achievements including such utterly ridiculous things as “Placebo Effect: Kill 5 enemies in a single life, while having your Uber-Charge ready, but undeployed. ” Achievements which undermine the team-based nature of a game that goes as far as to include the word team in its name.
Now, as someone who enjoys playing medic, I will be happy if and when I unlock these weapons, but the problem is that some of these achievements are either stupidly difficult or unhelpful to your team-mates, and in order to get all the weapons, you need to achieve 36 of them. Frankly, I’m happy to not bother to collect most of them, and just make do with the first unlockable (Blutsauger – 12 achievements), because I don’t really think I’d find much use for the second unlockable (Kritzkreig – 24 achievements). I am not going to try and achieve these if it goes against the needs of my team, which many of them do. I will achieve what I can achieve by playing normally.
Unfortunately, by releasing only the medic’s unlockables at this time has resulted in public servers throughout the world being infested with ridiculous numbers of medics not doing their jobs, trying to unlock weapons for a class they never normally play.
Valve stated the idea behind the medic being first was to address the shortage of primary medic-players – a shortage which I must say I have never really noticed. Earlier this evening I was playing on one of my favourite servers and there were 11 players on the red team, and 8 of them were medics. It was at this point I decided to stop playing for a while. I realise this will die down after a week or so, but for fuck’s sake, I don’t want this to happen every time they add weapons to a class, because I love the game.
Really, they should have waited on this one and released all the classes’ weapons at once. Hopefully they’ll take on board the blindingly obvious flaws in this strategy and either release all the remaining classes at once, or in batches. But with Valve you just don’t know. They take chances and sometimes they make mistakes. Hopefully, given time for the dust to settle, this will not prove to be one of them.
One question that remains unanswered is how these unlockables will fit into the already balanced gameplay. Provided they are all as restrained and tasteful as the medic’s things should be fine. It is fun to guess what other classes could possibly get. Engineer’s could probably get a fast-wrench for quicker fixing but less damage, Spies could do with a knife that offers a few seconds of invulnerability upon a successful backstab at the expense of needing to recharge, and Soldiers could even have a concussion rocket that does less damage in favour of a more powerful splash effect, for better rocket jumping and knocking enemies backwards. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Apparently they are to be rolled out “quicker than you might expect” which is Valve terminology for “next one’s out in three months”. Not that I’m complaining, these updates are free after all. It’s just that I’d like it if next time they don’t incite a temporary teamwork-ruining obsession with personal achievement farming. Please Valve?
The other main component of this update, which has gone relatively unnoticed amidst the unlockable commotion and backlash, is the new map Gold Rush, heralding the arrival of a welcome new gameplay type. Basically, the map is laid out similarly to Dustbowl in that the red team is on defence, blue on attack, and it is divided into three distinct areas which must be captured one at a time. However, the manner in which they are captured is very different.
There is a mine cart track running though the map, and on it is a funky little cart that pumps out health and ammo to team-mates nearby and is loaded with a huge bomb. The cart moves forward when the blue team are near it, the more players the faster it goes. The goal is for the blue team to escort this bomb cart to the capture point, and when it reaches the final point it detonates in a spectacularly large explosion. A nice reward really.
From my brief time with it, I really enjoyed Gold Rush on offence, I’m yet to try defence. It has a new kind of momentum to it that keeps players on both teams right on the front lines. No turtling. The fact that the blue team can use the cart as cover while moving it is also nice, forcing the reds to attack from all sides. I’d like to be playing it now, but I’ve decided to wait a few days for the medic issues to die down a little because they’ve temporarily destroyed the fun of the game for me.