PC Gamer

The Church in the Darkness plays like top down Hitman-lite in a 1970s religious cult. Your character decides to check in on a relative and infiltrates the sect to figure out how they're doing and what's really going on at church camp.

You navigate buildings and avoid the scrutiny of the cultists by staying out of sight, but unlike most stealth games, they won't get suspicious if you're in their line of sight, only if you get too close. By investigating the buildings around camp and searching for supplies, you'll find tools to help out with the denser parts of camp. For instance, I found a worker outfit that decreased the 'suspicion' cone around each camper so I could navigate more freely. I got in without alerting anyone, but you're free to go guns blazing if you like. I have concerns about the stealth feeling a bit too simple, but until I know what kind of challenges and tools the final game has in store, I'll keep checking in.

All the while, the church leader spouts their doctrine over the loudspeakers, but it's never quite the same every time. Voiced by videogame VO power couple Ellen McLain (GLaDOS) and John Patrick Lowrie (TF2's Sniper), the two leaders' teachings change with each playthrough. During one, they might actually be a fairly peaceful, if peculiar, religious group. During the next, they might be getting ready to take the world down with them. It's a creative form of narrative direction that I hope will influence how players choose to go about infiltrating camp. If they're a nice crew, the moral impetus might be to get in and out without harming a fly. If they're bloodthirsty zealots, well, a few flies won't matter.

The Church in the Darkness arrives some time next year.

PC Gamer

Every once in awhile you find a crossover between two different videogames that on paper makes no sense until you see it in action. That's how I feel about Steam user Pancake's "MegaMan 6" collection of TF2 maps. Divided up into eight separate arenas themed after a different boss, you can now wax nostalgic about how much harder videogames used to be while cracking headshots as Sniper.

"It was really a combination of boredom and seeing how people create maps based on other old videogames," Pancakes tells me. "I saw that people loved playing Mario-themed maps and I wanted to test the limitations of how closely a map could resemble the original game it borrows from."

In that pursuit, I'd say Pancakes has done a damn fine job. The project has taken him over five years to complete, and it hasn t been easy. Serious limitations in the Source engine made running a map with eight separate stages quite a challenge, Pancakes tells me, and that's not to mention all the effort it takes to rip the sprites and artwork from Mega Man 6. Each arena is also accompanied by the respective music from that stage, which does wonders for driving home that Mega Man nostalgia.

While this is technically just one map, it's actually divided into randomized arenas that you'll be placed on each round. There's a standard king of the hill version but also a 'VS Saxon Hale' mode to use if you have the required mod. So far, the only caveat is that, unlike other custom maps, this Mega Man 6 bundle doesn't play nice with bots. You're going to need to spend quite a bit of time setting up proper navigation meshes instead of just letting the console do that all for you. There's a few guides to help you get started if you're interested, but you're better off forgetting the bots and wrangling up a group of friends to play with.

What amazes me is that this isn't even the first time someone's had the idea of doing a crossover between Mega Man and Team Fortress 2. DeviantArt user AgentMidnight made some excellent artwork depicting what TF2 would've looked like as a Mega Man game instead of the other way around.

If Mega Man was never really your jam, there's no shortage of Team Fortress 2 custom maps inspired by the games of yesteryear. Steam user Litronom has taken this obsession to a whole new level by creating several dozen inspired by old Nintendo games, including everything from Bomberman 64, Zelda, Banjo Kazooie, and more. Unlike Pancakes' maps, which strike a nice balance between being a homage and also being fun to play on, Litronom's maps are almost exact recreations of their source material not exactly the place to have a competitive match.

Either way, I love that mods continue to be a venue for people to express their passion for other games. They might just be a passing curiosity, but there's something so inherently satisfying about reassembling videogames inside of other videogames. So if you have any particular fondness for that golden age of consoles and are keen on reliving those memories, be sure to download the whole lot from the Steam Workshop.

PC Gamer

It's no secret that Overwatch takes quite a bit of inspiration from Team Fortress 2, but thanks to the efforts of Serbian modder Srpski eki (which translates to "Serbian Hammer") Team Fortress 2 is now taking a page from Overwatch's playbook. Srpski eki has recreated a version of Overwatch's escort map, Watchpoint: Gibraltar, that can be played in Team Fortress 2 through Steam Workshop and while it's not a perfect imitation, it comes pretty damn close.

As explained by Srpski eki , his version of Watchpoint: Gibraltar is in an alpha stage and is in dire need of some actual art as most of the level is comprised of featureless geometry. Despite its early state, eki 's map is still a fully functioning recreation and is surprisingly good at imitating Overwatch. Just about every mechanic of the escort game mode is carried over thanks to how similar Overwatch's escort mode is to TF2's payload mode. Even though the recreation isn't perfect, you'll hardly notice once the fight starts.

Because I have no friends, I went ahead and loaded a server with bots to play alongside me. They're far from a perfect substitute for humans but still do a great job of illustrating just how similar the DNA between Overwatch and TF2 really is. On offense, we were able to quickly push through to the final objective without much resistance because the enemy bots were too busy getting lost running around the level which was a bit disappointing. On defense, however, the round played surprisingly like Overwatch to the point of even having the same stalemates in certain parts of the map. Even despite the fact that TF2 differs from Overwatch in some fundamental ways, like needing ammo for your weapons, it's pretty amusing to see how the two are similarly structured. I captured a short video of a round against bots so you can judge for yourself. Also check out the gallery below for some close side-by-side comparisons between the Overwatch and TF2 version of the map.

The only real frustration would be the fact that, ultimately, Watchpoint: Gibraltar was built with Overwatch's heroes in mind. As similar as many of them are, I doubt that the map will be as balanced for Team Fortress 2's classes. Also, getting shanked by an enemy spy has made me wonder if there might be room for deceitful shenanigans with a new hero in Overwatch.

Right now there doesn't appear to be anyone hosting the map on the community servers, so if you want to give it a spin you'll need to round up some friends to play with or load up bots like I did. If you're unfamiliar with setting up bots in TF2, you can read this short guide on how to add them in your game. Because this is a custom map, you'll also need to generate a navigation mesh so the bots can move around, which isn't nearly as intimidating as it sounds. After you get the bots loaded, pop open the developer console (default is the '~' key) and type in "sv_cheats 1" and then type in "nav_generate". This will freeze the game for a bit while it does some calculations and then reload the map, allowing the bots to move around just be warned it's not perfect.

Now that I've played Srpski eki 's Watchpoint: Gibraltar, I'm honestly a bit surprised to see that modding Overwatch features into Team Fortress 2 hasn't been more of a thing, what with the two being so similar. The only other Overwatch mod I could find was this highly questionable haircut for TF2's Scout. Who said that people from Brooklyn couldn't be posh?

PC Gamer

Following the rollout of Team Fortress 2's major Meet Your Maker update earlier this month, Valve has issued a patch to address some of the biggest problems with the new matchmaking functionality. The company acknowledged last week a lot of the most pressing concerns, and many of them are now fixed thanks to the new patch.

First of all, match leaving in casual mode will no longer incur a penalty, but to balance that out, Valve will increase the penalty in competitive mode in a forthcoming update. "The current system increases matchmaking ban times based on the number of abandons over a period of time," the notes read. "We are making a change to more quickly move serial abandoners into really long ban times. We will also subtract the maximum number of rank points possible, per abandon. The amount lost will be far higher than what could normally be lost in a completed match."

As for changes that will come into effect with the new patch, queue times should now take less than 90 seconds across the board, and empty player slots in in-progress games will now be filled up more frequently. Vote-kicking functionality has been added, and players can now select their preferred maps (though if they're added to an in-progress game, that won't apply until the next match).

Valve also outlined further plans for future updates, including ways to address griefing and high ping. The full update notes are over here. In the meantime, read Josh Wilkinson's impressions of the new matchmaking update here.

PC Gamer

Matchmaking is a completely new experience for TF2. It combines the unfettered and wacky world of public play with some intense competition and small team sizes. From casual pubbers to competitive superstars, everybody will need to be aware of the differences and adapt to reach the top. Climbing the ranks from Fresh Meat to Death Merchant isn t easy, so here are some do s and don ts for both new players and experienced pros trying to excel in matchmaking.

Comp responsibly

The key to any good team is finding a composition that works. You need a balance of healing, damage, and mobility to win in matchmaking as in all 6v6. While the classic team composition in competitive TF2 has been one Medic, one Demoman, two Soldiers, and two Scouts, this has been turned on its head in matchmaking. Without any class limits or weapon bans, teams are free to run multiple Medics, while classes like Heavy can run amok with items like the Gloves of Running Urgently. The prevalent strategy at the moment in matchmaking is to run two Medics, two heavier classes such as Soldier, Demoman, or Heavy, and two Scouts. This gives your team a great balance, but teams can still succeed with a huge variety of compositions.

The most important thing to remember is that you need a Medic if nobody else is stepping up, take initiative.

Study the maps

If you re a diehard casual player dipping your toes into competitive TF2 for the first time, you ll need to learn the maps. Matchmaking omits maps suited for large teams (like Goldrush, 2fort, or Badwater) even though they are excellent in public play. Instead you ll find yourself on capture point maps such as the newly official Sunshine and Metalworks, along with Gullywash, Snakewater, Foundry, Granary, and more. Attack/Defend and Payload maps such as Gorge and Swiftwater are also featured, so it s important to have a good grasp on the maps before playing competitively.

Learning the names for areas as well as discovering all of the flanking routes is a necessity you should also use your new knowledge to flank your opponents and attack from alternate routes to gain an advantage in games.

Practice new skills

For any newer players, this is the perfect time to learn some advanced techniques. TF2 is a game with a lofty skill ceiling and many techniques that the best players use aren t obvious when playing casually. Matchmaking has also drawn in a broad spectrum of players with varied experience; if you want to get to the top then you ll need to know how to rocket jump, airstrafe, dodge, and aim like a pro. This will help you move around faster than your opponents, avoiding their shots and continuing to deal damage. While the game itself doesn t have tutorials for these skills yet, there are a wealth of guides online over eight years of them! With practice these techniques can become simple and the advantage they give you is staggering, especially in matchmaking where mobility is so important.

Don’t lose track of ubers

Due to its small team sizes, matchmaking revolves around the use of Ubercharges. Don t lose track of them, as your positioning and decisions to attack or defend should be based on which team has uber. Medics are the most important class in the game for both their healing and their Ubercharge, which give a huge advantage to the team. They can allow you to push through choke points, attack sentry nests, pull off a clutch defense, or destroy the whole enemy team. Be aware though that the same can happen to you, so it s important to roughly keep track of the enemy Medic s percentage as well as your own. Every 40 seconds, a Medigun uber can be built keep that time in your head and have a healthy respect for the German doctor and his patients.

Tweak your loadouts

All of the weapons that we in the TF2 competitive scene decided to ban are legal in TF2 s new matchmaking mode. If you believe a weapon is unbalanced and needs a nerf, there s no better way to demonstrate that than to use and abuse it. Using incredible individual weapons such as the Crit-a-Cola can be devastating, but also keep the synergistic weapons in mind such as the Disciplinary Action. Some classes practically require unlocks to be effective: the Reserve Shooter and the GRU spring to mind. Utilizing the right combination of these powerful unlocks can increase your team s abilities even without altering the composition.

Switch it up

Don t stick to a single class in matchmaking. While you may have a main that you love and adore, matchmaking is the perfect opportunity to test out your skills on a variety of classes. Only a few classes are useful all the time in matchmaking, and one of the core concepts in the game is switching up your classes to keep a good team composition for the situation. This doesn t mean you should play a different class every life, but like Overwatch, be prepared to switch it up to fit your team. The team needs mobility and damage at a midfight, a tanky defense when on last, and a lot of balance in between. Picking a class that fits those roles is a great way to start thinking about how you can best help your team to win.

Josh Sideshow Wilkinson has more than 7,800 hours played in TF2. In the last six years, he's climbed to the top of the competitive scene, placing 2nd in Europe last season with his team Perilous Gaming. Sideshow is also a writer, caster for teamfortress.tv, analyst, and tournament organizer.

PC Gamer

Image by Deviantart user Ragepandademoman, click for link.

After over a year of building excitement, Team Fortress 2 received its official matchmaking update last Friday. It hit alongside a community-focused Pyro vs. Heavy metagame, a large change to quickplay servers, and a patch which rebalanced weapons for 6v6. While the quickplay and balance changes have equally enraged and disappointed, matchmaking mode is a great way for casual players to hop in and try competitive TF2 straight from the main menu. It s a good start, and hopefully it s just the first iteration.

Team Fortress 2 s matchmaking mode bears many similarities to the way its niche competitive scene has played for years. Matchmaking throws players into a 6v6 game, designed as a new challenge for experienced TF2 players. It allows you to rank up, earn medals, and track your stats in every competitive game. You ll need to have a Premium TF2 account and a working phone number tied to your Steam account to play, or for those without phones, a $10 matchmaking pass available. After the crackdown on LMAOBOX earlier this year, Valve are clearly committed to expunging cheaters from TF2 as in CS:GO.

Image by moonyelloweyes, click for link.

Ranking up is exclusively based on your wins and losses, with a hidden ELO deciding who you get matched against. You can track every aspect of your competitive history directly from inside the lobby along with stats for your entire career, something I think is really missing from Overwatch and CS:GO matchmaking. Ranking up will also send you higher up the leaderboards, letting you see where you stack up globally and among your friends.

Although it s a simple system, and lacks features seen in CS:GO such as map picking, it works well. Hopping into a lobby alone or with friends sends you to a 6v6 game that is matched for your rank, and the competitive experience is refreshing after an uncoordinated pub. At three to 10 minutes on average, the games are fast enough that even a total roll isn t disheartening, and games can be highly rewarding when players communicate over voice chat and are motivated to win. Unfortunately the search time is currently quite high, making you wait five to 10 minutes for a game which could last half that. This may be the reason map picks are currently not implemented: anything that splits the player pool extends the waiting time even further.

Australium (gold) weapons are "awarded upon completing a full Advanced or Expert Tour of Duty in Mann vs. Machine mode," according to the TF2 wiki. Image by iKonakona.

Unrewarding rewards

After spending many years involved with TF2 s competitive scene, I m aware that much of the TF2 community doesn t enjoy playing competitively purely for the sake of winning. In this update Valve had an opportunity to make the ranking up process engaging with contracts or achievements, or could have combined ranking up with unique cosmetics as with Australiums in MvM. They chose to do neither, and are relying on hype and the raw enjoyment of leveling up to draw players into competitive. If it works, it will prove the mantra of 6v6 players: if only casual players knew about competitive, they d love it! But to me it seems like a missed opportunity for them to pull more players away from other modes of play, especially when the precedent has been set in MvM. TF2 is a casual game with a casual audience. Just offering them the opportunity rather than enticing them to stick it out and improve may not be enough.

The matchmaking ruleset is where the format starts to diverge from what people have previously thought of as competitive TF2. Valve has gone with an open approach, without limits on classes or weapons. If your team want to run six Pyros with the Phlogistinator, you can. You might not win but you can!Matchmaking has been hailed as the second coming by the passionate competitive community, but they seem unaware that their version of 6v6 is now the old 6v6. The game that they love in all its intricacies has been overshadowed in one swift update, eclipsed in terms of players by a version of 6v6 that is significantly different.

In order to compromise between the competitive, technical gamemode of old 6v6 and the wants and needs of the average TF2 player, Valve have had to tread a middle ground. The lack of class limits is the most important change; the tournament class limits have grown organically after years of testing, and were required to preserve the competitive nature of the game. A good sport needs rules in order to be set the parameters for skill and strategy. A good esport needs strong rules as well to avoid unpredictability and chaos.

The lack of weapon bans will also create a new feel for the game. There are a ton of unbalanced weapons still in TF2, despite the recent balance patch. These weapons are not fit to be used in tournaments, as they let solo players become killing machines or create defences that are impossible to break through. A core concept of a competitive game is that your impact should be proportional to your ability, but many of these weapons were designed so a casual player could have an impact in a 32-person server. Valve have indicated that they aim to rebalance those weapons based on statistical feedback from matchmaking, and I hope that happens soon.

There are a ton of unbalanced weapons still in TF2, despite the recent balance patch.

Other changes were pushed to TF2 along with the matchmaking update. These included a revolutionary optimization update which makes the game far smoother for players, and a major change to the quickplay system. Rather than being thrown into a pub gamemode of your choice, quickplay (now Casual) sends you into a 12v12 game where teams are encouraged to play to win. If you want to hop into a laidback pub, you have to find a community server. When our community met with him last year, former TF2 lead Robin Walker promised to revolutionize the way casual players think about the game; that s Valve s aim with this change, but at the moment players feel robbed of their classic, laid-back pub experience. Valve are banking on community servers to flourish once again and fill that gap.

The most important change I d like to see are some perks for players to play matchmaking. Valve have a long history of creating gorgeous cosmetics (or sourcing them from the community) for MvM which entice people to spend money and time grinding that mode out. Rare drops of unusual weapons when ranking up would make matchmaking more exciting and take the focus slightly off of advancing one s rank. Even implementing contracts or achievements that are specific to matchmaking would make each experience fresh and encourage players to return.

This is not the end for the struggle of competitive TF2, it s actually the beginning. If matchmaking is a success and even a tiny proportion of TF2 s active players become competitive regulars, they will associate competitive with the experience they get in matchmaking. Their numbers will outweigh the classic idea of competitive TF2 and they may find it impossible to identify with the professional players and the tournaments they play in. It would be a disaster for TF2 if another schism within the competitive scene to opened up after the split between competitive and casual had been healed.

The arguments have yet to brew about whether tournaments such as the upcoming world championship, insomnia58, should remove class limits or weapon limits but for anybody keeping up with Overwatch s nascent competitive scene the similarities give a queasy feeling. Is it possible for TF2 tournaments to keep some basic class limits and weapon bans without alienating their audience of matchmaking players? I think so, but it will require careful navigation around the rocks.

Josh Sideshow Wilkinson has more than 7,800 hours played in TF2. In the last six years, he's climbed to the top of the competitive scene, placing 2nd in Europe last season with his team Perilous Gaming. Sideshow is also a writer, caster for teamfortress.tv, analyst, and tournament organizer.

PC Gamer

As you may recall, Valve announced matchmaking in Team Fortress 2 as a high priority feature back in April last year. It may have taken a touch longer to arrive than expected, however it was finally added to the multiplayer first-person shooter on Thursday.

Which is good news, right? Except certain decisions regarding how it s been added have ruffled more than a few players feathers, and have caused Valve to spend the last few days announcing and implementing changes in order to get them back on side.

Part of the Meet Your Match update, 6v6 ranked matchmaking was introduced to TF2, alongside a new Competitive Mode. The old Quickplay mode was also scrapped, with 12v12 unranked matchmaking Casual Mode taking its place the latter of which, alongside some pretty gross queue times and players being punished for leaving casual games, seems to have upset certain facets of the game s players.

We hear you, said Valve in an official blog post in response to the backlash. The queue times you are currently experiencing are a bug, not a feature. It is something we are actively working to correct. Several backend issues appeared post-launch that culminated in long wait times. Removing this issue is our highest priority right now.

Second, abandonment penalties. We had put in a ten-minute cooldown period to encourage players to complete matches. Your feedback has convinced us that it is more important for players to be able to come and go as they please. Today's patch will remove abandonment cooldown penalties from Casual Mode.

Map selection in Casual Mode is another tweak users should expect in the not-too-distant future. The post also mentions that Casual Mode levels can t be lost, nor do they affect matchmaking. We did a poor job of communicating that Casual Mode Levels are in no way similar to Competitive Mode Ranks (which do affect matchmaking, and can be lost), the post adds, before reiterating that, although not as vocal as it could be at times, Valve is listening to all player feedback across all forums.

A Casual Mode patch was rolled out on Friday with another "more comprehensive" one due in the "very near future." It s also worth noting that the TF2 community still appears to have issues with kicking cheaters and the apparent lack of autobalancing within the now absent substitute system. Fingers crossed that too gets sorted in time.

PC Gamer

Over a year since it was announced, Team Fortress 2's matchmaking finally goes live today, after a surprise announcement earlier this week. The update also ushers in the long-awaited Competitive Mode, as well as the replacement of Quickplay with an unranked Casual Mode. If you have Team Fortress 2 installed, the update should be available right now.

In addition to these sweeping changes, which Andy detailed earlier this week, the update also introduces three new community maps in the form of Sunshine, Metalworks and Swiftwater. There's also four new taunts, including three community taunts for Pyro, Spy and Soldier, and an official taunt for the Scout.

There's also a long list of general changes, ranging from improved UI elements, replaced sounds, and a few bug fixes. The long list of changes can be perused on the Team Fortress 2 website.

Competitive Mode will require a premium TF2 Account. It boasts 18 ranks ranging from "Fresh Meat" to "death Merchant", as well as post-match medals for exceptional performance. The whet your appetite for the long-awaited mode, here's a fancy video released earlier this week:

PC Gamer

Team Fortress 2 was released nine years ago (wow, right?) and today Valve announced that the upcoming Meet Your Match update will finally bring the long-awaited matchmaking and a full-on Competitive Mode to the game.

Yes, this is another instance of "Valve Time": Matchmaking was announced as a high priority feature in April 2015, and a Competitive Mode beta group was set up in January. But better late than never, and now that it's on the verge of going live, all the bases appear to be covered. The Competitive Mode FAQ says matches will be six-on-six affairs with no class or weapon restrictions, no random critical hits, no changing teams, and fixed shotgun spreads. Symmetrical Control Point maps will be fought over in best-of-three or best-of-five matches, while Attack/Defense maps will play by Stopwatch Mode rules.

Inspired by CS:GO and other games, TF2 Competitive Mode will have 18 ranks to be earned, ranging from Fresh Meat to Death Merchant, and also bronze, silver, and gold medals that will be awarded post-match for outstanding performance in the score, kills, damage, healing, and support categories. Penalties for leaving games before they're over will be harsh: Abandoning a game in progress will count as an automatic loss and result in the deduction of points, which could actually cost you an earned rank. You'll also be temporarily banned from joining new matches, and the more matches you abandon, the longer each ban will last.

To take part in Competitive Mode, you'll need to have a Premium TF2 Account (details on that can be found here, but the short version is that if you own a purchased version of the game in any format or have bought something from the Mann Co. store, you've got it), and must provide a phone number on your Steam account, to help "ensure a greater degree of account security and player accountability, which reduces the likelihood of cheating and abuse. If you can't or don't want to provide your number, you can opt for a Competitive Access Pass instead. They'll be available for an introductory discount of $10 when the update goes live; the full price hasn't been announced.

The introduction of matchmaking will also have a big impact on how Team Fortress 2 can be played casually, the announcement says. Now, instead of jumping randomly into an in-progress game, you'll be matched into an unranked 12v12 game with players of similar skill. This means no more auto-balancing you'll be playing a match from start to finish, with actual winners and actual losers.

To Valve's credit, it's not shying away from the obvious comparisons to Overwatch, whose Competitive Mode went live just over a week ago. Before today literally the moment before you started reading this sentence the only way you could enjoy matchmaking on your computer was through dating sites. That got us thinking. What if you took the promise of dating site matchmaking, and, instead of getting matched up based on Snapchat's face-reshaping filters and lies about how much you love hiking, it was based on your actual real-face dating performance? That's when it hit us: Take matchmaking and apply it to videogames, it wrote on the Team Fortress blog. "'But what about...?' you say, and we cut you off mid-sentence, gently place our fingers on your lips and whisper: Matchmaking has never existed in videogames before.

Fair enough. Valve hasn't said when the Meet Your Match update will go live, but Day 2 of the update is coming soon.

PC Gamer

LMAOBOX is a program designed to allow players to cheat at Team Fortress 2, for instance by adding automatic aiming or removing weapon recoil. Somehow until now at least it's managed to pass under the radar of Valve's VAC (Valve Anti-Cheat) technology, but LMAOBOX has finally been detected, despite claims on the website that it was VAC-proof. And with the detection, comes a wave of VAC bans. It's not clear exactly how many people have been affected, but it includes nearly 170 professional players in the TF2 UGC league. Here's a full list of the competitive players affected, in a Google doc seemingly sent to the players themselves.

PCGamesN has a good write-up of proceedings, but a few more details have come to light since publication. While the developer of LMAOBOX apparently stated that they would now quit the project and make the source code public, a moderator of this Reddit thread reckons that post was made by someone else, and that the (fake) code provided was riddled with malware. Others have disputed claims that the bans are backdated to anyone who has used LMAOBOX in the previous two years, suggesting it has only hit players who have used it in the last two weeks instead.

Either way, this is surely good news for anyone who plays TF2 in the traditional, non-cheaty manner. (Ta, mxdwm.com)

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