Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Question of Role

This blog was never intended to be 100% political, but looking at the current post load, I count one full political posting, two politic-inclined posts/jokes, and an introduction. Let's change that. And here's the fellow who will help me change it...

Meet the Pyro! One of nine classes in Valve's multiplayer shooter Team Fortress 2 (go get it now! It's really good, I swear!), classified as "offensive", though we'll see that's not a hard and fast rule. This particular pyromaniac happens to be my favorite of the bunch, even though other (sore loser) players say he's (or she's) only for amateurs and newbies (LIES!).

Now, the Pyro has two options for his primary weapon. Both are gas-spitting flamethrowers, so their range is a bit on the short side--for some reason, video game flamethrowers never use napalm or other chemicals to increase their range. They are:

The Flamethrower:
The Pyro's default weapon. As you can guess from the picture, essentially a propane tank attached to a gas-pump hose and nozzle attached to a tube with an underslung burner. Sets enemy targets on fire, causing continuous damage until the flames subside. Has a random chance of doing "critical", or much increased damage, at any time. It also comes with a compressed air blast, which requires 1/8th of its maximum ammo stock per use, which is its supporters' primary claim of superiority.

And The Backburner:
Essentially the Flamethrower in design, but the nozzle where the flame is now has a "predatorial" paint scheme. It doesn't have access to a compressed air blast, or do "critical" damage randomly. Instead, it will always do critical damage when lighting up targets from behind in a ninety-degree cone (I'll call enemies killed in this manner "melted" in a bit).

Those who advocate the Flamethrower's superiority (like my friend Winter, go see her: assert that the Backburner has nothing to distinguish itself or show its superiority to the Flamethrower. And true, the compressed air blast of the Flamethrower allows it to do some interesting tricks:
  • Defend forward bases set up by friendly Engineers ("Sentry nests") from incoming projectiles, such as the Soldier's rockets and the Demoman's grenades
  • Put out teammates set alight by enemy pyros
  • Defeat "ubercharges" (a period of time activated by Medics where both he and his heal target are rendered invulnerable for about eight seconds) by shoving the invulnerable character off a cliff
  • Push enemy units into "kill zones", such as areas covered by friendly Sentry nests

Thus, the Flamethrower turns the Pyro into a hybrid creature, capable of attack (he still has the flamethrower), defense, and support. But since each compressed air blast requires 25 of a maximum 200 points of flamethrower fuel per use, such a Pyro would be tied down to nearby ammo stocks or be quickly rendered impotent. The Backburner, however, has its own fun tricks. With it, a Pyro can:

  • Annihilate enemy "pushes" towards objectives, usually led by hard-hitting but slower-moving enemies, by getting behind them and melting crucial targets, such as Soldiers and Heavy Weapons Guys, while they are distracted by forward incoming fire
  • Abort ubercharges before they even begin, by melting Medics as they focus on their heal target or incoming fire
  • Defeat enemy Engineers setting up forward bases of operations, who are focusing on their equipment
  • Quickly clear "sniper nests" of enemy Snipers by melting them while they aim downrange

The Backburner effectively turns the Pyro into the equivalent of a light tank, flanking and getting behind his enemies and shock-attacking to break their offenses. In a way, he becomes like his mortal enemy, the Spy, who gets instant kills with his knife while behind his foes. He is also, admittedly, somewhat dependent on either the remainder of his team to provide enough distracting fire or the layout of the map to outflank incoming attacks.

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