Go Team! Part Two: The Medic

By Kieron Gillen on September 20th, 2007 at 1:41 am.

MEYYYYDICCCCCC!

Yeah, seriously. I’ll get to you. I’m talking.

The sensual hands of a healer.

There’s many of reasons why people become a medic in a first-person shooter. They’re especially true in TF2.

For me, there’s two big ones. I’m sure there’s some people who do the healing thing out of pure altruism. Hell, there may even be pacifist players out there, who doesn’t believe in ultra-violence even when it’s as slapstick as a paint-balloon. There’s certainly some who enjoy being that go-getting team player – not true altruism, but the pleasure of being a cog in a well-oiled machine. In the case of Team Fortress 2, someone will be attracted to the clinically-dry persona of the Teutonic Medic, half-way between a Nazi Evil ( not mad) Scientist and the voice in a GPS guidance system. You may even just pick it by accident. But not me. Here’s why I play the medic more than anything else…

1) I don’t need to shoot straight.
2) I like to win.

Let me explain.

MEYYYYDICCCCCC!

Shuddup!

First one is obvious. My skills are weak. Or – more accurately – not as strong as I’d like them to be. More importantly, in these early days of TF2, I – and everyone else – is still feeling out the maps and learning what’s up. As a Medic, I don’t need to initiate any tactics – I just need to support the movements. It’s a good one to learn the game as – even in the company of players who know it back to front – you, by following their lead, can actually be useful. No matter how raw you are elsewhere, no-one ever objects to being healed.

Second one is the key one and it’s more subtle than it appears. Abstractly, everyone likes to win. If you ask – say – Alec or (especially) Jim whether they prefer being the one who gets bragging rights or not, the choice is clear. But they’re not playing the medic. I play the Medic as I prefer to win than to have fun. Or rather it’s impossible for me to have personal fun when my team is losing due to a problem I’ve noted. An impassable turret bottleneck? Troops when they’ve penetrated 2Forts are heavily wounded whenever they reach the basement? Medium-far from our spawn point in a war of attrition? That’ll be a medic we’ll be needing, and we’ll continue losing until someone becomes one.

When I realise this, it annoys me so much I can’t even faintly enjoy myself until someone makes the jump… and the easiest way to relieve that symptom is to swallow the pill myself.

In other words, the Medic is all about diagnosing the problem and prescribing the solution. Namely you and a magical healing squirty thing.

The tools of the trade.

(And, yeah, the Engineer is similar, but we’ll get to him eventu…)

MEYYYYDICCCCCC!

For God’s sake. I’m busy here. BUSY.

That’s what you’ll have to get used to as a medic. Constant demands for attention from team-mates, whether they’re injured or not. The Z, X and C keys are bound to the sub-menus of communication… but simply press E and you call for the man with the sticking plasters. A conscientious medic spends a lot of their time spinning around, trying to see if the shout is someone they’ve missed or someone suggesting you team up for an attack or just pressing it as a joke. Note I said “missed”. To play a Medic well, you need a constant awareness of everyone’s health in the area – as well as a knowledge when your healing isn’t going to be enough to save someone (A constant beam on someone has a tendency to make people over-confident. It’ll let you shrug off many attacks… but any decent turret will take you to pieces). This means that medics do best – and are most essential – on the levels with bottlenecks where you can skip between your team-mates in a half-second.

Remember what I said earlier about the Medic not needing to initiate any tactics. Not completely true. They don’t initiate offensives but – at least on open server play – it’s not really tactics until a medic tags along. With a healing beam between the medic and his charge, it’s a visual symbolism of a symbioticism – we’re working together, we’re a team. The Medic is the truest of the Support classes, the most hands-on in that way. You’re engaged in the combat in a way which the Engineer often really isn’t, as he goes quietly about his master plans in the middle of a warzone. You’re wearing those big gloves for a reason, because you’re often elbow-deep in gore.

The medics’ rewards are mainly mental. This reward is mixed with a mass of aggravation.

The strong, violent type.

MEYYYYDICCCCCC!

Basically, playing a Medic rapidly turns me (and probably you) into a curmudgeonly surgeon who’ll make House look like Bertie Wooster. Because, you get to see people fuck up, just to annoy you. For example, you loyally follow someone into a base, only for them to get themselves killed in a really stupid way to leave you stuck behind enemy lines, with your occasionally-effective-but-mostly-not syringe-gun and wasted minutes of your lives. And obviously, the Spies. As Snipers are to the Heavies, Spies are to the Medic. While Alec suggested Shoot The Medic to be an effective tactic against a paired-up heavy-and-medic, in practice, Medics partnered to Heavies will be safely behind the corner the big guy’s marching around. By the time our Germanic-chap follows them around, everyone will almost certainly be dead. Unfortunately, as a medic, you’re looking in the direction of the person you’re healing… or you’re not healing. You may as well have WE WELCOME ALL SPIES, PLEASE MAKE YOUR KNIFE COMFORTABLE written on the back of your head.

But that’s not worst.

The charge function isn’t the biggest part of the Medic’s utility, but it’s certainly the sexiest bit. After healing enough (just concentrating the beam on someone who’s on full health will work too, but slowly), you fill up your charge bar. When you click your alt-fire you, and whoever you’re currently healing, will become invulnerable. It’s the stalemate breaker, allowing you to form the core of an assault to clear out those pesky turrets or defenders. It’s also a lot of work to get, in terms of time. If you die, you lose everything you’ve saved. At least a minute of charging is required before the bar signals it’s ready to fire gloriously. You choose the recipient of your boon, set the beam and click the alt-fire… and you’re a pair, pushing back the line. Or you’re turning the attack back in a duo of destruction. Or you stand, slack-jawed, as they continue the paranoid cautious standard TF2 play instead of leaping in like a true hero, or – as has happened at least a couple of times – they crouch in the corner for the entire length of your hard-earned invulnerability, doing sod shitting fuck all.

GAHK!

Physician Heal Yourself (Slowly). Maim other people.

The Medic isn’t really about altruism. It’s about trust. In that you, to be most devastating, have to put your trust in another player. No other role requires such an enormous investment of something you’ve worked towards for minutes into someone else. It gives the pair of you the chance to be great. It also gives the chance for them to carry on, unworried, while you eat your monitor in frustration.

MEYYYYDICCCCCC!

Coming, for God’s sake, I’m coming. If I didn’t have to keep you all alive to win, I’d kill the bloody lot of you.

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56 Comments »

  1. Soldats says:

    Great write-up Kieron. That’s exactly how I feel when playing the Medic. Also, it’s really quite satisfying to foil a would-be attempt on your life with the Bonesaw, and then taunt the poor Spy.

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    Sending a spy flying with a blow from my wrench earlier was a rare joy.

    I suspect I’ll be writing up the Mechanic too.

    KG

  3. nabeel says:

    These write-ups are coming along great, really making the case for each class.

  4. SuperMatt says:

    Medic is by far my favourite class, but sometimes I just don’t want to be him. You know why? Because from time to time the server is packed with scouts, soldiers and snipers which makes healing become futile. Give me two HW guys to heal right at the front line and the medic becomes the most fun you can have in TF2.

  5. Homunculus says:

    Invulnerable demolitions guy storming a claustrophobic capture point choked with enemies pleases me greatly.

  6. Richard says:

    Hmm. I can’t help noticing ‘da Lovelace’ calling out in one of those screenshots.

    Medic, heal thyself!

  7. Alec Meer says:

    “I suspect I’ll be writing up the Mechanic too.”
    Fight you for him.

  8. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    Agree with Supermatt – I tend to go Medic if there are a few heavies/pyros, but if noone else is playing those two classes then i’ll play them instead, which normally encourages someone else to go medic. They’re my favourite three classes, so i’m happy!

    I also agree with your finalish point in the article about people who just SIT there when you make them invulnerable. Does it not tell them really obviously? I Don’t think I’ve ever had the charge myself (Or Have i?! That would explain a lot)

  9. Richard says:

    Your screen blares with colour, but I don’t think there’s a specific message along the lines of “You’re invulnerable! Go kick arse!”

    And from the other side, there’s little more annoying than a passing medic shooting you with the uber-charge while there aren’t actually any enemies around, or worse, you’re still in your own base.

  10. Kieron Gillen says:

    Richard: Well that’s them cutting off their nose to spite their own face. You’ve got no reason to be annoyed. It’s not your efforts who’ve been wasted.

    KG

  11. John Walker says:

    The Messianic complex of people who choose to be Medics is the reason why they shouldn’t be Medics.

    No one thanks the Heavy for shooting someone, but hey, the person they killed might have killed you seconds later! Snipers don’t mope around whinging that people aren’t grateful enough to them. Scouts don’t have a hissyfit if another player doesn’t play how they’ve decided to dictate.

    This whole, “my efforts have been wasted” nonsense. Wah wah wah, go pick another class.

  12. Kieron Gillen says:

    You know how it’s a bad idea to slag off production editors?

    I suspect you may discover it may also be true of medics. John’s name on TF2 is “Botherer”, medics.

    KG

  13. Turin Turambar says:

    I think the medic class from TF2 is a perfect example of why the game is going to be totally succesful.

    Because it’s very streamlined, very easy to learn, geared to casual players. The mainstream is going to love it. It’s not only the simplicity of most classes, also the speed of the game, for a straight arcade shooter, is slower than usual (yeah, the scout is also there…)

    So, the medic. You can heal players with your main ‘weapon’, and you can activate invulnerability when you charge up enough. And… that’s it. Yeah, you also have the needle gun and the melee weapon, but that’s a given.
    Minimum complexity. Also minimum skill, as you heal simply holding a button, without having to ‘aim’ a lot (the healing ray sticks to the player). It’s in one extreme of the scale of class based multiplayer action, with the other extreme being ET:QW, bigger and more complex, expansive.

    Of course this isn’t bad, the game is also fun for me. It’s a game for playing short rounds from time to time. It’s just the style chosen for the game, which seems idea in a business sense. Just look at ET:QW, people complaining is too much like BF, people complaining is too much like Quake, people complaining is too fast, or too slow, people complaining about the vehicles, people complaining about the size of the maps, ppl complaining about this or that objetive, people complaining, in short.
    TF2, in the other hand is easy, straight forward, smooth and clear in his execution, everybody loves it, everybody can pick up and have a blast in seconds.

  14. Kieron Gillen says:

    I was going to write something more about the relative accessibility of the medic – bar the supercharge, it’s really simple. Though I kinda touched on that on the first point, a bit, regarding being a good one to cover lack of skill while still being useful to the team.

    At a higher level, I suspect the most important skill in being a medic is realising when your side needs one.

    KG

  15. John Walker says:

    Don’t heal me! I’d rather die than be beholden to someone for my antics.

    SO THERE, MEDIC DO-GOODERS.

  16. dartt says:

    I love that moment when you flick on ubercharge and suddenly the whole enemy team goes in to reverse gear, frantically backpedaling away from your souped up HWG.

    I’m sure as people begin to grasp the mechanics of the ubercharge they’ll become more aware of what they should be doing when they are under it’s influence. At this stage, everyone is a noob.

  17. Kieron Gillen says:

    Also, there’s NOTHING complex about me being the Messiah.

    KG

  18. Alec Meer says:

    And Kieron’s is ‘Ada Lovelace’, in case you’re a Heavy who’d rather not team up with a Medic who thinks you’re a cretin whenever something doesn’t go according to his unspoken plan…

    In terms of Messiah (or perhaps more aptly martyr) complex Medics though, that mindset is entirely necessary for the class to work at all. If you’re going to pick a role that involves that degree of servility, having a sense of massive importance to it is essential. If you don’t, you’ll almost certainly be a crap, or at least very bored, Medic.

  19. Richard says:

    The Messianic complex of people who choose to be Medics is the reason why they shouldn’t be Medics.

    I played a Healer in Dark Age of Camelot for a while.

    I demanded tithes from parties. Surprisingly, some actually paid.

  20. Kieron Gillen says:

    Shush, Alec. Keep shooting. Lovely trigger. Let the gun sing its lullaby…

    KG

  21. Richard says:

    The Medic does have the coolest gun in the game, mind. Not in terms of damages, but definitely when it comes to RAPID FIRE SYRINGES TO THE FACE!

    They should have a death taunt: “I die… but you have gonorrhea…”

  22. Jon says:

    I’m a healing whore when I’m medic, I’ll heal anyone as long as they start shooting people for me.

  23. Feet says:

    I’ve seen two invulnerable HWG descending on the final defensive control point on Granary (the one that’s really rather easy to defend since all the attackers are funneled through one point) and they absolutely wrecked the fully upgraded turrets and most of the engineers before they went down.

    Medics are the key to victory.

  24. Del Boy says:

    I’ve just realised I’ve *never* been the medic in *any* online team game.

    It’s too much responsibility, go in guns blazing and die and you ‘went down fighting’, cause a team-mates death because you’re cack-handed with a syringe and…you look like an idiot!

  25. Håkan Hellgren says:

    I’m so glad I didn’t read this last night, as it would’ve made me jump back into the game and forgo sleep completely. Bad Gillen. Good piece, but bad for my productivity.

  26. Weego says:

    Years of WoW have left my reactions more sluggish than wheel-chair table tennis, I’m pretty pleased I can get into the game a bit without having to compete directly against the ADHD fuelled killing machines I’ve so far encountered.

    +1

    and +10 because the flame thrower guy’s laugh is awesome.

  27. The_B says:

    *Cackles*

    I now have this.

    MWHA.

  28. Savage says:

    Everybody and their dog has written up the HWG/Medic combo by now, so I’m wondering what the other possibilities are like.

    Sniper/Medic: This team-up is suited to certain situations, defensive obviously. On 2Fort this one is a win, allowing the Sniper to sweep the enemy battlements and keep on dealing the death as assaulter’s come over the bridge. The Medic can hide in the wings and keep an eye out for suspicious characters. Once the overcharge is complete it’s time to find a more mobile companion.

    Pyro/Sniper: Pyro still isn’t getting much love, but boy does this muffled maniac know how to wreck havoc. With a Medic backing him up he’s a faster alternative to the HWG.

    Scout/Medic: Too fast for me son, sorry.

    Any other tactics worth mentioning?

  29. Kieron Gillen says:

    Building up the healing on the medic then switching it to a quicker person for the invulnerability is something I think is going to get increasing amount of play – Pyro is an obvious candidate. Soldier too, in many cases.

    KG

  30. Richard says:

    In a game yesterday, we used bulletproof Engineers to lock down the main enemy respawn point with a couple of sentries. Evil, but effective.

  31. Tom Reynolds says:

    Welcome to my real life.

  32. Tom Reynolds says:

    Hmm, there was supposed to be the quote from the article in that comment…

    “Basically, playing a Medic rapidly turns me (and probably you) into a curmudgeonly surgeon who’ll make House look like Bertie Wooster. Because, you get to see people fuck up, just to annoy you.”

    Welcome to my real life.

    (Works better I think)

  33. Weego says:

    I was more interested in trying to draw a parallel from people spawn camping the other team with sentry guns…

  34. Kadayi says:

    Medic is quality for sure and an essential part of any team. It’s going to be interesting to see as the beta progresses how tactical people get in their deployment and usage.

  35. Greg says:

    I’m not sure about the altruism side… For me, being the medic is about lording it over the rest of my fellow combatants, to laugh mercilessly as they come begging on their knees for my precious life juice and then watching them finally teeter over and die as I callously decide they are too far gone to be worth saving.

    On a more serious note, I’m finding the medic-soldier combo to be pretty effective mainly because of the speed advantage the soldier has over the heavy. It is especially good for clearing turrets and dispensers. Plus if you’ve got a good rapport with a soldier class then you can use them to help quick-charge your invulnerability in the pre-match time by using rocket jumps. You should be able to get a whole charge in that time, which is always good for surprising your opponents.

  36. Jesse says:

    We’ll see more medic + soldier.

  37. Andrew Farrell says:

    I’m feeling this class more, after medicing a team through, all the way through, Impenetrable Defense (A shutout on Dustbowl) on the first map, everyone crowded around that tiny shack beside the abandoned train tracks. Particularly since it had that sweetest of tensions when the blues make a late game rush and we start to falter, but maybe just hang on enough… and everyone has been healed at least a whole life’s worth by the end.

    Also what everyone said about the joy of finding someone who knows what to do with the invulverability.

  38. trai_dep says:

    Am I the only sick bast*rd that likes the Medic the most because, instead of merely killing your enemies, you get the undiluted pleasure of infecting them? Watching them slowly die, cursing you to their last breath? Spreading infection amongst their team, sowing dissention and hatred within their ranks. Causing panic and terror?

    It’s just SO much more fun than merely killing them. Especially snipers. They cry SO good when, after being situated, they’re stung, blessed with Death’s slow kiss, and can only count the seconds until they inevitably expire.

    Medics are the bin Laden of TF. Umm. In a GOOD way. :D

  39. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    Erm, you can’t do that in TF2. You can perforate opponents with syringes (which is twice as fun now that I’ve become used to the firing arc) or stove their skull in with an amputation saw, but they don’t do damage over time.

    “I’m feeling this class more, after medicing a team through, all the way through, Impenetrable Defense (A shutout on Dustbowl) on the first map, everyone crowded around that tiny shack beside the abandoned train tracks. Particularly since it had that sweetest of tensions when the blues make a late game rush and we start to falter, but maybe just hang on enough… and everyone has been healed at least a whole life’s worth by the end.”

    Aye, Dustbowl defences really suit the Medic, particularly when you’ve got a solid front line. In one game, after capitulating badly on the other maps, we managed to hold off the enemy tide on the last map and prevent them from getting even the first cap point. Think I managed to build up something like 4 ubercharges before keeling over for the first time.

  40. trai_dep says:

    (can’t do that no mo’)

    Wha… Wha..? WHuuuuut?!

    Nooooooooooooooooooooo!

    Gawd. That’s just unfair. Why’d they kill that feature? Anyone know? It was a GREAT way to make the newbies panic, a fair compensation for the weakness of the character. Tho I’m (obviously) biased.

    (Switched over to Mac, but such a fanboy of TFC that I’m watching from afar from here. Totally happy w/ the switch except for Valve’s not supporting OS X, which seems regrettable. Valve hopefully will reconsider since we Mac people don’t mind spending for quality goods (hint hint)).

    Well, you guys have fun. I’ll continue watching you from outside, my face pressed against the window…

  41. Spacegirl says:

    Imo, Medic / Demoman is one of the better pair-ups for base assaults in 2fort. Due to all the corners, the ubiquitous turrets in the intel room, and the demoman’s relative speed when compared to the Soldier or Heavy. Using the uber to fight is good, but in 2Fort its really not a bad idea to uber THROUGH the main base, straight down into the lower intel area, just lobbin nades and stickies behind to slow folks down. Maybe I shouldn’t have leaked that l33t strat :P

  42. Kelv says:

    Medic/Heavy is worthwhile, but a team much harder to attack is Medic/MANY soldiers. Unless the heavy is _very_ good they’re unlikely to be watching your back. No, they’re laughing maniacally as the clear a path forwards, unconcerned by any attacks because they’ve got a medic, right? Not when a pyro has snuck around behind you (it’s not hard to know you’re coming) and flamed the both of you. But get two soldiers and a medic in place, with all three dancing forward and backwards and watching the surroundings is harder for enemies to focus on and much harder to sneak up on.

  43. paper says:

    You don’t have to stay with one person when you activate invulnerability. It just makes You invulnerable and whomever you happen to put your healing beam on during those ten seconds. So if the beam breaks, your target loses the advantage. It’s saved me to release it on myself when I’m cornered by an enemy. I was once being chased by an enemy soldier through the train station and hit Invuln when I was down to about 10 health, then as I turned a corner I ran into an ally Pyro who I threw the beam on, giving him a few seconds of being untouchable to murder my pursuer.

  44. Feytalist says:

    Is it just me or do medics seem to get the most points? Especially when teamed up with a decent heavy/soldier/etc. I consistently end top of the log with medic while doing not much more than heal, ubercharge, and needle the odd spy. I even dominated 3 enemies just by standing around a corner… Maybe im just a leet medic, heh.

  45. Snarky says:

    Holy crap, this hits the nail on the head.
    And honestly… being a player of the uncommon gender, it’s all the more annoying when you’d sell your soul to be able to tell your teammates in voice chat to do certain things… namely stuff like “the spy is disguised as this class”, “get this guy off my back so we can continue to push ahead”, and “are you ready to charge?” when the ingame shortcut equivalent isn’t enough to tell someone nearby to prepare for a push, and you certainly can’t stop what you’re doing to type. Especially when you’re near-convinced that you’d need a voice modulator running in the background to do that AND let the round continue on as normal, without your teammates thinking differently of you in one of several possible ways. GAWD.

    Though to answer you Feytalist: assisting other players by healing them as they get kills earns you points too.

  46. Snarky says:

    Pardon the bold in my last comment, please. Somehow it escaped me that b is bold, not a line break. :o

  47. Kieron Gillen says:

    Bold gives your post ADDED INTENSITY. RPS is all about the intensity. Carry on!

    KG

  48. Mr Pink says:

    Medic has to be my favourite class. This is largely due to the underrated syringe gun. Once you’ve mastered its arc and (lack of) pace, it can be surprisingly effective at short-mid range.

    Last night though, I discovered my new favourite trick. On Dustbowl, our attack was being held up by a particularly stubborn turret, positioned at ground level in their base. Having managed to get onto a balcony above it, I found a position such that the turret was just below my crosshair, but the turret had no line of sight to me since the balcony was in the way. The arc of the syringes then plunged them into the turret without it being able to fire back. Sweet :)

  49. Korbin says:

    Funniest thing I ever did was dual up with another medic and complete our charges, we then proceeded around the corner into mayhem land and acted as decoys and fire shield for the soldier and demo coming in behind us. When mine ran out the other guy went at it. We had all the turrets and heavies and soldiers flinging death our way constantly, to no effect.

    The demo and soldier who came along took out the entire other team and their damnable turrets.

  50. [AN]Rook says:

    Protip as a medic:

    After ubering that heavy to take out those 15 turrets guarding the cap point, intel, or small child, run in front of him to take all of the knockback from the turrets. If you do this, your pet heavy will be able to take out all of the turrets laughably fast, and you don’t have to worry about dying because your ubered.

    No heavy around to take out all of those turrets? Don’t uber that soldier (they have to reload too often), uber that spy you see running around. Sure it blows his cover, but he can quickly sap those 3 turrets repeatedly, giving the pyros, demos, and soldiers running in behind free cover from those turrets while they make the enemy defense a childs play thing.

    Also, try to uber pyros as much as possible if you don’t have to take out any turrets. Pyros pure damage and ability to take out large ammounts of units while sewing seeds of mass chaos is the perfect combo if you’re a medic. Just uber him up and watch them all burn.

    And afraid of that uber heavy charging in to take out all of your loveable turrets? Uber an engineer to guarantee that at least one turret will stay up.

    Bottom line: Save those ubers for moments when you are about to die, or you can kill at least 5 people or 2 sentrys. Anything less than that is a waste of an uber in my eyes. And remember, being a heavy doesn’t give you the right to an uber. All classes can benifit, and its your choice as a medic to decide what would be the best use of it.