Pyros and spy lows: thoughts on TF2’s Jungle Inferno

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The match seems to be going terribly. My teammates don’t appear to be interested in defending the capture point, and about half of the enemy team have dominations – meaning they’ve killed the same player multiple times without that person getting revenge. Yet weirdly, the game continues.

I’m dead, tabbing through the viewpoints of everyone who’s alive, when I realise why. One of our Red pyros is dancing with six members of Team Blu, keeping them occupied through the use of a taunt.

Team Fortress 2 is weirder than ever.

I’ve jumped back in to play some of the Jungle Inferno update, which came out last week and added six new maps, five new weapons and a bunch of balance changes. Four of the new weapons are for the Pyro, who won more votes than the heavy in a 2016 community event to see which class would get an update first. It’s not a good time to be a spy.

As with every class update Valve have ever done, the servers are swamped with people exclusively playing as the recently revamped character. With everyone eager to try out the new weapons, it’s not uncommon to see eight pyros or more on each team.

Instead of being craftable, the new items can only be unlocked by fulfilling contract missions – which also explains why so many people are playing pyro. You get access to pyro items for free, though not if you’re a fool like me and don’t realise that until you’ve ponied up £4.59 for a campaign pass. That pass provides access to a separate, more extensive set of contracts which unlock new cosmetics.

The campaign is an updated version of the system Valve introduced in the Gun Mettle update back in 2015, where you can now pick which contracts you want to fulfill rather than having them randomly assigned. Each of the new weapons has its own contract, which can be completed simply by earning points – though there are bonus objectives too, like getting kills with airblast-reflected projectiles. If you’re in a party, your friends can help fulfil those objectives with you.

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How long it takes you to get the new stuff will depend on how good/lucky you are. I’ve been playing for several hours and only have the first two, though that’s partly because I got distracted by the non-pyro specific contracts. As with the Gun Mettle update, the contracts succeed in adding purpose to a game that’s otherwise structureless outside of the context of each match. While it’ll take a while to get all the new items, it’s still a significantly smaller time investment for new players than if they had to wait until they had enough spare items to craft them.

As part of the update, every flamethrower has been reworked so that the flame particle effects better reflect where damage is being dealt – though not being a regular pyro player, I can’t say I’ve noticed. The same goes for the other changes to airblasts and how afterburn damage works; she seems like the same old pyro to me, though players with more experience will no doubt beg to differ. The main thing I’ve noticed is how much more mobile pyros are with the newly added jetpack as a secondary weapon. I’ve already lost count of the amount of times one has escaped my clutches at the last second by rocketing away.

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You have to complete the first three contracts before you can start unlocking the jetpack, so I’ve only had a brief go. If you manage to land on someone you damage them, which is excellent and correct, though easier said than done. The new main weapon, the Dragon’s Fury, has a similarly high skill ceiling – it fires a single shot at range that does miniscule damage on the first hit, but does 300% more if your target is already on fire.

What I have had ample experience with are the newly balanced spy weapons. He was hit the hardest in the latest update, with the Dead Ringer and the Ambassador both receiving substantial nerfs. The former no longer gets its cloak meter refilled by picking up ammo, and the latter now does reduced damage on headshots depending on distance. Elsewhere, the Eternal Reward knife now allows you to put on a disguise by consuming all of your cloak meter, but drains 33% faster. The combined effect of those changes has been to make me swap over from mainly using the Ambassador to the L’etranger, which extends cloak duration time and fills up the meter a little with each shot.

Most of the other classes have had several items majorly re-reworked too, with the scout’s Sandman Bat and Bonk Punch both being toned down, but his Pocket Pistol being buffed with a life stealing effect. It’s worth considering a lot of them as entirely new items, which makes this a more substantial update than it first appears. I’ll leave you to peruse the patch notes for the rest of the changes at your leisure.

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Of the new maps, Bananna Bay is easily my favourite. It’s a dual payload map where rather than simply escorting a cart to the end of a track, once it’s there each team has to wait for a train to run it over. Being surrounded by the sea on all sides helps sell the tropical theme, with the highlight being a section of the track that goes underwater. It’s a merciful respite from the flames of the many, many pyros currently running around.

I’m less fond of the control point map Mercenary Park, which is Valve’s own submission alongside the community maps. It’s like a more enclosed version of Granary, and I’ve never really enjoyed the chokepoints that inevitably feature in TF2’s indoor sections. Mossrock, the other control point map, doesn’t have as much of a chokepoint problem – though the the last objective can be a frustratingly tough nut to crack.

Enclosure is a payload map that’s more open than the name suggests. It’s got some good scenery, though doesn’t play around enough with verticality for my tastes. Brazil is a functional king of the hill map, though I prefer Lazarus with its crumbling temple and glowing mushroom lit caves. Neither of them have anything like Sawmill’s spinning blades to keep them interesting for long however, and king of the hill has always been my least favourite mode. That’s largely to do with how much spy I play though, so your mileage may vary.

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I know this gets said a lot, but it really is remarkable that a game made in 2007 can still hold my attention a decade later. Jungle Inferno is TF2’s 40th major update, and it seems entirely plausible that we’ll get another 40. Presumably the Heavy is in line for a revamp, and Valve probably won’t stop there. This update nerfed my favourite weapons and has (temporarily) flooded every match with people playing the direct counter to my favourite class. Even so, last night when I was deciding whether to boot up this or Overwatch, TF2 won out.

23 Comments

  1. Jalan says:

    The dance craze is nothing new. When the Conga taunt hit, it was ALL you could find people doing on most servers – Valve-hosted and not – and it reached such a point where the non-Valve servers took to banning the taunt entirely in various ways.

    Every time since the Conga hit, whenever there’s been a movement controlled dance taunt released, it’s become the focus of a massive attention sucking game delaying cacophony of full-on stoogery. I was tolerable of it for a time, but it gets old quickly.

    • MadisonBrady says:

      I just got paid $6784 working off my laptop this month. And if you think that’s cool, my divorced friend has twin toddlers and made over $9k her first month. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less. This is what I do… Click Here And Start Work

      • Crafter says:

        how come RPS can’t get rid of these ?
        It sounds like a plain old regex would be enough since they all follow the same template.

        • Premium User Badge

          Phasma Felis says:

          They change details every time. It’s all generated by a script, but getting all the permutations nailed down would take a fair bit of work.

          • Premium User Badge

            MajorLag says:

            The pattern doesn’t change that much from what I’ve seen. Part of my day job is creating filters for this sort of crap and, while it isn’t always easy to separate “legitimate” automated messages from the spam, there’s no such thing as a legitimate automated message here.

        • Beanbee says:

          I doubt they had perm web developers previously, but it’s maybe something the new management can contribute to?

  2. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    TF2 still looks remarkably good despite being on the aged source engine.

    But it’s too repetitive and I just can’t match the people who have been playing excessively for decades now.

    Still though, always good to hear it keeps on truckin’.

  3. Zorgulon says:

    I hopped on last night for an hour or so. I’m impressed by the content and the sheer number of new things (although it has been a long time coming).

    But, by God, the sheer number of Pyros transported me right back to the chaos of all the other class updates. Not just that, but with the radical novelty of the jetpack and the new one-puff flamethrower, and the new unfamiliar maps it made it a really disorienting experience. I also agree that the Valve map seems pretty weak – not only does it visually suffer in comparison with the lush Yeti Park in the short (as obviously it would), the final control point is a nasty Sentry nest mess that suggests they haven’t really learned anything from the map design failures of the past.

    It really makes me thankful for Overwatch’s more carefully balanced map design (and, of course, the class limits!)

    The injection of new stuff has enlivened the game again though, in the first significant way for me since the really very good Invasion Community Update a couple of years back. After the flop that was Meet your Match, it’s got me eager to play TF2 again. I just want to let the Pyro rush die down, and find a server where people play the objective…

    • Laini says:

      The class updates are good in a way but it’s always annoying for those first few weeks, especially if it’s a class you play a lot.
      People just want those unlocks and don’t have any idea how to play the class.
      Speaking of sentry nests, joined one game with about 10 Pyros and we were up against a wall of sentries basically. Went medic, popped my uber and the pyro I was with ran around trying to kill random people instead of focusing on the turrets.

      I don’t know why people join to do the taunt dance stuff. Like, it’s kind of funny the first time you see it but people will spend entire matches doing stuff like that.

    • immaletufinishbut says:

      Surely you can’t be serious about Overwatch’s map design? I wanted to like the game so bad (still do), but the maps are probably what kills it the most for me.

      I mean it’s basically a corridor shooter… The lack of alternate routes, non-chokepoint areas or actual reason to go anywhere but the shortest path to where the action is, is a major bummer for me.
      Feels like they removed half of what made the FPS of old great, but didn’t really inject anything new into the mix (except MOBA tropes and shitty memes).

      • Zorgulon says:

        Well it’s not perfect but it’s a heap better than TF2’s.

        I find it’s only really the 2CP maps like Hanamura that really have horrible chokepoints. The KotH maps certainly make use of alternate pathways (to be fair, this is also true in TF2), and the Escort and Hybrid maps often feel much more dynamic. Of course it helps that Overwatch has small teams and class limits, so you don’t get the old 32-player server disgusting sentry farms you used to in TF2.

        Perhaps it’s not so much about map design as class design – even though Overwatch suffers from a lack of team cohesion it feels easier to work together with dedicated Tanks and a greater variety of Support classes (that people sometimes even play…) and thus break the choke.

        TF2 on the other hand is hugely reliant on building an uber and having a competent teammate to use it on – and if you can’t keep alive you go back to square one.

        TF2 can be ace with a server full of good players, but the quickplay experience is miles more frustrating to me than Overwatch is, even at its worst. At least you can only have two useless snipers on your team!

    • rikksilirion says:

      I’ve gotten into some good and balanced teams. Some of the best times I’ve had with the new update though are when there are a bunch of pyros on our team and they all have jetpacks. It’s a really cool and fun experience to have a bunch of people boosting to the objective with you.

  4. Coming Second says:

    Spy is my second most played class, and my own experience is that it’s not as bad a time for playing him as you might immediately assume. A lot of people are currently playing Heavy in order to counter/troll Pyro players, and Spy is the third member of that little hate triangle. Pyros also necessarily create a lot of chaos/visual noise, which provides the distractions Spy needs to operate. I’ve wound up backstabbing a lot of Pyros over the last couple of days.

    The balancing he’s received though, yeesh. Dead Ringer was due a nerf, but the Ambassador has been rendered worthless. It feels especially harsh because that weapon on its own made Spy a viable option at high level. No more. The YER buff is utterly unconvincing (why slap a cloak drain on it as well?) and I can’t see myself using it any more than I already did, i.e. never. It feels harsh in the extreme to be loading all this on the class most likely to be affected by Pyro receiving an incredible new mobility option.

    • ThTa says:

      I’m still not over the the first Ambassador nerfs. I miss being able to shoot through spawn gates and kill overhealed (and currently healing) Heavies with constant headshots… :(

      In all seriousness, it does sound like they went a bit overboard. Then again, I haven’t played in the last few years, so what do I know? (I’ll definitely give it a shot again this weekend, though.)

  5. Stevostin says:

    All of this is totally unimportant. What matters is that we can play Orange_X3 in the exact same way than before _ ie sniping like pigs everything (and get sniped in the same way) then switch to scout. Ideally no one win or loose because that’s an uninteresting distraction from sniping strangers. I can’t see myself seriously playing pickups on TF2 on any other map.

  6. benkc says:

    Explain the taunt dance thing to me. (I’ve played hardly any TF2 and it was ages ago.) Is it something that forces other people to dance? Like, a crowd control? Or is it just a ton of people doing a dance emote together for giggles?

    • Coming Second says:

      There are emotes which other people can join in with by taunting next to them. If it’s a new one, a lot of players will naturally join in with you for the novelty. When the Conga was first released you could pretty much end any game by instigating it.

      You can’t force people to dance, of course… although the Heavy has a weapon which forces an enemy to stop and laugh. It’s almost impossible to pull off, but very satisfying.

  7. mitrovarr says:

    I don’t know why developers can’t manage games like this effctively. TF2 is nearly unplayable and has been for ages due to the idiot “friendlies” and ragequitting, and Overwatch completely broke their hero balance a month ago and either can’t or won’t fix it. OW has literally the worst balance team I’ve ever seen.

    Still having fun in Paladins… hoping they don’t find some way to ruin that completely.

    • rikksilirion says:

      TF2 is a fun and non-serious experience. People play to have fun and to screw around. The amount of silliness and balancedness is what makes TF2 the game that so many people enjoy. You can play whatever class you want when you want, and you aren’t forced to play something specific. It can be chaotic at times, sure, but that’s part of the experience. The salt is real with you.

    • tomatotom says:

      TF2 has very different players, but casual plays exactly how it is named, it is for very casual players who enjoy being friendly or being idiots. You can do whatever you want in casual because most of the players are either too new to win, or don’t care about winning at all. That’s where the outside scene of competitive tf2 shines. TF2’s outside competitive scene is way different mindset and a lot of fun compared to casual pubs.

  8. April March says:

    The Pyro contract thing is completely asinine. I mean, not in concept, but in execution. It’s a known fact that people will play a class a lot more when a big update for it lands. So what does ValvE do? They make it so in order to unlock the new guns, you NEED to play as a Pyro. So people are playing Pyro so they can play as Pyro.

    Every official server I played on had teams about three quarter Pyros, and if someone said anything about it a Pyro would say something about needing to fulfill their contracts. It’s like they don’t want their game to be fun. I decided to give it a few weeks before I try the new expansion for real.

    Another bloody annoying thing is that it doesn’t let me use the mouse to navigate menus if I have a controller plugged in. Which is something I had only seen before in truly crappy games. Definitively didn’t expect it on a ten-year-old game by a developer considered by many the high mark of PC gaming. If there is any way to disable this I couldn’t find it.

    On the other hand, you are correct: Banana Bay is a thing of beauty. Everything about it is wonderful, from the connected underwater caves to the bizarre final point. I want to live there now.

    • Zorgulon says:

      I agree, it’s dreadful, but every previous class update stretching back to the Medic in 2008 had the same issue, albeit with achievements instead of these newfangled contracts. The game will have no semblance of normality for at least a few weeks.

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