If you haven’t heard of cp_Junction, I can’t say I blame you. Buried in the back of the server rotation with tc_Hydro and pl_Nightfall is this peculiar, subterranean Attack/Defend map known as Junction that almost no server ever runs. Featuring cramped, narrow halls, sparse cover, and a very restricted layout, this map is an oddity amongst TF2 maps. Why do people avoid or otherwise not play on this map? Well, that’d be because… it’s a pretty bad map. So let’s investigate one of TF2’s lesser-known maps, shall we?
The promo image can tell you quite a bit about Junction, and it’s problems. First off, there’s a ceiling. And not just a building on cp_Granary ceiling. It’s over the entire map. And, it’s fairly low. Even if you never touch it, the feeling of a low, cloistering ceiling is overwhelming here. Soldiers and Demos who enjoy the freedom of the open air will bang their heads off of the low-hanging girders present throughout Junction.
Second, you’ll notice that stack of miscellaneous shipping products at center. This is what amounts to cover on Junction. Without these barrels, the space is open and free, but, being Junction, we can’t have that. TF2 is not a game that features a lot of cover in this way. Coldfront features this somewhat, but most other maps don’t have many pieces of cover lying around, ala Call of Duty. Structures and walls put up barriers between players, like the center point of Process, or the tin fortifications on 5Gorge and Freight. However, these pieces of cover make the otherwise clear space seem more confined and less TF2-y.
Capture Point B has a similar design, featuring a turreted cap point with bullet-proof glass windows and the mother of all chokes in those two doors into 90 degree turns. Demos will enjoy sticking their bombs all over these door-frames, and Engineers… well. You see that steel gate and long horizontal window? That’s BLU Team’s spawn door. That’s right, they exit spawn right in front of the control point. It’s within range of a Sentry Gun placed on that balcony, or within optimal range for a trigger happy Demoman. In short, this is kind of poor design. Name another map with spawns within this kind of proximity to the cap point. Gravel Pit, modeled similarly to this map, features BLU spawn exits that are close to the capture points, sure, but there’s an entire sprawling hilltop (A) or a large, defensible structure (B) between the spawns and the point. No such landscapes exist on Junction. There’s just the floor, and a couple crates stacked on top of each other. It’s a brutal offensive handicap.
What else can we learn about the map from just that image? Check out the capture point. It’s very well defended. It’s not on the ground level, meaning that indirect damage dealers, like Grenade-Launcher toting Demomen and Soldiers will have some difficulty attacking the point. Spies looking to backstab those hapless REDs will also find it difficult to approach the point from a pair of narrow staircases. The same can be said of point B, which is totally impervious to attacks from the front. You have to go through those doorways in order to capture the point. In fact, narrow staircases and choke-point-inducing doors are an apparent staple of Junction, making the entire map difficult to win without an Uber and a solid Demoman on your side.
Now let’s talk about how Junction ruins almost every class that plays on it.
Junction, despite being released in The Scout Update, the eponymous class is severely gimped on this map. Hallways where he can be easily trapped by explosives, low ceilings and limited floorspace, and tightly bound control points spell doom for any Scout on Junction. A class that thrives on mobility and jumping ability has no place in the Squeeze Box that is Junction.
Similarly, the Soldier, while he loves the tight quarters where he’s guaranteed splash damage hits on enemies unlucky enough to meet him there, he hates the low ceilings and general uphill style of the Junction capture points. Well, on Offense, anyway. Defensively, the Soldier is an excellent option for Junction, with his ability to strike around the dozens of 90 degree corners on this map.
The Demoman. Typically, it’s self-explanatory why a class like the Demoman would thrive on a map that consists of almost entirely of corners and doorways, but for those of us who think the Stickybomb Launcher is a tad overpowered (most of us), you know nothing until you’ve tried to push cp_Junction against a Sticky-happy Demoman. The poor map design doesn’t break Demoman in an unplayable way, no. It breaks it in a “If there was ever any doubt as to who the most powerful class was, there sure as hell isn’t anymore.” This map feels like it was made for a Demoman. Maybe it was.
The Heavy also loves close quarters where his prey can’t escape his Minigun barrage, and his general slowness and immobility don’t factor into play as much on a map where no one can be any more mobile than he can. However, the narrow halls act like a funnel for directing damage right into our Slavic friend’s rather-large head. Compounding on top of this is the cloistered set up of the control points, where a slow, bulky Heavy can be easily pinned and eliminated.
Engineers, rejoice! What if I told you that there was a magical land where no matter where you put your Sentry, it’s a good place? This mystical realm is Junction, because for the life of me, I can’t think of a single bad place to put a Sentry. Putting a Sentry anywhere near A or B puts it in range of firing on BLUs in their spawn. For the offensive Engineers, the stairs and 90 degree chokes between B and C are like heaven for setting up your teleporters and Sentries, with lots of lovely little nooks and crannies to hide dispensers in. If you’re a RED Engineer, you probably didn’t even build on A or B, though, because C is such an easily defensible position no matter where you set up that sentry.
Medics are the key to victory on Junction, as explained by the most qualified Medic around in their own article about Junction. That Uber is a necessity if you want to get, well, anywhere at all towards last point. Even then, once you get inside the little building that houses C, you have to stand there, being a medic, in a box. That’s what Junction is. A box.
Snipers are so annoying. So, let’s give them a map where they can accomplish literally nothing. There’s basically nothing your average Valve Server Sniper can contribute to a team on Junction. The sight lines are short, there are dozens of corners, even more weird map props to hide behind, an almost entirely uphill map flow. It really seems to play to the Sniper’s weaknesses, more than anything. Good thing we still have other maps where Sniper reigns supreme.
The Spy, my favorite class, may seem at home in the confines of Backstab Alley, but let this not fool you. If you meet someone in a hallway and aren’t Dirty Harry with your Ambassador, you’re dead (Punk). If you try to pull off a stairstab, you’ll probably hit your head on the ceiling. If you try to sneak, someone will bump into you just by virtue of how narrow and crowded this map can get. Sure, there are Engineers everywhere, but most of them are building within sight of the other sentries. If you try to sap one, you’re going to attract attention that you may not have to worry about on other maps. Junction is miserable for Spies. Why? Because there are so. Many. Pyros. I carefully omitted the Pyro from my discussion, because he preforms so well here, it seems like Junction was tailor-made for him.
With that in mind, what makes playing Pyro on this map so easy (or easier, depending on who you are)? Simple. In close quarters, Pyro wins. Add a Backburner, that win percentage reaches new levels. Phlogistinator? GG, no re. Not to mention, landing flaregun hits and catching people in melee range for Powerjack kills is even easier when no one can move laterally in any meaningful way. Now Junctions becomes something far worse: You’re trapped in a box with a Pyro. God help us all.
Like Demoman, Pyro becomes broken in the “Best viable option” way, to the point where a typical team comp for a defensive team on Junction becomes 3 Pyros, 3 Engineers, and 3 Demomen (and maybe a Sniper who has never played on Junction before. He will learn in due time). Unlike my article on Doomsday, I’m not going to be suggesting any fixes here. Junction just kind of needs… well… I’ll let you all decide what Junction needs. As a parting thought, here’s a comparison between C point of Junction, and one of a good CP Map.