Hi there, I’m an Engineer, and I solve practical problems. Actually, no, I’m the Medic and I’m commandeering this article because it’s been sitting, unchanged, since 2013. But I’m going to put on my roleplaying shoes and finish this. So, the Cow Mangler. Fun. Laser-y. Confusing. Pointless?
The Soldier has a lot of weapons, particularly rocket launchers. It’s expected of the jack of all trades class. The Cow Mangler 5000 is probably one of Soldier’s weakest weapons. Engineers hate it. Kritzkrieg Medics hate it. Pyros love it. Actually I think Pyros kinda dislike it too, unless they’re reflecting those spangly rockets. This rocket launcher makes no sense. It’s like (and I quote) trying to improve a guitar with laser beams. It doesn’t work.
Originally, the Cow Mangler, back when this article was written, had a very all-over-the-place particle, could never randomly crit and had 5 rockets instead of 4. It also had an incredibly slow reload. Then it got changed, so now it’s got 4 rockets, a nicer projectile and a slightly better reload, although there’s still a hidden, bugged reload delay. Quite annoying. The unlimited ammo is still there, a key thing in all Dr Grordbort weapons apart from the Phlogistinator (which would be 100% game breaking with infinite ammo) but what we’re left with is an underused, underpowered weapon. Then there’s the damage reduction against buildings.
Apart from firing pretty lasers, the Cow Mangler’s biggest draw is its alternate fire. In exchange for emptying your clip, you fire a powerful laser that 1. is shiny, 2. mini-crits people, 3. sets people on fire and 4. disables buildings. This last addition is rather weird. Disabling buildings is the job of the Spy with his sapper. Destroying buildings is Demoman’s job, often just after a Spy has sapped them. Soldier doesn’t really need a way to disable buildings when he can help destroy them instead with ROCKETS, LOTS AND LOTS OF ROCKETS.
Alright. Disabling sentries is quite a good idea really. Especially when you can do it from a safe distance, assuming there’s no Short Circuit guys around. You don’t need to sacrifice a Spy or three to get in there and disable a sentry so your team mates can push forward. But all that is kinda moot if you already have a Spy on your team or are on your own. Heck, on your own, it’s worse. That’s where the 80% building damage penalty comes in. It’s tricky enough destroying a sentry while an Engineer whacks at it, you will probably need all those rockets. But the 80% damage penalty puts a brief smile on an Engineer’s face, as you slowly, slowly reload and try to get that last rocket in. Let’s not forget that if you use a charged shot, you have to reload your entire clip before being able to fire again. 80% less damage to buildings? Engineers should laugh.
Then there’s the inability to be crit-boosted. Most weapons have No Random Critical Hits, but the Cow Mangler goes one step further. It cannot be crit-boosted in any way. The only way you can get a critical laser is by shooting Merasmus or using a different gun. Or messing around with a Pyro. So if the only Soldier on your team is using the CM5K and there’s no Demomen, say good bye to any Kritz. It also means the Cow Mangler is useless in MvM. Kritz canteens, Kritz Medics, critical anything is useless. EVEN HUMILIATION DOESN’T HELP. You can get mini-crits as normal, but no one cares about that.
Even when it comes to not trying to kill buildings, the Cow Mangler is poor when it comes to 1v1 combat. The projectiles are hard to see, but they otherwise do normal rocket damage. Which is fine until you have to reload, and that’s where the issue lies. Reloading will be your downfall.
So we’re left with a weapon that isn’t very good at anything. Which is a shame, because the Cow Mangler could have been SO GOOD. It doesn’t need much. A removal of the hidden reduced reload speed and maybe instead of being critboosted, it sets people on fire. So many ideas, so few ways to get them in-game.