Now before I say anything else, I would just like to point out that this is theory, as in pure speculation, none of this is officially confirmed. OK, now since that’s out of the way let’s talk about Mannpower. My first reaction to this “game mode” was that it was incredibly silly. Grappling hooks and powerups that make you super stronk were something I expected from custom mods and trade servers, not from an official Valve beta. That is until I spent time looking through it and looked at the details which lead me to believe that Mannpower is just a cover for Valve to test what the community does and doesn’t like.
Now let’s look at Mannpower, how is this beta any different than regular old pub TF2? Well first off, there is a grappling hook given to every player by default that grants mobility on par with the fastest rocket jumpers in the TF2 community. We also have powerups that range from insane health regen, fast movement and firing speed, to incredibly power and accuracy. We also have a a guaranteed critical hit and ubercharge powerup that lasts 30 seconds and is located in the center of the map. In addition the beta takes place on an amplifed up version of CTF with completely redone flag mechanics. Last and probably the most interesting addition to Mannpower is that it’s nocrit. Nope, you did not hear me wrong, this is the first time in TF2 history where official Valve servers have random crits turned off, if only they could apply this to regular TF2 and not the weird silly powerup and grapple hook mode.
So now that you know the important details on Mannpower let’s talk about why I think this is less of a gamemode and more of a TF2 beta. The first contender is the grappling hooks. People speculated that the grappling hooks might be a new weapon mechanic from the very second Mannpower came out. We know Valve likes to look to the community for ideas, and a weapon testing community mod known as advanced weaponiser once had a cloak for Spy that allows him to grapple to walls for the duration of the cloak.
I don’t know about you but this looks awfully familiar. With the Spy vs Engie update coming up, it wouldn’t be surprising if a grappling hook item was in the works, and if you were testing such an item what would you want to know, first I think you would want to see if it could be exploited, what is the fastest way to see if a mechanic could be exploitable in any way? Let everyone in a bunch of servers go as crazy as they want with it. It would also explain why valve used modded versions of stock maps instead of new ones.
There are also the powerups to look into, as pointed out by others they are very Quake-like but they also seem like amped up versions of overall game mechanics. Think about it, accuracy, speed, resistance, health by monitoring how often these powerups are used and how people respond to them Valve can find out what mechanics players like, what they don’t like which ones are useful and on what classes and all sorts of helpful information. For instance vampire, the health regen powerup, is incredibly popular, while resistance is not that wanted. Meanwhile the Concher0r, a banner that focuses on health regen is far more popular than the Battalions Backup, a banner built around resistances. So it’s easy to see how these powerups can be used to influence weapons in actual TF2.
We also have nocrit, for the first time valve has had servers with random critical hits turned off. For those who somehow don’t know, random crits are probably the most argued and controversial mechanic in TF2. Mainly because most people find randomly losing a battle because of a dice roll unfair, while others defend it by saying it adds something this game needs. Either way perhaps Valve is testing to see what impact random crits really have on gameplay, will people in Mannpower servers even notice or care if they are gone?
Last lets focus on why Valve killed the last TF2 beta. They claimed it was because they wanted new weapons and mechanics to surprise players. With Mannpower not have distinct weapons to be tested but rather powerful mechanics and overall changed that could be mechanics in weapons or maps. Valve can test how players react without spoiling what it is they are working on. The last “game mode” that was this different from regular TF2 was Mann vs Machine, I don’t know about you but Mannpower doesn’t look similar enough to be a game mode like capture the flag or king of the hill, but it is also not different enough to be something entirely different like Mann vs Machine. These are the reasons that lead me to believe that Mannpower is just a TF2 beta hiding behind the label of game mode.
Editor’s note: You have no idea how many times I had to correct the word Mannpower. Also, happy 18th birthday, KettleCamper.