Why I’m not sure 4v4 works

4v4 is the third or fourth version of TF2 competitive, after 6v6, Highlander and, whether you consider it or not, Ultiduo. Thing is, it doesn’t quite work. Or at least, I feel that it doesn’t quite work. Alright, I am by no means an expert, I’ve only played a couple of matches, but since I am a somewhat intelligent person, I quickly saw the flaws in what I played.

Before we start, there are a LOT of positive things behind 4v4. It is much easier to organize eight people over sixteen or eighteen people, and getting them into a server and all that. And 4v4 allows for a lot more death-matching than other game modes. It’s a fast-paced slaughter fest. And it IS an interesting idea, but it’s wholly dependent on a few things.

The first thing I noticed while playing was that the maps are all way too big. When you’ve only got 8 players total, even the smallest of default TF2 maps feel absolutely huge. This is worsened by every single map having multiple paths, so there’s far too much choice when it comes to deciding where to go. You go the fastest path, but then everyone meets at the middle at the same time. You take two paths, you find yourselves too spread out to help one another. The game mode also has a lot to do with it. KotH works fairly well because you’re all going to the same place anyway, but no other game mode really works. 5cp or 3cp are simply too large to keep track of where everyone is and defending, whether on a 3cp map or an attack/defend map like Gravel Pit, is simply too hard when you’ve got enemies coming from multiple directions. Even KotH struggles, since the maps are simply too big. I thought that custom maps would help fix the problem,  but they’re just as large too, since they’re designed for Highlander or, more often, 6v6.

After playing for a bit, I noticed a second problem. Respawn times really, really suck in 4v4. In these matches, any major difference in skill means that completely wiping out the enemy team is incredibly easy. In stock TF2, unless you’re on attack and died along side a large number of team mates, you generally have a 10 second respawn time minimum. And because there’s not a lot of players, you can often end up respawning on your own. This causes teams to be almost permanently split up, and as long as you kill the enemy one at a time, you can force them to respawn one at a time, meaning they can never efficiently regroup. In 6v6, this is less of a problem because there are more players, meaning you’re less likely to respawn on your own. A Medic spawning on his own can’t do anything unless he risks heading out on his own to find someone or waits for a team mate to respawn.

The increase in out-numbered team fights also impacts how watchable matches are. I watched a couple of 4v4 matches on Youtube and the action seems to come in chunks, with large lulls in between, unless the games are particularly even. Once a team starts dying one at a time, it goes downhill from there unless they can stick together or they start respawning in groups.

There’s also this weird flip side to 4v4. Classes in 4v4 are restricted to 1 maximum, and you’re not allowed to run a Medic and a Heavy at the same time. You’d think, in a smaller environment, that more classes would see play. On the one hand you do, as Pyros are more viable and capable of ambushing they can actually shine in this environment. On the other hand, Spies and Engineers are both completely wiped out. Engineers struggle in 6v6, but they are simply far too slow in 4v4 as it takes far too long to set, well, anything up. Spies are useless because the number of players means any disguise you take is obvious and the loss of firepower is really noticed. Heavies and Medics both struggle because you can’t run them together and Heavies are heavily reliant on healing to stay noticeable. Medics are restricted to one Medi Gun, the Kritzkrieg, as stock charges too slow and the other Medi Guns are both blacklisted.

As a deathmatching game, 4v4 really works. It focuses on sticking together and wiping out the opponent. But once the opponent has been wiped out, you’re left with an incredibly empty and not particularly interesting map. As a starting point for 6v6 or Highlander, it works,  but 4v4 on its own, it feels like it’s lacking something.

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