I love taunt kills. So weird and wonderful, and yet, almost completely useless. But performing a successful execution is beautiful. It’s the embodiment of satisfaction, tension and humiliation wrapped up in a bow, and all you have to do is deliver the present to the person of your choice. It’s one of many ways TF2 sets itself apart from the tedious, generic shooter. I like the applications for it as well. Going for the oblivious Sniper who doesn’t have situational awareness, praying for a cheeky kill at the end of a lost round, hoping for the lucky kill if you’re stomping so hard you can’t take it seriously any more or the opposite when your team isn’t trying at all, so why should you? More excuse for taunt kill attempts on doomed matches. (Only in doomed matches where your team consists of eight Spies/Engies/Snipers though. Don’t be that guy.)
Sometimes, you find an opportunity to go for a taunt kill. But in some cases, the situation calls for it. (See above.) It’s another reason I love them. It makes the rivalries between players you meet so much more meaningful. (Not counting Holiday Punch combo spam.) It’s the Team Fortress 2 equivalent of knifing, or being knifed, in Counter-Strike. The hot flush of shame, the rage it induces, all factors to only heighten the stakes between two players. Sometimes, they’ll lose focus as a result of it. Turning the match into a strange lone wolf game of tunnel vision, where everyone and everything else becomes set dressing between the two in a hunt of revenge or domination.
Although this seems nothing more than petty squabbling which can, and will, occur in any PvP game, in TF2 it’s part of the design. Through the revenge/domination system and taunts, over time you see enemy players less as simply the class they play, but individuals through their behaviour. It’s the reason we’ve all thrown ourselves into a deathtrap and gotten massacred, but it didn’t matter, because you managed to kill that guy. Not that class. If you win, your experiences become great stories to tell anyone who will listen. If you lose, it either makes you want to quit or to keep hunting that guy into the next match. Holding Tab, peering at the names connecting to the server with eyes like a hawk. Awaiting retribution. (Just to clarify, this isn’t an excuse to ignore the objective. Win the round, then kill them during humiliation if it’s so important to you!)
But it’s that investment that makes it so great. It means that the match is important to us. We don’t gain anything or lose anything, but on an emotional level it makes each match matter. Worth fighting for. By no means is the system perfect. Anyone who’s played Medic for a decent amount of time will know the feeling of helplessness upon being ‘dominated’. Congratulations, you killed the class which has almost no combat influence four times straight. Then again, on the flip side, Medics earn dominations through healing assists, and Engineers through sentries. So, take them with a pinch of salt, as they rarely represent a player’s skill. I’m looking at you 50HP bodyshot assisting Gibus Sniper, Sentry-nest Engie who never hit me once, and that guy who only appears to kill you when you’re conveniently at 5HP after a battle. Every. Goddamn. Time. Without fail.
But it isn’t all rage and rivalries. Sometimes it’s just a laugh and the victims see the funny side of it. It’s nice to see the text chat fill with laughter but more so to see the victim’s name amongst it, sometimes even coming with a congratulatory pat on the back for achieving the feat. Likewise, in the rare case I’m taunt killed I’ll react the same way. Unless it’s a Demoman sword swing… Then I’ll just fold my arms and pretend not to be angry at the AOE of that thing and the fact that I was stood a good 3ft to the right of where he swung. It’s an achievement worth celebrating after watching what feels like an agonising eternity of animation before the tension is finally broken either upon a kill or embarrassingly being mauled by your intended target.
Rarely, I bump into enemy players who greatly enjoy watching me get the drop on a teammate. The Engie pictured above gestured at his teleporter after I failed to kill him with a hadouken while he upgraded his dispenser. Confused at his peaceful ways, I tried to leave. Buckshot met my back as I headed back downstairs. I span around, my flamethrower roaring into life as I did so, but he just stood there. We awkwardly gazed at each other for a few seconds, the sounds of battle ricocheting through the map. His shotgun still aimed square at my chest. He then turned and shot his teleporter. So, just for the hell of it, (and because I was being held at gunpoint) I taunted over his teleporter just as the pictured poor Soldier came through. I felt strangely guilty, despite the fact he was BLU, so proceeded to break my brief shotgun-induced truce later on in the match with a crit flare kill.
Although most taunts are only an extremely fancy kill in most cases, only one is that and also potentially a game changer. Medic’s spinal tap taunt. It takes four seconds to pull off, but for 100% über on a kill, it’s worth the risk if you’ve got nothing to lose. The story with this screenshot is that I’d gotten an easy über out of the Sniper above that had helped demolish his team when the BEAM had arrived. Unfortunately, he (as well as his team) noticed my wily self trying it a second time. I managed to leap out the window with assistance from a Soldier’s rocket. I was on 20HP when I hit the ground and could hear SMG shots whizzing past me, peppering the wall. Knowing I was screwed and I had a decent gap between us, I span on the dot as soon as I reached cover and taunted, gutting the Sniper pursuing his revenge of the same death. Fortunately, the Soldier never chased me.
Granted, a lot of these are on Waterfront, but you’d be surprised how hard it is to hit F12 in time when you aren’t certain you’d get the kill. Though my favourite taunt kill of all-time is simply a treasured memory. Way back in 2008, the Pyro Update had just been released. Back then I was playing on the family Windows XP and couldn’t get anywhere close to a good framerate on any official map. So my home had always been dm_duel_v1. Even now, I adore that map. Frantic arena fighting in the centre, encouraged spawn camping as it was actually hard to do and fun to conquer and base raiding, crouch jumping, crawling through windows goodness from above. So, there I was. Playing as normal, having a grand old time, when suddenly there was a most egregious Demoman spamming me from the 2nd floor. This would not do. So I~
The server went dead quiet. People in the middle stopped fighting altogether. Then the chat log and voice chat EXPLODED with laughter and freak outs, shock at not only getting a taunt kill but a multi-kill at that. This was very early after the update, so none of us even knew it was possible. Hell, for all I know, it could of been the first. I very, VERY much doubt that, but I like the 1% of my faith that believes it. For that day on the server I was hailed as a king and the victims had left a few minutes later from the shame of it all. Which only got me more thanks as people were sick of them spamming people fighting in the middle from above. To this day, I have NEVER pulled a taunt kill even close to being as perfect as that one.
Apart from getting extra kills on my taunt kill counters whenever I see the opportunity, the only other thing I really want to do is humiliate my friend Crimson with a taunt kill. I’ve done it before in silly 1 v 1’s, but I can never do it in a real match. In the screenshot up there, I swung my bat FOUR times, missing him by an inch each time. He never noticed me, but he kept twitching and throwing Jarate due to being paranoid of spies. Unbelievably, on my fifth/sixth attempt I was about to nail him, finally. But at the exact moment of the swing, an allied Pyro hit him with the Scorch Shot, sending him careening to the floor below. He then ran for the pills, flaming to death on 10 health, but a lime green Scout stole it and he died there and then.
…One day, Crimson. One day.
Also, Valve, for the love of god, fix that bloody glitch where you can only taunt kill once during humiliation before it swaps you to your default weapon! The amount of extra kills I could of gotten if that hadn’t screwed me over as often as it does! Seriously…