TF2: Items

More office Team Fortress 2 yesterday — this is becoming a regular thing. I’m skipping it today — I’m facing a deadline — but made up for it with a lengthy session after work last night, in a big chaotic battle on a public server. Fortunately, it seems that whatever it was that caused my machine to shut off is limited to the Developer Commentary mode. I experienced no problems in the game proper.

By now, I’ve played enough to get three special special class-specific items. There are two ways you get items in TF2. First, you apparently just get items handed to you for playing a lot — I’m not sure if this is bound to specific milestones of total time played or score or if it’s just completely random. One thing that’s definitely random is which item you get — it can be for any class, and not necessarily one you’ve been playing, or have ever played. The other way is to achieve a certain number of class-specific Achievements, which always gives you an item appropriate to the achieving class. Two of my items are of the first type, and the third was for reaching the first Achievement milestone as a Sniper. Which is strange, because I had been playing mostly as a Pyro lately, and actually had more Pyro Achievements than Sniper Achievements. But the Sniper class has fewer Achievements in total than the Pyro, so its milestones come quicker.

The reason I was playing the Pyro so much is that my first Item was a Pyro one: the Backburner, a special flamethrower that always does critical hits when you attack someone from behind. It’s a nice bonus, and more importantly, it alters your tactics by giving you an incentive to be sneaky. Its drawback is that, unlike the standard flamethrower, it can’t do a “compression blast”. I had never used that anyway, so it’s not much of a loss. On the other hand, I kind of want to try it out, now that I can’t do it. So I’ll probably swap the Backburner out the next time I play.

For the Sniper, I got the Huntsman, a bow that replaces the sniper rifle. The guy who started the office session specializes in Sniper himself, and really likes this bow, because it gives the sniper a better chance in close quarters. This may be the right choice for small-team King of the Hill mode, where all the players converge into the same room, but in a larger game, I found I missed the rifle’s scope. Without the ability to zoom in and pick people off precisely from halfway across the world, the Sniper loses its main appeal. So I don’t care for the Hunstman.

The third item is a watch that lets the Spy feign death. I haven’t even used it yet, because playing the Spy is difficult enough to get a grasp on without extra features. I hadn’t played Spy before getting this item, and even now only played it briefly and completely wrong. The difficulty here is that the Spy’s powers mostly revolve around changing his appearance or turning invisible, but there’s no obvious feedback about this: as in most first-person games, you can’t actually see yourself. Most classes play pretty much like any FPS, but to play the spy, you need special instructions.

And I don’t know where to find those. There’s no obvious in-game tutorial or documentation for the classes — there’s some intro videos for the different map modes, but that’s all I’ve seen. The official TF2 website just has a blog and a link to Steam, and the “View the manual” link on Steam just shows a bit of promotional literature about the sentry guns that the Engineer class can build. Everything I’ve learned about gameplay, I’ve learned by word of mouth. I suppose it’s possible that this is how everyone learned the game — starting with trade shows and interviews with the developers, spreading through web forums. If that’s so, and there really is a complete lack of official documentation, that would mean that the game is even more dependent on its community than I had imagined.

Anyway, that’s three items, and it looks like I’m not using any of them at for the time being. Maybe the next one will be better.

3 Comments so far

  1. malkav11 on 27 Aug 2009

    My impression is that the alternate items are geared to give the advanced player options and keep them guessing as to what enemies have available to them. If you’re still getting the hang of the game (a stage I never left), it’s not really that surprising that you’re not finding them as useful as the standard loadout. (After all, the standard loadout was the way the game was first designed to play.)

  2. Mark on 27 Aug 2009

    I can give you a few pointers on Spy, if you want. There is abundant visual feedback when you’re cloaked, but to see your disguise you have to consult your HUD. The basic functioning is this:

    – Your cloak has finite power but recharges over time. Using the standard cloak, recovering ammunition also restores the cloak. Ordinarily it lasts about eight seconds, so use this time wisely. You can cloak at any time by right-clicking.
    – You cannot attack while cloaked, and it takes about one second for the cloak to wear off before you can attack.
    -Your disguise has no limits (although you can’t choose specifically which enemy player to masquerade as). If you disguise yourself as a class that is faster than the Spy (that is, the Scout or the Medic) then you risk giving yourself away because you will still be traveling at Spy speed; if you disguise yourself as a class that is slower than the Spy (the Soldier, the Heavy, and possibly (I forget) the Demoman), you will instead be slowed to that class’ speed.
    -If you attack with your gun or your knife while wearing a disguise, the disguise will fall off, revealing you to all, including enemy sentries. However, attacking with the electro-sapper leaves your disguise intact.

    There are two unlockable replacements for the cloaking watch. One of them is called the Cloak & Dagger. This watch has slightly less charge than the standard watch and cannot be recovered with ammo pickups, but it is only depleted at a rate proportional to your movement speed. You can, by standing still or moving very slowly, replenish the cloak faster than it is being depleted, permitting you to remain invisible indefinitely.

    The one that you unlocked, the Dead Ringer, cannot be activated manually. Instead, any time you sustain damage, provided the remaining cloak meter is high enough (I think it has to be about 2/3 full?), you will leave behind a fake corpse and the enemies will see a fake kill notice, but your cloak will automatically and instantly be activated. You can deactivate it prematurely as you would deactivate any cloak; however, the noise this watch makes when you uncloak is much louder and more conspicuous than the other two, and it still takes a full second to uncloak.

    The Cloak & Dagger is designed for Spies who relish waiting patiently for the perfect moment to strike. The Dead Ringer is for those who prefer to be closer to the action and rely more on their disguise than on their cloak.

    It is probably the hardest class to play, but for the right mindset (i.e. not mine) and with the right use of hotkeys, it can be one of the most rewarding.

  3. josh g. on 27 Aug 2009

    AFAIK, you still have to activate the Dead Ringer by right-clicking. Once you activate it, he’ll hold the watch up really obviously, and the next damage you take (assuming it doesn’t kill you outright) will trigger the feign-death and cloak.

    You’ll take less damage while cloaked with the Dead Ringer, which also helps with getaways. One thing to watch out for is Pyros; if you’re set on fire, you’ll still be visible after your feign, just like usual.

    Spy is high on my played list, especially after the recent update. I’m hooked on the Cloak and Dagger myself as I like being able to slowly stalk my way behind enemy lines and then go for the strategic kill or capture. It definitely slows the gameplay down compared to the standard cloak, though.

    I recently wanted to up my cloak-and-stabbin’ skills and found TF2wiki, a good site for TF2 strategy tips. Here’s the Spy pages:

    And if you want to see some truly crazy stuff, there’s a series of advanced tutorial videos here:

    (Which taught me the trick of jumping from directly above and backstabbing from midair; I finally pulled that off today, and let me tell you it is truly satisfying.)

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