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TF2 Update Turns Into Man Vs Servers

Win all this, or play for free.

Just when I thought I was out they pulled me back in again. I’d uninstalled TF2 and everything was going well: other games were getting attention, my girlfriend showed me this thing called ‘Outside’, that didn’t have people setting me on fire or asking me to give them stuff, and then Valve announced Mann Vs Machine. I could just give it a try, yes? I can always uninstall it? I knew I was lying to myself, but it needn’t matter: it’s not like I’ve managed to get into a game.

Have you? My experience of the new MvM mode has involved reading about it on the TF2 site and wanting to give it a go. I want to beat those robots up! I want to figure out the best combination of unlocks.

I kind of don’t want to pay for the privilege, though. Valve are doing what they always seemed opposed to: splitting the community. It’s a different way of doing it, allowing everyone to play the mode but only those that pay to access the official servers will get the rare loot and rewards, and only after they complete the game modes. Tickets cost 69p (or 99c, or a quadra-Peggle) and aren’t consumed if you lose the game you take part in. Loot won is entirely cosmetic and can be traded. I thought I’d be angry at this, but I’m not: I can play for free, and not care about loot. I just need a free server.

Getting in has been stymied on three occasions. I first was told that I couldn’t even make see the co-op screen, as I was not connected to the “TF Game Co-Ordinator”. It was getting hammered. An hour later I got in and looked at the UI: it allows you to set up a lobby for friends, so you can join a server en masse – and it looks like that’s available in the normal mode as well. That’s neat. You can also select what mission (map) to take part in, and if it’s official or free. I hit “search” and watched it crash.

Sigh.

Third time’s a charm. This time I manage to start the search, but instead of it launching a server browser I’m left staring at a screen that shows me I’m 38 minutes from joining *any* game, and there are 11 thousand people in front of me. I do other things and leave it running. John and I have nice conversation about keyboards while it counts down. The current game population is so high that the servers are queuing those looking to join the battle of the bots, something I’m unused to having to do it TF2.

But then it springs to life. I’m in, I have joined a game in progress. Ooh, ahh! I spawn as Soldier and run to the store – I poke around the upgrades (http://www.teamfortress.com/mvm/mercs/) and grab faster firing and a bigger ammo cache. No time to look around: the countdown to the bot rising is nearing ten seconds. I spy some other players and run. We’re at 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… CRASH!

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Craig Pearson

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