With Overwatch being the new hot team based FPS on the market, one might forget that the free to play shooter by Valve, Team Fortress 2, is still in active development. And after what seems like a century, the game has updated with significant content that's not just hats or cosmetics. Of course, there are new cosmetics, but hey, it wouldn't be Team Fortress 2 if that weren't the case right?
Let's start off with day one of the update, which introduced matchmaking to the community finally. While the game has had an active competitive aspect for a long, it's never had any sort of competitive matchmaking incorporated directly into the game. After launching a beta that had its ups and downs, it's finally come to the entire player base. In typical Valve fashion, a small video with the characters was released to celebrate this update. This matchmaking is for both the competitive and casual mode.
The competitive mode focuses on ranked 6v6, which is the most popular format within the Team Fortress 2 community. As stated on the Competitive Mode FAQ, it was designed to track your progress and performance. This ranking your assigned is used to match you against similar skill level players.
As a Team Fortress 2 veteran, what's interesting here is that there are no rules regarding the class and weapon restrictions that are available in this game. There are some typical changes you'd expect for to focus on the skill portion of the game, like no random criticals, and fixed shotgun spreads. But every weapon is available for every class, and given what the UGC 6s community has seen over the past seasons, that could spell disaster from a meta-game perspective.
One thing to note: in order to play, you have to provide a phone number. This is done in "order to ensure a greater degree of account security and player accountability, which likelihood of cheating and abuse". But if you are unable to do so, that's fine....you just have to buy a lifetime Competitive Access Pass from the Mann Co Store, which costs $9.99.
What's also to note is that you have to run DirectX 9, and certain graphical settings will be enforced to ensure a level playing field. I've not heard of a competitive mode that has done that before. They also indicated that the view models within the competitive mode have been reduced.
Several maps that have seen play within the Team Fortress 2 community have gotten the official Valve seal of approval as well, those being Sunshine, Metalworks, and Swiftwater. These are maps that have been played in the competitive scene over the past several seasons and have been balanced to be as fair as possible for both sides. Pass Time has also made it's way out of the beta, the experimental game mode involving Bad Robot and Escalation Studios.
As for the second-day update, those who played Team Fortress 2 when it was first starting may feel a rush of nostalgia, as the new "Meat vs Match" part of the update mimics the original Soldier versus Demoman update in the early life of Team Fortress 2. This time around, the Heavy and the Pyro go head to head, as you need to "vote" for them. The next time you play Team Fortress 2, you'll be asked to choose one of the sides. At that point, every point you score in Competitive or Casual will count toward your team. The team with the most points at the end of the event will get a full-fledged class pack in a future update. This includes new weapons, new achievements, and new "balancing". It's indicated in another post that both will most likely get the update in question eventually, but the vote indicates who gets the items and balancing first.
And of course, there's new cosmetics, specifically taunts. You've got Pyro riding on a Ballooncorn, the Spy getting Disco Fever, the Soldier playing a trombone, and the Scout doing the Carlton. No seriously, the Scout doing the Carlton.
There are also new crates, of course. Starter class packs are a new addition, which given Team Fortress 2's age begs the question how many people haven't TRIED Team Fortress 2 by now, and are interested in trying it now (as Valve seems to think with this specific newbie pack). There's now keyless class crates that will grant a random cosmetic item for that specific class, meaning that you can get a hat for your favorite class, without being worried about RNG. Finally, there's a new strange crate, which is full of weapons that the community has asked for that will count the kills associated with the weapons unlocked within the crate. Anyone who got Disgaea for the PC will also find their 3 items that were promised in this update.
As a TF2 Pyro highlander main, you should know who I'd vote for, but I have problems with this update. New weapons for who wins? Ok fine, that's similar to the original Soldier versus Demoman update. But making a fan vote specifically change balancing of your game, in terms of time (aka who gets balanced first)? That just seems like you're doing it for the sake of doing it, and not for the fact that the game needs a balance for those classes. A popular vote shouldn't be determining who gets looked at first in terms of needed balancing. I just don't understand. Tack onto that the fact that the default competitive mode has no big restrictions on items and classes, and it seems like they are experimenting with a proven formula that has worked within the Team Fortress 2 community up to this point. They seem weirdly disconnected.