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Go Team! Part 8: The Scout

We’ve been having a bit of a chat about the scout’s character. Well, more precisely his apparent lack of it. Unlike the other grizzled, weird, or exuberant Team Fortress classes, this is a character with a distinctly indistinct mannerism. He’s just some skinny guy. There are no towering personality traits to latch onto, no cuddly cartoon charisma to grab hold off. In fact, he’s not loveable in any way: he’s an nasty little thug.

Think about it: while even backstabbing bastard Spy has a certain panache, the scout is a dude in a cap and T-shirt who sounds a little too smarmy and self-satisfied.

And really, what does he have? His gimmick is nothing more than his pace. He can run faster than the others – he can get across the map in half the time of his larger chums. But that’s it. Nothing doing.

This is why I love the scout best.

If Kieron is right about the soldier’s Quake roots, then the scout too is based in that time – particularly the breakneck paced Quake 1. Seriously – go back and play Quake 1 now and anything slower than the scout will feel positively ponderous. Yep, I really feel like I’m wading in molasses with just about any other character – only the scout has the pace you need to really feel like you’re playing the game. You hit the ground running, and never stop.

This is where the scout’s smarm-turned-snarl really comes in: totally outpacing the characters means that you’re just better than they are. They rely on tricks – big guns, health-projectors, disguises and tools – you’re just physically faster than everyone else. Hell, a good scout can get across Two Forts before an engineer can even get set up in the basement: and how’s that for natural talent?

Then there’s the fact that the scout can rely on the flexibility of videogaming to bend the laws of physics. I mean sure, the double jump does kind of make sense within the suspended reality of a game world but still: what other character is able to make such an unlikely move? It’s almost (but not quite) inconsistent with the solidity and predictability of the rest of TF2’s world. Used correctly, it’s a touch of genius.

All of which acrobatic antics mean that the scout is only really satisfying up close. I mean you can hang back and get pistol shots in, especially against short-ranged foe (I’ve killed a couple of rather optimistic demomen like that), but what matters is the close encounter. Really, if you’re going to do it properly as a scout, you’ll need to beat down your enemy with a bat.

I guess that’s just another aspect of the scout’s lack of personality: that the most irritating, humiliating death (ooh, recollections of Quake III’s “HUMILIATION!” for hand-to-hand kills) is what he’s best at. Zooming behind a heavy to batter down the medic, or flooring a sniper as he’s taking aim, or simply getting past a sentry, and smashing it up: this is what the scout is good for.

Ultimately, you don’t need to impress with a booming personality or phallic hand-cannon, because as the scout you’re going to be the one doing the winning. You’ll be capping, evading, killing, and intelligence-grabbing better than anyone else.

Just, well, just watch out for those bastard turrets.

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Jim Rossignol

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