So, the more I play 4v4, the less and less sure I feel about it. This isn’t because of my two recent losses, no. I played a random 4v4 lobby and did really well. It’s the game mode. It really is. There is something off about 4v4 that 6v6 and Highlander both seem to have. And the pressure… The pressure…
4v4 has always been a much more deathmatch-centric game mode. It’s all about keeping yourself alive and the enemy dead for as long as possible. But you have to keep everyone alive. Losing one person, even just a Scout, is really bad. The pressure on the Medic is huge. Of course, the pressure on a Medic is always high, but in 6v6 and Highlander, you have the player count to ensure proper protection on your Medic. In 4v4, you either have one person pocketing, one defending the pocket and the other orbiting or flanking or you have nothing at all. Sacrifices are just not worth it in 4v4.
For example, I was watching a video about Viaduct_pro. I wanted to know more about rollouts and callouts. I still have no idea why the Sniper balcony is called China. But the video was meant for 6v6 and it mentioned a 4-man suicide. The idea was that, if you’re at an Uber disadvantage, your Medic builds in spawn or far back with someone while the other four do their best to destroy the enemy Medic. Once that Medic is down, your own Medic comes back and heals everyone up. This sort of thing is incredibly hard to pull off in 4v4 because player counts are so low. A 4 man suicide means you’ll be 4v6 or 4v5. Doing the same in 4v4 means you will always be 2v4 or 2v3. The enemy team has double what you have. Sacrificing becomes a game-changing scenario so daunting that it’s better to just play safe.
Another issue with 4v4 is that the maps are simply too big. They’re all custom maps or altered maps, but even then, the maps are huge. I have no idea what Mojave was meant for, but it wasn’t meant for 4v4, where a single wipe will cost you the game if you’re on defense. Viaduct is simply too big for the three people trying to defend against divebombers. Whole parts of Stallone went unused. And Warmfrost, being 3cp, is very hard to defend with one person if everyone else is dead.
Maybe that’s what the problem is. Respawn timers are incredibly long. It’s quite easy to find yourself always down a player, because you’re miss-communicating. You can also end up trapping yourself between respawn timers, half of you being alive, half of you respawning just as the other half dies. Respawn times can be infuriatingly long too. Viaduct’s defending respawn timers are 10 seconds longer than offensive ones.
There’s also a small game mode issue. Payload doesn’t work. Attack/Defend is pretty brutal. 5cp is far too big to be worth trying so we have 3CP, which has very limited maps. PL_Hysteria, when others mention it, they mention it with sheer contempt. CTF is, well, CTF. It’s basically KOTH and a few side maps. Which is okay, I LIKE King of the Hill, but the map pool just isn’t there.
The one thing I do praise 4v4 for is the inclusion of Pyro. Pyros see the same amount of playtime that Scouts do. They excel in 4v4. Uber stalling, harassment, being in your face, long distance spam, Pyro does these incredibly well and a skilled Pyro will go far. Unfortunately, Pyro’s inclusion is countered by, essentially, the removal of Heavy. Heavies might as well not exist because of the no-medic-heavy-same-time rule. No one ever wants to sacrifice a Medic for a slow, lumbering lump of damage. It’s just too much to give up. Healing, overheal and Ubercharges are so so valuable. Engineer and Spy also get left out a bit too. Spies are plausible mid-round, but once they know you’re there and you die, you might as well switch to another class. Engineer simply takes too long to do anything unless you’re really ahead or, more often, can make use of setup time. Snipers though are a bit all over the place. A good Sniper will ruin a team’s day. But that applies everywhere. Then you’re back to your basic 6’s classes. Medic/Demoman/Soldier. Just too good.
In the end, it feels like 4v4 is 6v6 with two missing players. Outside of Pyro and the Heavy/Medic rule, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table, outside of a still developing meta. The meta that we do have is your normal Medic/Demoman combo with a Soldier and an offclasser who generally sticks to Scout or Pyro. I do enjoy it, but the pressure and deathmatching and communication are so much easier to mess up and incredibly punishing once you do start making mistakes.
Of course, this is all coming from an inexperienced player, but this sort of thing is apparent, even from just spectating.