The largest element in TF2 that doesn’t affect gameplay at all are hats. You could argue that I could leave out ‘that doesn’t affect gameplay at all’ and still be correct. But anyway, since the Move That Gear Update this summer, the last link between cosmetics and actual gameplay was broken with the removal of the Polycount set bonuses. The only bonus these sets give you now is a merely cosmetic and merely visible tombstone after you kill an adversary.
That said, cosmetics can still turn the tide of your battles and may even help your team! Here are several tips for using those hats and miscs as tools to impact your gameplay, both in a pratical and in a psychological way.
#1 The Tiny Head
By using the Ritzy Rick’s Hair Fixative, the Baseball Bill’s Sports Shine or the Texas Slim’s Dome Shine, you can reduce the visibility of your head for enemy snipers. This is especially valid in the Engineer’s case, whose yellow dot on his skull is the go-to target for an instant kill. Remove that, and you’ll be harder to hit!
For the rich amongst us: the same works for Unusuals with effects like Massed Flies or Steaming. In dark areas, your head will be difficult to discern.
#2 The Extravaganza
In a complete opposite strategy, equip the Towering Pillar of Hats! In stead of trying to dodge Snipers, you will now stand out proudly in the battlefield, a surefire target… but where does your head even start? Lots of bullets will fly through your top hats, and while an insult to your fashion sense, you can live to see yet another day. Remember, your hat is not part of your hitbox, so wearing this hat will confuse your enemies: the hat will distract them from your precious head.
#3 The Bluff
Rock your gibus and stock weapons or achievement items, get underestimated by the other team, and subsequently plow right through them. While this trick is probably as old as the Gibus itself, it is still very effective. Be sure to not include your Mercenary badge- your ruse will be discovered faster once your enemy sees your join date in the kill cam.
Remember, the go-to gibus is the Ghostly Gibus nowadays.
#4 The Impersonator
Find a bad teammate (they shouldn’t be hard to come by) and dress exactly like them for the battle. Your opponents won’t be able to discern whether you are an easy target or should be engaged tryhard mode. While not as effective as other tactics, this is still worth an honorable mention. Of course, it falls apart when you dominate someone.
#5 The Distraction
This works only if you have skillful teammates or friends helping you. Essentially, you equip the most obnoxious miscs you can find to make sure you stand out and are targeted, while your teammates sweep up the distracted team. Recommended for Bonk! scouts for their invulnerability, and Snipers, if your friend is a better sniper than you. The enemy will focus you, so you focus on surviving while your buddy picks them off.
#6 The Dress Rehearsal
Nothing like confusion to mess with the other team. Each time you die, put on different cosmetics. This may seem complicated, but there’s quick loadout changing with A, B, C and D, and also really worth your time when you’re waiting for respawn anyway. We all know that in a server you can encounter a good player, easily discernable by his War Pig, Kringle Collection and Deadliest Duckling. Because you recognize him, you can be more cautious around him.
The same applies to you when you are tearing it up; people will recognize your Glengarry Bonnet and Cool Breeze once you’ve blown them up sufficiently. More reason to change those cosmetics every now and again- the enemy will have to determine your skill level again and again, because they keep on encountering a ‘new’ player, and by the time they realize by seeing your name in their death cam, it’s already too late.
#7 The Set Stunt
While I said the Polycount sets bonuses have been removed from the game, they still linger in the subconscious of every somewhat experienced player. Equip the Milk man and shock your enemies by pulling out the pistol. Equip the Fez and no one will expect an Ambassador crit. This is still prevalent in current TF2 and you should (ab)use it while you can, because this too shall pass.
So choose your tactic, put on your hats and wreak havoc on your dazed and confused enemies!