The Great Heavy Skill Floor and The Not-So Great Heavy Skill Ceiling

At the risk of being hanged, shot, crit-stickied and more hilarious ways Team Fortress 2 players can hurt each other (Hey Valve, a noose/lasso weapon, make it happen!) I will admit that I am not really a fan of the Fat Scout mentality that seems to have been touted as “the only way to skill-index the Heavy”. It seems rather defeatist to me, like the Heavy needs a super shotgun primary to have some kind of validity in higher skill levels, which is really limiting and rather traitorous to the initial weapons and designs that Valve introduced in Team Fortress 2’s genesis.
It also, to me, is ineffective.
Allow me, a game design student, explain why this is the case in my opinion, let’s line up all nine classes and look at all the class mechanics that generally makes them unique to their fellow classes.
Scout has his double jump and his double cap speed, Soldier has his rocket jumping and splash, Pyro has his afterburn and immunity to it as well as her airblast, Demoman has his indirect fire and explosive jumping with of course the splash damage, the Heavy has his spin up, the Engineer has his buildings with metal, the Medic has his ubercharge as well as health regeneration and healing allies in general, the Sniper has the damage charging along with its reverse damage fall-off as well as the iconic headshot and finally, the Spy has his disguises and cloak…did I miss anything?
I've forgotten something...
I’ve forgotten something…
Oh yeah... Backstabs...
Oh yeah… Backstabs…
Oh yeah, the Spy has his backstab ability too! Now, all these abilities are more or less core and in most cases exclusive to the class with their complete removal being rare to non-existent. On face value, you probably expect me to say “Super Shotgun removes spin-up, spin-up’s a core to Heavy and its bad!” Well no, it’s actually a lot worse than that! You see, if we made all nine classes go through some kind of super training, making them master their core abilities at 120%, it would lead to:
– The Scout’s aerial mobility becoming heightened to the point of nullifying many attempts of enemies juggling or slowing them down with knockback abilities.
– The Soldier’s aerial mobility, at the cost of his rather chunky health pool, nullifies his slow move speed when approaching the battlefield, allowing heavy firepower to be present on the battlefield sometimes even before the supposed fastest class in the game, the Scout. The Soldier’s splash also giving him some control over targets movements and dealing damage to targets often out of the reach of hitscan weapons.
– The Pyro becomes a terrifying deterrent against light ambushing or flanking classes from priority targets and objectives while also being a formidable defence against pushes with its well timed airblasts pushing back ubers and deflecting projectiles.
– The Demoman, much like his friend Soldier, can rush to front lines rather quickly and provide early game high firepower, his indirect fire and splash damage allowing him to break down forces in positions too great for even the Soldier.
– The Heavy can have his gun ready in battle and unready when moving.
– The Engineer has calculated strategies for the placement of his highly valuable buildings, giving his team a faster push and a stronger defence.
– The Medic can create Gods! Yes, Gods with flash ubers, save the lives of teammates from the brink of death with swift healing, can maximise the team’s power by planning out how much (over)healing to grant teammates as they push through forces.
– The Sniper can shut down heavy pushes with his headshots and the occasional bodyshot at all the right targets, with a keen understanding for just how much charge should be devoted to each target to ensure a one shot kill and not waste precious charge time.
– The Spy is everyone and no one. The Spy has better knowledge of your teammates than you do, he knows you better than you do, he knows your mother better than anyone does. That sneaky devil knows every crevice to crawl into whilst cloaked to ellude you, wait for your back to turn and ah ha! He fooled you! He sapped the Engineer’s buildings, stabbed the Engineer, made off with your mother and capped the last control point all while you thought he was trying to backstab you!
As you can see, several of the classes become terrifying once they are mastered. One pretty stand out exception sadly is the Heavy. You see, where as the likes of the Scout’s double jump and the Medic’s ubercharge are core features made to make the class BETTER at their job, the spin-up is only their to make Heavy’s minigun have some difficulty to use. This is the core reason why a competent, nothing to write to your mother about Heavy is often so hard to distinguish from the Master of Heavy Weapons Guy and no amount of fat Scout and airviching is going to remedy that really.
Saved by the Sandvich!
Saved by the Sandvich!
So what sort of core mechanics could the Heavy benefit from? Well here’s where things get a bit funny, Valve has already added these mechanics…in Mann vs. Machine!
Whether you consider it balanced or not, you cannot deny that mechanics like Knockback Rage (build damage, activate with taunt / +attack3, metre drains and damage does super knockback), Destroy Projectiles (on hitting projectiles, said projectiles harmlessly fall down) and Bullet Penetration (Bullets pierce through targets) would not only give the Heavy some more skill-indexing, but probably make him more fun too! Heck, why leave it there, why not let the Heavy’s knockback rage go all Force-a-Nature and push the Heavy, letting him get up to ledges and stuff? Yes, you can easily point out issues and such with these ideas, but try and tell me that it would not be better than a “shotgun with more damage and ammo”?
Just some Sandvich for thought!
Just some Sandvich for thought!

2 thoughts on “The Great Heavy Skill Floor and The Not-So Great Heavy Skill Ceiling

  • November 2, 2013 at 6:42 am

    What do you guys consider the most recent weapon unlock Valve has added that really created a different playstyle from the other weapons in the slot? Liberally, I’d say Flying Guillotine, scout’s first damage-dealing projectile secondary that promoted mastering a sort of long-range meatshot, either with sandman or with long-range mini-crits.

    • January 20, 2014 at 7:01 am

      In terms of weapons during the time of your writing Aabicus, without resorting to weapons that people forced themselves to committing in order to make viable like the Market Gardener or the Neon Anihillator, weapons that had great promise or I could side with conceptually but fell foul in practice like the Machina or Pomson 6000 or weapons that polished on the prior great concept but bad execution weapons like the Rescue Ranger…I have to agree with you actually and say the Vaccinator.

      It suddenly gave the Medic far more control over his ubercharge and greatly rewarded him for his concentration on the condition of his patient by healing. It essentially propelled the Medic’s meta skill in different directions with less focus on “Who is nearby that I can build uber off of?” and more on “What’s happening to my patient? Should I use 1 uber or 2?”


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