King of the Hill? Meh…

Not the average KOTH game, mind you…

Let’s be fair, there’s lots of things I don’t get. Rocket jumping, surfing, Freak Fortress, generic aiming and all that. But King of The Hill is just something I can never wrap my head around. They seem popular, they’re multi-purpose, they’re generally fairly good looking and they’re often a good choice for Halloween maps, but I just don’t see the appeal.

It’s not that I don’t get KOTH in a game-play sense. I’ve always been quite good at KOTH from the days where I used to play Arena Mode 24/7. I was GOOD (I know, a shocker) at Arena mode and it’s where I developed my abilities to dodge and stay alive as much as I can. But there’s a lot of stuff that I simply don’t enjoy.

I suppose the main problem, for me at least, is that KOTH has replaced Arena mode so utterly. Many would say it’s better in every way. Dying isn’t an issue, there’s health and ammo scattered around and camping is part of the game. That’s precisely why I played Arena though, as it trained me to make every bullet, rocket and syringe count, and camping the control point was an alternative to simply hunting everyone down and killing them. Permadeath, again to me, made the game more thrilling, particularly when it’s a last-man-standing scenario. The story of a lone Medic running through Sawmill taking out a pair of Soldiers with some nifty dodging doesn’t sound as amazing when both teams will respawn in a few moments. Alright, Arena has the issue where rounds can take a while and some people will perpetually hide, but is KOTH really as pure as we all think?

As I said before, I played a LOT of Arena mode. A match could occasionally stretch to the 10 minute mark, but those matches were incredibly rare. Most of the time, the game would be over in under 2 or 3 minutes. Pulling off a second Uber, even if you were using the Kritzkrieg, was a rare feat. At the time, the Quick Fix and the Vaccinator weren’t around, so us Medics only had a choice of 4 weapons or stock. Some matches were over before the control point even unlocked.

Compared to KOTH, this is much quicker. The minimum length a KOTH match can be is 3 minutes, 30 seconds, as there’s the short preparation time before the match starts and the point unlocks. A bad match can last for 7 minutes if constantly contested. But in the mean time, there’s generally more going on, as the numbers don’t dwindle. But it doesn’t have that thrill of saving the game until you reach the last few seconds.

That’s the thing though. KOTH rewards you for camping on the control point, while Arena pressures you more into search and destroy, as it’s got the initial 60 second delay on the control point. When you destroy an Engineer in Arena, you know he’s dead (unless he was a Dead Ringer Spy…) but in KOTH, he’ll be back in 20 seconds maximum. And the Snipers? They’re everywhere.

Maybe it’s the classes that annoy me more than the actual gameplay itself. KOTH and Arena are very similar apart from the fact that you only respawn in KOTH. But in both, Engineers and Snipers are key players. Engineers always set up in the safety of their base before moving forward and Snipers, well, they’re Snipers. Everyone hates Snipers, and KOTH and Arena maps generally have quite good sight lines. But at least, when you kill a Sniper in Arena, he’s 100% dead. Anything you kill stays dead, making Medics even more important for staying alive. In KOTH, since the point is the most important thing around and there’s generally ample med kits and ammo, the whole not-dying thing is moot. You’ll respawn in a few seconds and getting back to the battlefield is a piece of cake, unlike traditional Control Point games.

Hello? Is anyone here?

Overall though, it’s the weapons. It was the perma-death that made people dislike Arena mode, but healing weapons like the Black Box and Mad Milk made healing easier, and weapons like the Cloak and Dagger, the Dead Ringer and the Eureka Effect just made Arena tedious. A lot of unlockable weapons made things more annoying or easier, particularly if they offered an escape or health.

But as much as I dislike KOTH, I put up with it. I can’t bring Arena back from the dead, and at least it lives on partially in King of the Hill.

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