“You call that breaking my spine!?”

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The Heavy Update for Team Fortress 2 has dropped (on time, for a change). For a free tweak to an existing game it’s a monster, and here’s the round-up of what’s included.

First, the Heavy unlockables – we have Natascha, a new version of the minigun that does 25% less damage but will slow enemies down for an instant when it hits. The Killing Gloves of Boxing are the new melee option. Killing an enemy with these gives the Heavy a five second crit-boost to use with any weapon. That’s five seconds of guaranteed critical hits, and it can be extended if the Heavy keeps on killing with them. It’s not much, but I can see it making all the difference in melee combat.

And then, last night, we were told about the Sandvich.

A replacement for the shotgun, it’s a health boost that the Heavy can carry around and munch on. To quote:

The Sandvich is the Heavy’s first unlockable. It tastes as good as it looks and heals 120 health. Like in real life, the decision to eat a Sandvich must not be taken lightly; The Heavy is completely vulnerable during the four second eating process, and his loud, happy sounds of vigorous chewing will draw enemies like tiny ant cowards to a picnic. OF DEATH.

If anyone was considering buying TF2 these past few weeks, this news will surely make the decision for you. The announcment was also accompanied by a special edition of the Meet The Team video series – Meet The Sandvich.

There are also two new maps for exisiting game modes. The community-made Steel is an attack/defense control point map with a few quirks and a maze of routes. The final CP can be captured at any time, but capturing the other points opens up new routes for the attackers and closes down routes for the defenders, in addition to awarding more time. It’s a confusing run the first time you play it, but all the routes are well signposted and the map rewards tight tactical focus from both teams.

Badwater Basin is a brand new Payload map, which is excellent news. Payload is a very popular game mode but good maps are thin on the servers – the only good ones are Gold Rush (the official one) and a special variant of Dustbowl (a community effort). Badwater is touted as being more open that Godl Rush, with fewer chokepoints and an emphasis on more vertical combat.

The most surprising news of the update is the new Arena mode:

Arena features smaller maps that play out in shorter periods of time. The round ends once one team has no players left in the arena, or when the central capture point has unlocked and been captured. Rounds tend to be very fast and highly competitive, with an emphasis on your team’s class makeup and your plan to counter the opposing team’s class choices. Arena mode is great for smaller matches of three vs. three players, while still comfortably supporting huge knockdown twelve-on-twelve brawls.

Which all sounds like a straight-up deathmatch twist on regular TF2. There are two brand new maps to go with the mode – Lumberyard and Ravine. Lumberyard is the most interesting as it sports a radically different environment than all previous maps. Gone are the desert-industrial trappings, replaced as they are by brisk mountain air and striking pine tree-filled skyboxes. Three more maps Arena maps are included, these being reworkings of Well, Badlands and Granary.

So, what are you waiting for? Get playing as a Sniper or Spy and start picking off the glut of Heavies.

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