Engineers are a key support class in the game. They can build three things:
- Sentries: These automated turrets arguably deal out more damage than even the heavy. They have near-flawless aim, very fast (but not instant!) target acquisition, massive damage output, and they can run for ages without needing an ammo refill. But! They’re rooted in place and easily disabled by spies.
- Dispensers: A magic vending machine of ammunition and health. Looks like a gas pump. On maps with shifting battle-lines (like control points and payload) this has an interesting effect on gameplay. There’s just enough health and ammo in the average map to supply a small team. But as things get crowded, it becomes harder and harder to to find supplies after surviving an engagement. If an engineer takes the time to erect a dispenser, he can keep more people alive than even the medic. (The medic saves people during a fight. The engineer’s dispenser saves people that won or pulled out of a fight.) This small thing can change the battlefield completely.
- Teleporters: It can sometimes take twenty seconds to walk from your starting area back to the active area of the map, and along the way you might find yourself picked at by enemy forces. (Snipers, mostly.) Getting picked off means another trip into the respawn queue, and another hike. An engineer can set up a teleport to connect the start area to the front lines, thus getting forces back into the fight at much greater rate. Again, this can turn the tide of battle.
Tip: This class takes a bit of time to figure out. Building, upgrading, and repairing costs metal. Build a dispenser first, so that you can use the metal it provides to build your sentries and teleporters. Try to place sentries in good “ambush” positions, so that foes will walk around the corner and into the jaws of your bullet-spewing death machine.
Newbie suggestion: Try one of the other classes first. Once you have a feel for sentries (by getting killed by them) and teleporters (by using them) and dispensers (by having your life saved by them) you’ll have a pretty good idea of where to put them.
|You know, she does look feminine here.|
The perfect ambusher class, and arguably my favorite. (It seems I prefer medic for offense, and pyro if I’m defending.) The pyro’s flamethrower spits out a cone of burning death that does tremendous damage at point-blank. It has a short range and a wide spread, letting you light groups of enemies in a single sweep. The pyro’s slightly diminished speed and limited range makes them very vulnerable in the open, and they tend to hide around corners or in small rooms where they can drop down or pop out on and unsuspecting foe.
Tagging a foe with the end of your cone can often force a retreat, even if the actual damage done is minimal. The psycological value of setting people on fire should not be underestimated. This makes it very easy for the cunning pyro to retreat if she’s injured. Other classes have trouble escaping when the battle goes against them, but people are usually very reluctant to chase a pyro. (And since the pyro’s flame hangs in the air for a split second, her range is effectively increased when shooting backwards rather than forwards. I’ve had battles where an enemy pyro was chasing me. She was running into my flames while hers were falling just short of me, and so she dropped dead while I escaped with only minimal damage.)
The pyro is the ultimate anti-spy. Her flamethrower fuel is smart enough to tell friend from foe, and will ignite an enemy even if they are cloaked or disguised. Not even the engineer’s sentries can do that. This means the pyro is the only class that can unmask a spy for others. Some classes have stuff they can do to see if a friend is a spy (and of course everyone can just shoot suspect teammates to see if they die) but if they discover a spy they still have to communicate their knowledge to the team. And “THERE’S A SPY BEHIND YOU!” shouted into team chat isn’t very illuminating. By the time they explain who the spy is, where they are, and who they’re behind, the spy will have already done his dastardly work and retreated to the shadows. But the pyro can just puff out bits of flame. If it touches an enemy spy he will become visible if cloaked, and unmasked if disguised. Everyone else will immediately see the spy (burning people are hard to miss) and be able to take action.
Like the heavy, using a pyro is more about strategy and timing and less about aiming and dodging. (Although pyros do end up in dogfights occasionally, which is more or less impossible for a heavy.) Knowing where to wait and when to pop out is the key to a successful life of murder and arson as a pyro.
Tip: Spy-check everyone. Even the guy you just spy-checked. If someone leaves your field of view, they are suspect when they return. I have racked up an amusing number of accidental kills by simply puffing a bit of fire at people who I thought were undoubtedly genuine teammates. Paranoia pays.
Newbie suggestion: The pyro is not a bad starting class if you’re eager to get right into the thick of things. You might struggle a bit before you learn where the good ambush spots are, but a newbie pyro can usually get a bit of positive feedback as long as they don’t run around in the open.
The soldier class is straightforward. He’s armed with slow-moving splash-damage rockets. He’s slow moving himself, and has a decent number of hitpoints.
I’m not all that impressed with the soldier class. The rockets are so slow that most players dodge them without a fuss at long range, and out-maneuver the slowbie soldier at short range. The splash damage radius isn’t very large, and so bombing grouped enemies isn’t nearly as effective as it should be. It’s possible to get the drop on a cluster of foes and have them scatter before you can kill any of them. (This is much less true for the heavy or pyro.)
The soldier can only have four rockets in the launcher at once, which means he’s going to be reloading often. This increases the chances he’ll be in the middle of reloading when opportunity knocks. And finally, the soldier can only carry 24 rockets at a time. I find myself constantly withdrawing from the battle in search of ammo.
The game keeps track of who has been killing you and will let you know if someone is “dominating” you. (Killed you several times without being killed in return.) Sometimes foes will be elevated to “nemesis” if they’re really daunting you. But in all the hours I’ve put into this game, I don’t remember ever having a soldier as a nemesis. It’s very rare for the post-death screenshot to show me a picture of a soldier. This either means that the soldier is under-powered or under-used.
Tip: Like in Quake or Unreal Tournament, aim your rockets at the feet of your enemies, so that if they dodge (and they will) you can still nick them with a bit of splash damage. Reload constantly.
Newbie suggestion: My own gripes with his performance aside, some people really enjoy the soldier. He’s simple to use and is worth a try if you think shooting people with rockets sounds like a fun way to spend your time.
The demolition man is a tricky class. He’s the only class that doesn’t have a conventional dogfighting weapon. Everyone else – even the medic – gets a backup sidearm or shotgun for emergencies or situations where their primary weapon doesn’t cut it. But the demo is armed only with arcing explosives. His primary weapon is the grenade launcher, which can lob grenades over walls or angle them around corners. His secondary is the “stickybomb”, which can place explosvies onto any surface where they can be detonated at will with the right mouse button.
The demo definitely takes some practice, but a good demo is a fearsome opponent. He’s your go-to guy for digging out entrenched enemy positions. A good demo will stand behind his team and hurl bombs into the fray, placing themselves beyond the reach of the enemy.
Tip: Placing stickybombs above eye level makes it much more likely that foes will not notice them and blunder into the kill zone.
Newbie suggestion: It’s a tricky class to learn to use, and it’s hard to do your job until you know the maps well enough to know what things look like around the next corner. It’s probably best to start with a different class.
The spy is the most unique class in the game. No other class has as wide a range of powers or as steep a learning curve. A newbie spy is a nuisance that might get the occasional lucky kill. A master spy is a killing machine that can single-handedly break enemy fortifications, sow confusion, and force the enemy team to adapt to his attacks by changing their behavior. No other class can make the opposing team change their classes the way a spy can.
You can cloak at will, but you have a limited duration. You can disguise yourself as any class on either team, but performing an attack will instantly break the disguise. You can sabotage devices like sentry guns, but only if you can get close enough without the other team killing you. (Any they tend to be very suspicious of people that get close to the engineer and his work.) You can instant-kill anyone in the game with a backstab, but only if you can get close enough and get them to show you their back. Friendly players can pass through one another, but members of opposing teams bump into each other. This means that touching other people in a tight hallway can give away your status as a spy.
But to be a good spy you have to be familiar with all of the other classes in the game. It amazing how easy it is to spot a bad spy, because they break expected behaviors. You will become a suspect the instant they see: A pyro hanging out in the open. A sniper in a tight backstabby corridor. A heavy taking a secondary route. A medic alone. Anyone they can’t walk through. A scout standing still. An engineer too close to the battle. A pyro not spy-checking everyone she meets. A demo man without a view of the front lines. A soldier not firing rockets into opportune corners. A heavy who is near the battle but hasn’t spun up his minigun. A scout that takes the long way around a pit or object instead of leaping over it. A friendly spy going the wrong way or not wearing a disguise. Anyone besides a spy uncloaking. A friendly who is the wrong class. (Which happens when a spy disguises himself as a class that the other team doesn’t have. If the red spy pretends to be a sniper and blue team has no snipers, then he’ll appear as a sniper but with a random name from the other team. I know Rutskarn is playing as a pyro, so when I see Rutskarn the sniper I attack on sight.) All of these behaviors will out the hapless spy, who will then be gunned down and left wondering what he did to give himself away.
In order to be a good spy, you need to know how the other classes behave, where they hang out, and what they should be doing at any given time. You need to know the maps and where you can stand safely while waiting for your cloak to recharge. You need to know what targets are valuable enough that it’s worth breaking cover, and you need to know where there are safe corners are so you can recharge your cloak and ready your next disguise.
I’ve seen a skilled spy walk into a fortified room, sap the sentries, backstab the attending engineer, then disguise as a pyro and pretend to “help” in the search of the spy when the rest of the team comes running. They do another backstab, cloak, retreat, double back, backstab a medic and heavy exiting the spawn room, then dash to the front lines to sabotage the teleport. I can’t think of another class that could do this much damage to the enemy effectiveness in such a short time.
Tip: As with the sniper, too many spies on your team causes the enemy to become paranoid and instead of one excellent and effective spy you’ll end up with three useless ones. No matter how big the team, you never want more than one or two spies at most, but a good sized team should have at least one spy to keep the enemy guessing. Don’t keep assaulting the same location over and over. Change tactics often and move around. Paranoia spikes locally when you strike and subsides after a time as players get re-immersed in their work. By moving from one area to the next you’ll be facing the most distracted foes with the lowest paranoia.
Newbie suggestion: Learn the rest of the game before you mess with the spy. Like the sniper, the spy attracts newbies who want to rack up kills without placing themselves into the fray. And also like the sniper, the newbies usually end up frustrated and confused.
My favorite gametype is payload. My favorite class is probably pyro. And my favorite moments in the game are when I see my friends burning to death in front of my flamethrower. This means I’m probably better at Team Fortress than I am at friendship, which is pretty sad since I’m not all that good at the game yet.
Stop by the server sometime and I’ll do my best to set you on fire.
The true story of three strange days in 1989, when the last months of my adolescence ran out and the first few sparks of adulthood appeared.
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