Monday, October 29, 2012

Team Fortress 2: Halloween 2012

I'm not a very big fan of Meat Fortress 2. I play it very infrequently, basically only coming back to it whenever there's a major, game-changing update (or whenever friends try to drag me back), and then quickly lose interest all over again. It's like an old acquaintance whom I occasionally speak to out of a sense of obligation, but I don't really enjoy doing so. But since Halloween is approaching and Valve released yet another seasonal event, I figured I'd check it out.

I never bothered with any of the previous Halloween events so I don't know how this one compares to events in the past, but this one just seems like a clusterfuck, full of rage and confusion. Speaking as someone who doesn't enjoy Steam Fortress 2 that much in the first place, the stuff in this event makes me like it even less. More of my pseudo-review of the Scream Fortress 2 Halloween 2012 event after the jump.

To honor the season, certain maps have been slightly redecorated with things like exploding pumpkins, and when players die they can drop a jack-o-lantern filled with candy which grants temporary critical hits to whomever picks it up. Then you've got occasional ghosts that appear, casually floating around the level scaring people, mini-bosses who appear in certain maps to attack both sides, health kits that look like pumpkin pies, and a whole bunch of new hats. Don't forget about the hats. These are all fairly minor and often inconsequential changes, so I don't have anything worthwhile to say about these. They're just kind of there. 

Merasmus carpet-bombing the match.

The main event seems to be the wizard Merasmus and his wheel of fortune. While playing king of the hill, whenever ownership of the cap zone changes teams, Merasmus spins the wheel of fortune to produce some kind of random effect on the match: big heads, fast running, full invulnerability, crits, super jumps, floating jumps, etc. These effects are fairly fleeting and don't make a huge difference in the gameplay -- they generally only serve to confuse and throw me off balance, cause I suddenly have trouble aiming while moving a million miles per second as the scoot. 

But Merasmus also appears in person, putting the cap zone on lockdown so no one can take it, and attacking both teams with all kinds of crazy attacks. He only stays for about a minute or two before leaving on his own, and then the cap zone opens up and the match resumes as normal. It's possible to kill Merasmus -- he has his own health bar and everything -- which is necessary to get the new achievements, to see the new area, and to get a chance at the new items. But killing Merasmus basically requires a ceasefire truce between Red and Blu teams.

To really experience the event in full, you have to cooperate with the other team, which would be a fun and interesting mechanic in and of itself (I've had a fair bit of fun shooting people in the face only to unite together against Merasmus, and then go back to shooting each other). But therein lies the problem; putting cooperative objectives in a fully PVP environment just doesn't work. While you're focusing on Merasmus, nothing is stopping the other team from killing you just for the lulz (or to boost their own points). 

Merasmus forcing everyone to do the Thriller dance. 

I joined one random server and went about killing people as normal, trying to take the hill and everything cause that's what the objective of the match is ultimately supposed to be. Meanwhile a bunch of people were screaming "don't kill each other," flinging insults and rage at people who were just trying to focus on the primary objective. They wanted to kill Merasmus and were trying to prepare for him during the downtime. After a while I joined another server, expecting the consensus to be "kill Merasmus when he spawns, kill each other when he leaves," and was repeatedly stabbed or shot in the back by players on the other team.

So after getting bitched-out on one server for killing people between Merasmus spawns (when you're supposed to be capturing the hill), I was griefed on another server for not killing people (when you're supposed to be fighting Merasmus). There are no rules anywhere saying that you have to stop fighting each other when Merasmus appears, but it seems the vast majority of players want to kill him to experience the new event, and all it takes is a handful of griefers (intentional or not) to piss everyone off. 

The new Mann vs Machine mode, "Wave 666," is basically ordinary MVM except it's one giant wave of over 800 enemies. They give you $4000 at the start of the match to buy some initial upgrades and then you can return to the trader to buy more by collecting money drops. If the bomb gets deployed at any point in the match, you have to start all over again, from the beginning. If after killing 827 enemies, that last one delivers the bomb, you gotta fight all 828 again. 

Zombie pyros in Mann vs Machine

There's a reason the difficulty for this event mode says "nightmare," because it pretty much is a nightmare difficulty. I joined one match in progress and found a dozen giant, crit-charged rocket soldiers camping two feet outside of the spawn point. For some reason no one was carrying the bomb, so fortunately time wasn't an issue because it took us like 10 minutes of leaving the spawn, getting one shot off, and promptly being destroyed. The other gimmick for Wave 666 is that the robots are now replaced with zombies, but it's kind of hard to tell the difference or to care while you're actually playing.

All-in-all, I'm not enjoying this Halloween event. Fighting Merasmus in the middle of a king of the hill match is a fun idea, but it proves more frustrating than anything -- it's basically impossible for a random pub match to come to any consensus of what to do, and it's way too easy for griefers to ruin everything. The Mann vs Machine mode isn't all that different, except that it's basically way too hard for random pub teams to succeed at. In other words, it's just too frustrating and difficult to get the full experience out of this event without having a large group of dedicated friends with whom to play.

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