Valve seem to be messing with us. As the Sniper update rolls out, suspicious things have been happening. Suspicious, sneaky, back-stabby things. Spy-like things. Yesterday saw the reveal of a new game mode (the one hinted at in the background during the Scout update), the Payload Race. Two carts, one per team, uphill. Today brings us the Sniper's second unlockable - the Razorback - a "tribal shield" wired up to a battery, designed to protect the Sniper from being backstabbed by Spies. But it gets weirder.
The rivalry between Sniper and Spy is one of TF2's most passionate, and giving the Sniper an anti-backstab device is going to infuriate Spy players. Sending 10,000 volts through the knife into anyone who should try a backstab, it'll also make the blade too hot to use for a short while. Which is a good job, since the shield can only withstand one stab before breaking into bits.
But then a funny thing happened. It's controversial, various Steam forumites absolutely adamant the whole thing is a hoax perpetrated by a photoshopping mischievous few, but a number of people are reporting (and posting screen grabs as proof) that for about ten minutes earlier today, a Spy appeared behind the Sniper on the update page. You can see the full thing here.
The hot hot speculation on the Valve forums is that the Sniper update may well be concealing a potential simultaneous Spy update. Because if the Spy is uncloaking behind the Sniper, then perhaps the dead Spy body on the ground is a feigned death decoy type thing. Well, I dunno. Two Spies makes more sense. But then, why would Valve have performed this peculiar act? If they did. It's tempting to assume fakery. Or that Valve are deliberately messing with people. They're like that. (Update: The Spy appeared again, this time the full length of his body, but still as if coming out of cloak. Something's definitely up.)
Also of note are the new Arena maps announced yesterday. Not fan made, but by Valve themselves. The first is Sawmill, which will be the first TF2 map to feature interfering weather: rain. Another sneaky Spy mention appears here, with the information that the central cap point is above "a hidden undergroung spytech base". There's also a couple of spinning saw blades making the cap point all the more dangerous.
Second is Nucleus, which is described as "A diabolical doomsday device is the foundation of this circular arena map, which features long sightlines and a bottomless radioactive pit underneath most of the game area. The cap, located in the center of the arena, is only accessible by catwalks suspended over a chasm, which open after the timer has run down."
So, is there a secret Spy update in the works too? Is there a reason why the usual main update page menu is absent, so we can't see how many updates are planned? The Sniper's new bits and pieces are expected to go live on Tuesday. Everything else is up in the air.