In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, Phil explains why he loves a character most people only love to hate.
What's the best stealth class in Team Fortress 2?
No, you're wrong.
It's not the Spy. You can't be the best stealth class if you've got a watch that literally makes you invisible. That's cheating.
The best stealth class in TF2 is the Scout. And he is a stealth class. He's frail, but fast – quickly killed by a Heavy's minigun or an Engineer's sentry, but able to retreat and reposition for a different approach.
There are two things, specifically, that I love about the Scout. The first is the way he moves. I adore games that offer interesting methods of locomotion. The Scout is fast, and has a double-jump that lets you change direction mid-air. This makes slipping past, around or away from enemies feel great. It's no longer good enough for me to get where I need to go. I need to get there with style.
Stealth is an important part of this. A great Scout will, to the enemy team, appear to be everywhere at once: on their control points, patrolling their corridors and running full bore into their front line. Battles are about the constant flow of position—of where you are relative to everyone else, and of where you need to go in order to be where they least expect. It's not just that you can outrun your opponents; it's that you can outmaneuvere them. This challenge is why I've spent 300+ hours in TF2, and almost 50 hours as its annoying, scrawny shotgun wielder.
The second thing I love about the Scout is that he's a jerk. The Scout's job is to be annoying. There are specific feelings for being killed by each of TF2's classes. Being killed by a Heavy or Pyro feels like the continuation of some natural order. They are forces of nature (or, at least, of fire and meat). Being killed by an Engineer, Spy or Sniper is more cerebral. It's a tactical death—a specific and immediate punishment for a mistake. Being killed by the Soldier or Demoman is annoying, because you'll swear it was a fluke, and also because deep down you'll know that it wasn't.
Being killed by a Medic is, for the most part, humiliating. It's the Medic. The clue is in the name.
Being killed by the Scout is infuriating. The level to which it's infuriating is the result of a complicated formula based on a) how much you are currently sucking, b) how much your team are currently sucking, and c) if the Scout has a Force-A-Nature equipped. I have been specifically and graphically told how infuriating it is in hastily typed strings of four-lettered anger.
I should come clean here: I'm not just a Scout, I'm an unreformed Scout. The abuse is perverse positive feedback. It's how I know I'm credit to team.
For me, both of these loves combined into a single, terrible playstyle when Valve introduced King of the Hill mode, and specifically the maps Nucleus and Sawmill. Both are small—filled with side-routes and escape points. More importantly, both are covered in traps.
A scenario: a Heavy is capping Sawmill's centre point. An opposing Scout is running directly at his back. The opposing Scout has a Force-A-Nature equipped. He gets in close, fires, and watches as the shotgun's knockback flings the Heavy into the spinning buzzsaws. Do you know how angry the Heavy player feels in that moment? Conversely, do you know how elated the Scout player feels?
Based on his abilities, Valve's portrayal of the Scout is perfect. He is a jerk, through attitude as well as deed. It's not just a hint as to how he's best played, but a reward to anyone who manages to kill him. As fun as it is to kill with him, I recognise the catharsis for those who get revenge. In this way an uneasy balance is achieved.