I’m not sure whether this is a prevailing sentiment towards the Heavy as a class, but I get the impression that people more commonly find this class uninteresting to play than any of the others, based on what I’ve witnessed with regards to typical class quantities in a team and remarks from other online players. Some have outright said in retaliation to getting dominated by me that the Heavy is “boring” or “unskillful”, whilst some have questioned me out of genuine curiosity why I enjoy the class when they fervently do not.
So I thought I’d defend against some criticisms I’ve heard of him as well as explain the appeal I find in playing as him. A couple of things however that I’ll admit right off the bat:
I certainly don’t find the Heavy the most fun to play; I equally enjoy playing as Scout and Spy if not more so.
Playing as the Heavy can indeed be dull on account of lack of challenge when facing beginners that have no idea how to deal with him.
“He’s boring because he’s so slow”.
His shuffling speed is understandably not for everyone, but I feel that the Sniper and Engineer can be criticized on related points. The Sniper when scoped in is either comparably slow or simply stationary, so neither does he entail a great deal in the way of pace and momentum. Plus, his primary means of attack is slow, requiring time to reload after every shot. As for the Engineer, he often has to stand by a particular piece of gear and repeatedly hit it in order to maintain or upgrade it, therefore you could argue that he’s relatively slow to construct things, as well as being restricted in movement, for instance when repairing a sentry under fire. Suffice to say, none of the aforementioned classes provide the sense of liberation one gets when playing Scout, Soldier or Demo, so if you’re going to pick on the Heavy for being slow then I feel that this can be fairly said of the Sniper and Engineer in their own way. Moreover, the Heavy at least has the GRU as an option to mitigate the tedium of shuffling his way to where he’s needed.
“He’s boring because he doesn’t require skill”.
Firstly, we need to be more concise in what we mean by skill. If this is to be interpreted as the Heavy requiring little in the way of aiming ability, then the same kind of criticism can be made of the Pyro, Engineer and Medic based on the mechanics of the flamethrower, sentry and medigun respectively, though granted those classes have secondary weapons that do require some degree of aiming ability, should the player choose to use them. Still, plenty of players find enough enjoyment in simply “w+m1’ing” their foes, or doing virtually little else than healing teammates, or letting their sentry do all their killing – each of these play styles demanding little in the way of aiming ability.
This aside, the Heavy does in fact benefit from a player’s ability to effectively “twitch” aim, especially when attempting to gun down enemy Scouts rapidly strafing and jumping, so there is at least that aspect of being able to aim well as a Heavy, even if it’s certainly not on par with the importance of being able to aim well as other classes such as the Sniper.
If we’re talking about tactics, then the Heavy most certainly does require skill in particular circumstances. As previously mentioned, the Heavy can admittedly be pretty effortless to do well with against unworthy opponents, but against a coordinated, cunning and vigilant team, a subpar Heavy will get decimated. In such conditions, a Heavy has to be skillful with regards to:
- Being able to judge when it’s the optimum time to commit to an attack, and how long to remain attacking before deciding to retreat, given his slow speed and inability to readily get away once his weapon has been engaged. Attacking at the right time and place can save wasting valuable seconds as well as prevent finding yourself grouped up on and swiftly slaughtered, just as retreating at the right time will allow you deal the most worthwhile amount of damage possible and make it out alive.
- Maintaining awareness of enemy Spies and Snipers, especially whilst engaging other enemies. A skillful Heavy needs to be able to multitask especially well and be particularly vigilant due to his vulnerability as a big and slow target for sneaky support classes; negotiating immediate targets while being prepared to check behind for an attempted assassination, and certainly being prepared to evade an attempted headshot by either crouching or taking cover at the last split second. In addition, particularly in competitive play, the Heavy has the obligation of being ready to protect the Medic from aerial attacks in the form of rocket jumping Soldiers and sticky jumping Demos. In short, a skillful Heavy has to capably juggle multiple tasks and exhibit commendable awareness.
In conclusion, there’s fun to be had playing as the Heavy, even if he’s not the most fun class or always a fun class to play. There’s also a merit of skill in being able to play the class truly well.