In all the years I played Team Fortress 2, there was always this long-standing belief that Sniper didn’t fit inside Team Fortress 2. As a character, he fits absolutely perfectly with a team of mercenaries and mad men, murdering because they are good at it and it pays well. But people have a strong dislike of Sniper because Sniper is often considered ill-fitting in terms of gameplay. After all, Sniper is a long ranged class in a game where most people have weapons with damage falloff over distance, running around with shotguns, pistols and mostly short range explosive weapons.
Before I start, please forgive me, it’s been a while since I wrote a Team Fortress 2 article that looked at gameplay. I am a tad rusty…
Anyway, this idea of snipers being hated has hovered around for a long, long time. Heck, in most First Person Shooters, everyone seems to hate the sniper classes who stand off safely in the distance, taking potshots at you while you can do nothing but tickle them with a spray of bullets. Even in more modern games like Overwatch, people still heavily dislike classes like Widowmaker because you can just sit back and let people walk into your cross hairs from relative safety. In Team Fortress 2, where everything is far, far more close range, Sniper seems to be even more of a problem. Sure, there are things that do force Snipers to move up and move around, such as the risk of Spies and how your field of view disappears when scoped in, but we are still dealing with a class that can kill anyone from a distance where no one else can reliably fight back.
But what does any of this have to do with Pyro? Well, the initial idea came to me when I was thinking about just how much a friend of mine hates Pyro. To be fair, the guy IS a Spy main, so the hatred is definitely reasonable and understandable, but his past ramblings about how Pyros can so easily ruin already-useless Spy disguises while trying to take out high value targets like Snipers got me thinking. Perhaps Pyro has the same problem Sniper has? Or rather, the opposite?
You see, while everything in Team Fortress 2 is close range, it’s not THAT close. Sure, you have Scouts running around getting meat shots and you have to be close to use melee weapons, but playing Scout well takes genuine skill (both in the form of aim and specifically in positioning) and melee weapons are considered last-ditch chances for survival unless you’re playing Demoknight. And most Demoknights still take a grenade launcher with them, which is more mid-range than anything else. But Pyro blurs the line between close range combat and skill by just, well, spamming flames. Flames that have never really been that clear and concise as to where they are and are very much in your face. Once a Pyro is too close, that’s it, there’s nothing you can really do about it.
This brings us back to what I said about Sniper. Sniper an unfavorable opponent because he fights in a range where no one else can fight back. But Pyro does somewhat do the same thing. Pyro fights you in a range where you can’t reliably fight back.
Think about it. Soldiers and Demomen can’t fight Pyros well because of airblasts and self-damage. Scouts are flimsy and it only takes one particle of flame to catch fire. Spies and Medics are food for Pyros. Engineers and Snipers do fine against Pyros but they are normally not fighting a Pyro in mid range in any way. Heavies are a somewhat natural counter to Pyros at least. Once you are in a Pyro’s range though, fighting back becomes tricky and escaping becomes even harder due to how flamethrowers work. You can’t just move unpredictably the way you would avoid Soldier or Demoman explosives and you can’t just duck for cover like you would fighting a Heavy or Sniper because afterburn will get to you and Pyro has the mobility to chase after you.
And before you say “well don’t let the Pyro get close to you!” that’s… less of an option these days. Pyros all have access to jetpacks and the Powerjack and have a base 100% move speed, meaning they’re not exactly slow and are capable of getting around much more easily than you’d think.
This goes beyond Pyro. Overwatch has a similar problem with Mei. Mei may use ice, but she does the same sort of thing Pyro does, get in a range where you can’t really fight back. But Mei is far, far worse because she has such an insanely overloaded kit. In fact, Mei’s kit would put A WARFRAME to shame, let alone fellow Overwatch heroes.
Anyway, I’m not saying that Pyro is overpowered or anything, but there is a genuine design flaw in there, something that makes Pyro not at all fun to play against. Being the only character that is only effective in a specific range causes not just balance problems but player frustration as well. And that is why I feel that Pyro doesn’t really mesh well with standard Team Fortress 2 gameplay.
But really, it’s a bit too late to complain about Pyro now.