Well, that was quick. Only the other day, rockets were spotted in assorted Team Fortress 2 maps, and now Soldiers everywhere are tooled up with sci-fi weapons designed by the special-effects geniuses at WETA Workshop. (You may have seen their work in movies like Lord of the Rings, Avatar, King Kong, and about half the other blockbusters in recent years.) Read this comic to see their discovery, and visit the Mann Co. store to witness the might of Dr. Grordbort's Infallible Aether Oscillators, and the inevitable hat that goes with them.
But, we hear you ask, what are Dr. Grordbort's Infallible Aether Oscillators?
They're guns, obviously. But there's a little more to them than that. They're actually real steampunk style prop guns that WETA makes as a side gig, which you can order here, and then have incredibly expensive pretend-wars with other people who have too much money.
The Team Fortress 2 versions - replicas of replicas of things that never existed - are rather more functional, as well as cheaper. In fact, they can be completely free. As with most TF2 gear, you only have to pay if you want a new toy now now now, and both of the new guns can be crafted pretty easily. They should also be available as drops, although since I only ever seem to get Sandviches and Nataschas from those, I'm not exactly holding my breath.
But never mind that! Let's meet the Soldier's snazzy new gear...
The Cow Mangler 5000 (£6.99)
A "Level 30 Focused Wave Projector", or to use the official DARPA terminology, 'zappy-zap-zap gun'. Doesn't require ammo, and lets you loose off a charged shot that does mini-crits and disables buildings for four seconds. The downsides are that you wave goodbye to random critical hits (although the Kritzkrieg still works), and don't do as much damage to buildings.
Make It Yourself: Reclaimed Metal, Black Box
The Righteous Bison (£4.99)
Another zappy-zap-zap gun, for your Secondary weapon slot. Again, no ammo, with projectiles that punch through targets and can't be deflected, but are weak against buildings.
Make It Yourself: Reclaimed Metal, Battalion's Backup
Lord Cockswain's Pith Helmet (£7.99)
Yet another stupid bloody hat that nobody but you cares about and you shouldn't waste your hard earned money on, but will, because OH GOD I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE HAT OBSESSION. Pith helmet? Pith off and- Wait. People paying for this worthless crap mean I get to play more games for free? A hat you should all buy immediately. Buy two!
Lord Cockswain's Novelty Mutton Chops and Pipe (£3.49)
Makes you look like you have giant white scales sticking out of your face, as if attacked by some kind of alien virus. It also gives you a new 'smoking' effect, because smoking is cool.
All of these can be bought individually, or you can grab the whole set for £20, otherwise known as '2/3 of another game', otherwise known as 'yet another oak-stake to the heart of the word 'micro' in 'micro-transactions'. Is it worth taking the plunge though? I grabbed a Cow Mangler on RPS' dime (and there's a sentence I didn't expect to be typing again) and hit some servers.
It's a fun weapon, finally introducing the much requested 'guns with teats' school of firearms, though at heart it's just another rocket launcher with a funky visual effect. The projectile is quite slow and easy to dodge, and in practice the unlimited ammo side isn't that useful. The best bit is definitely the charged attack, which doesn't just do mini-crit attacks but has a big plasma-splashing blast radius that sets people on fire. Hit the middle of a crowd and all you'll be hearing for a while is 'ding-ding-ding-ding!'. The catch is that the charged shot fires as soon as it's ready rather than letting you hold onto it, and fully drains your gun. A five second charge-up followed by another five seconds worth of reloading to get back up to full combat readiness (although you can fire during this) means you really, really have to get your timing right.
Overall, I'll be sticking with it for a while, but I suspect I'll be going back to my trusty Liberty Launcher once the novelty's worn off. Game balance notwithstanding, it'd have been good to have a few more practical differences to the rocket launcher to make it feel more like a proper zappy-zap-zap gun, such as Pyro not being able to reflect shots back at the expense of some rocket jumping power. The charged shot makes it more than just an aesthetic switch though, and while I think £7 is a little much for any weapon short of a nuclear warhead that only I personally am allowed to use, it's well worth trading in some old junk to have a play with.