As one can tell from my increasing play times and number of articles about Warframe, despite the fact I still call myself Medic, I play very little Team Fortress 2 any more. Normally, you can’t get me to even open the game. I refuse to touch the competitive mode with a pointy stick, I couldn’t chill out enough to play community competitive and playing Medic in pubs is often a tiring experience as any Medic will tell you. But if someone invites me to play Mann VS Machine? Fuck it, I’m in!
But why? What drives me to play what is essentially a really shitty horde mode with a pay-to-play version that scams the heck out of you?
Well, for starters, it’s PvE. Over the years, I’ve slowly become more and more disillusioned over PvP and fighting other people. But even better than that, it’s Team Fortress characters fighting together for the better good. Well, not the better good. For weapons and money and so they don’t lose their jobs and get paid. But still, it’s nice to be shooting at robot duplicates rather than our fellow hatted mercenaries.
And Mann VS Machine, the easier missions at least, are pretty mindless. You get some upgrades, you shoot robots, you collect money, you buy more upgrades. Pretty simple but also pretty fun. As long as everyone pulls their weight, you’ll probably make it to the end with no problems at all, just by following a handful of very basic rules. Even as the difficulty increases, most of the official maps are doable without a huge amount of brain work.
Heck, even the most difficult, insane missions, like the crazy messes that Orodoki would set up, they’re doable. You just need to not die and brute force your way though. There are some community missions that actually are impossible, but brute force and trying again is always the solution.
Still, Mann VS Machine is an insanely simple game mode. And it’s not even that horde-y. The most enemies you will ever see at once, assuming there are 6 players, is 24, plus tanks. Because Team Fortress 2 doesn’t like going over 32 ‘players’, whether they’re human players or AI-controlled bots. Tanks don’t count though because they’re entities, not players. Still, 24 enemies doesn’t sound that scary, especially when they’re Scouts and you have a rocket launcher. Okay, 24 giant soldiers are scary, but…
Actually that kinda brings me to another thing about MvM. I’ve noticed, I never actually feel that powerful unless I’ve managed to completely upgrade something. Depending on the mission type, you might not actually be able to upgrade everything anyway. The upgrades though are all just good enough. They’re not vague requirements (outside of things like Medic’s projectile shield at least) but they do feel fun. Sadly there’s also a handful of rather mediocre upgrades, particularly melee ones on non-Demoman/Engineer/Spy classes. Oh well. There’s only so many upgrades one can make up anyway before you slide into being overpowered, but even being overpowered isn’t that bad.
The best thing about Mann VS Machine though is that you can just keep on trying again. Over and over and over. Sure, you can’t leave a game and restart at a specific wave, but you can repeatedly try and finish a wave over and over if you can’t do it. Even if you play Mann Up mode, you actually don’t lose your ticket until you finish the campaign and get the victory screen. If you can’t finish the mission at all, you can just leave.
But in the mean time, you’re blowing so much shit up. Sure, I’ve been stuck on waves in the past, but it doesn’t matter because we’re working together and killing so many goddamn robots, steadily becoming more and more powerful after each victory. Then you beat that final wave and it just feels great.
What does all this cost you? Nothing. Nothing, apart from maybe your time and some of your patience.
And it’s not lost time if you’re enjoying yourself, right?