So last week, Valve has released it's long awaited batch of updates to Team Fortress 2, which includes a new map, updates to old maps, a plethora of new achievements, and 3 new weapons for the Medic. I've been playing that with most of my free time this week to get a good idea of these changes and my feelings are quite mixed about it. Unless you've actually talked with me before about TF2 or FPSs in general, you wouldn't know that I am absolutely bonkers for Team Fortress 2. To me it is the epitome of what a class based FPS should be (As well as one of the best FPSs in general that I've played), and is the most fun I've had with an online FPS since Starsiege Tribes. All that being said, let's look at these updates and see how they affect the game.
The first thing I want to point out is my joy in even knowing that new content is going to be continuously added to TF2 through Steam. I am of the firm belief that in a genre like FPS you need to be constantly evolving and changing your games with updates and new content. With a new FPS coming out practically every month now, to stay in the game you need to evolve or die (Or have a hugely disproportionate fanbase). At the very least you need to be coming out with new maps and/or new game types, which is one of the things Valve has done with the addition of "Payload" maps . In said maps, like the new addition "Gold Rush", the attacking team has to deliver a bomb into the opposing team's base. The bomb is on a railway and to move it, the attackers need to stand behind or beside the bomb, and the more people who are there, the faster the bomb moves (It should be noted that Ubercharged players will not move the cart at all, much like how they cannot take the "Flag" in CTF matches or capture points in CP matches). The red team's only objective is to stop them by killing anyone who is near the bomb. If the bomb is clear of any attacker, a 20 second timer will appear and once it goes to zero, the bomb will begin to slowly move backwards on the tracks towards the attacker's base. I've only played this map maybe five or six times (I'm more of a "2Fort" man myself) but from my experience the map is very well designed, giving both teams places to hide and set up blockades of a sort to stop one team from going too far into the other's territory without a fight. I am very enthusiastic about what Valve can do with this new game type in subsequent updates.
The new weapons I can't say I am as enthusiastic about. One of the reasons I love TF2 so much is how balanced it is. Every class has a purpose and the ability to switch on the fly (albeit killing yourself in the process under most circumstances) gives the player to better play the game in their own fashion (Anyone who gazes at my time spent will see a very large portion of my time devoted to the more defensive classes of Engineer and Demoman). The new weapon updates now stand to eliminate the very balance that I love so much about this game. It's not the balance from class to class that is in jeopardy, but the balance from player to player. To unlock these new weapons, you need to get a certain number of the new Medic achievements (12, 24, and 36 respectively). This is essentially shutting out people who are new to the game or who don't like playing as the Medic from fully achieving their in-game potential. Now one could argue that the weapons are there to reward those who excel at that specific class, and I guess I would agree with you in the confines of a casual game. The real issue in my view is how this affects people who are actively competing, whether it be two "Clans" fighting over bragging rights on a server, or the World's Best TF2 Team Competition. In those cases I believe that it should be within the server admin's abilities to decide whether everyone on the servers gets to use the unlockables, or no one does, and since this idea is in direct conflict of Valve's "earning" idea, I doubt it will ever happen.
My issues with the earning of the new items would be one thing if all the weapons were equal in their own rights, but in certain cases there is just no comparison. The weapons you unlock can take the place of your Syringe Gun, Medi-gun and Bone saw, in that order. The first two weapon switches are fairly balanced in my view, and the only problem I have is the one stated in the above paragraph, that only a select few get the option of being able to choose which they get. The Syringe Gun can be swapped for the Bluntsauger, which is essentially the same, but it cannot get critical hits on it's own and very needle that hits drains the enemies health and gives you some of it (3 health per needle IIRC). The Medi-Gun can be swapped with the Kritzcrieg, which functions like a Medi-Gun with the healing and bringing a player's health to 150%, but when Ubercharged, instead of getting invulnerability, the player gets a 100% Critical Hit rate. As I said before, these two weapons are pretty well balanced, with one you swap the ability to do big damage with the ability to stay alive longer, with the other you swap the ability to take a lot of damage with the ability to give a lot of damage. The deal breaker for me is the Ubersaw. It replaces your regular Bonesaw, and not only does it looks a LOT cooler, it works exactly the same, except that each successful hit gives your Ubercharge a 25% boost. There is no downside, no trade-off, it is just plain better than the Bonesaw, and if you don't see why I have an issue with that than you haven't even been reading this article and you need to go sit in the corner.
In the end, I suppose I don't mind taking the good with the bad with this update, but in my view there shouldn't be anything bad to deal with in this game. Now as of right now the issues I'm whining about aren't breaking the game or anything, but imagine changes like this for the other eight classes, who unlike the Medic, are meant to do damage with their Melee weapons (Specifically the Scout). Would such imbalanced make me stop playing the game? To be honest, no. There are other aspects of the game which make me prefer it over other Online FPSs, but I do hope that the guys at Valve think long and hard before coming out with their next set of updates.