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Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

After nearly five years of fighting over control points and briefcases of intelligence, the mercs of Team Fortress 2 have a new challenge before them--mechanical monstrosities looking to destroy any and all things bearing Mann Co.'s name. TF2's new Mann vs. Machine mode introduces co-op for the first time, bringing up to six players together to fight back the soulless automatons. To do my part in the fight, I jumped into Shacknews community member re-verse's server to fight alongside fellow Shackers against the robotic menace.

Team Fortress 2 veterans will notice the difference between traditional multiplayer and Mann vs. Machine almost immediately. Cohesive teamwork is emphasized here more than any TF2 game mode to date. Teams need to cover robot spawn points to stop machines in their tracks before they bring a bomb to the player base. Robots employ various tactics, including robot Scout rushes, multiple airblasting Pyros, and Demo grenade spam and teams must adapt to each enemy tactic in order to survive. New voice over lines from each character are a big help, as the characters will yell out if a teammate is down or if an enemy Sniper or Spy has entered the field. Once killed, players can respawn, but any time that passes can be costly given how quickly robots are able to move the bomb up.

While traditional multiplayer sees every class playing a pivotal role in the game, Mann vs. Machine places some weight on certain classes. In particular, success is almost impossible without a Medic and an Engineer. Medics need to be aware of their surroundings at all times and heal teammates quickly, while making sure to upgrade their Medigun or Kritzkrieg between rounds. Engineers' sentry guns can mow down waves upon waves of robots to the point that the robots eventually deploy a sentry buster (a large bomb with legs) to take them down. Dispensers also prove to be invaluable resources, since many players tend to run low on ammo amidst the fracas.

While all of TF2's weapons are balanced to a degree in the game's traditional multiplayer, a number of those weapons may see their usefulness diminished significantly. The Pyro's Backburner, for example, is great for ambushing opponents in multiplayer, but its advantages are reduced during an all-out robotic blitz. The Engineer's Pomsom 6000 ray gun has been called overpowered in the main multiplayer mode, but its buffs are far less useful against the machine menace. And Spies are at an intense disadvantage given the sheer number of targets he needs to cover in order to be effective.

One thing to note is that all weapons can be upgraded in between waves, with upgrades customized to suit each specific weapon. For example, the Soldier can either choose to increase the clip or damage dealt from his rocket launcher or opt to increase the Buff Banner's deployment time. Upgrades are purchased with money picked up from successfully taking out waves or from defeated enemies. In fact, teammates fighting over money drops may be the one instance where they'll fight amongst themselves.

Upgrades are pivotal, as later waves introduce more powerful robots. Larger bosses include a Giant Soldier that only shoots crit rockets, giant Heavies flanked by multiple Medic-bots, and oversized Scouts that bash your brains in with their baseball bat. Another wrinkle includes a colossal tank with an enormous HP bar. Even with Kritz and Buff Banner assistance, the tank can take a lot of punishment and will destroy the base if it makes it that far. Taking out the tank becomes more difficult, considering that the other robots will still be trying to escort the regular bomb to your base, as well.

Team Fortress 2 already has a loyal player base, but Mann vs. Machines has the potential to create an entirely new fanbase. It employs many of the familiar TF2 mechanics that veterans love, while emphasizing a new sense of camaraderie over competition. There are only three maps (Decoy, Coal Town, and Mannworks) for MvM so far, but given how much fun this game mode is to play, I expect that number to rise soon. In the meantime, grab your friends and prepare for the machine uprising.


Field Reports provide our first-hand experience with the latest games, but should not be considered a review. This report is based on the Windows version of Team Fortress 2. The game is now available for PC and Mac.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Valve's first-person puzzler Portal 2 has received a significant update today. For months, players on PC and Mac have been able to create their own puzzles through the "Perpetual Testing Initiative." However, these creations have had to be solitary affairs. No more! Starting today, Portal 2 players will be able to design and play co-op maps.

In addition to adding co-op, the UGC mode has been enhanced with a new "Quick Play" feature that creates an automatically generated playlist of top-rated maps to play through. That should help appease fans that actually want to test maps perpetually. Current owners of Portal 2 will find a 75% off coupon awaiting them in Steam, so that they can wrangle in a new player to join in co-op puzzle antics.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Team Fortress 2's business model has been fairly simple since it went free-to-play--sell lots of virtual hats and guns--but Valve's trying something slightly different with the new 'Mann vs. Machine' co-op PvE mode, which launched last night. While it's free to play, if you fancy extra special loot, you can pay 99 cents for a ticket which offers the chance to earn unique prizes the likes of which ye have never seen.

The 99-cent single-use Tour of Duty Tickets let you into Mann Up Mode, which is a fancy way of saying it's played on Valve's official Mann Co. servers and you can score snazzy robot parts to wear. You're given a wearable Tour of Duty Badge to track your progress through the three MvM missions, which levels up once you've finished them all. The first time you finish a mission on each badge level, you get a piece of robot-loot, then another piece once you've finished the entire tour.

It's not cheap, though. Tour of Duty Tickets are used up when you complete any mission not already finished on your badge level (but not if you fail or have finished it before on this level). Tickets are still ultimately a hat delivery mechanism, but a bit different to straight selling them. Look, it's complicated, so check Valve's FAQ for the nitty-gritty.

You can also cough up $1.99 for a Squad Surplus Voucher, which will ensure everyone on your Mann Up Mode team will get an item if you beat the mission.

Of course, you don't need to pay a penny to play Mann vs. Machine if you don't want to; player-run servers simply don't drop the special robot-loot. The items are tradeable too, so you can swap your spares for shiny newness if you don't mind being thoroughly fleeced by unscrupulous traders.

Team Fortress 2 is a little overwhelmed by the flood of people trying to smash robots and wear their metallic skulls as trophies, mind, so it may be a while before you can play.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

As many Team Fortress 2 fans have already puzzled together, a new co-op mode is coming to Valve's free-to-play online shooter. Called "Mann vs Machine," this new mode has six human players waging "a desperate battle to stop a lethal horde of robots from deploying a bomb in one of Mann Co.'s many strongholds." Essentially, it is a horde mode. With robots. And in typical horde fashion, you'll be able to upgrade your abilities and weapons in between waves. Surviving will let you earn "incredible loot." The new mode will also be accommodated by brand new maps as well.

The mode will unlock on August 15th. To get yourself hyped, here's yet another comic and a brand new trailer:

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Valve's up to something again. Team Fortress 2 is, as we all know, an epic tale about the rivalry between two siblings, but now a third brother has appeared on the scene to shake things up. A new TF2 comic and several sneaky in-game secrets hint that something big, shiny and metallic is coming, possibly the long-speculated PvE mode nicknamed 'Mann vs. Machine' by fans.

As one fan's video details, Valve has been dropping hints about robots for some time, from comics and trailers to files casually added to TF2--which Valve knows fans pore over for hints. The most damning of these has been the heads of robot versions of every TF2 class.

After a little code-breaking by fans, Valve released a splendid new comic on Sunday showing a long-lost third Mann brother returning to slay his siblings--the heads of the warring Red and Blu teams--and set a dastardly plan in motion. Huge tanks appeared in the background of several maps over the weekend, so it seems an invasion is coming.

What does it all mean? The popular theory is Valve's releasing a new co-operative mode named Mann vs. Machine, where players fight robotic versions of the TF2 gang. TF2 files do reference something named 'MVM' and robots clearly are coming in some form, but it's mostly speculation for now. After several years of teasing, it seems we'll soon be finding out just what's afoot. If you want in on all the gossip and guessing, the Reddit community's gasbagging up a storm.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

The Half-Life remake mod Black Mesa really is coming, and now a leaked video confirmed as real has surfaced with a peek at its jazzed-up 'On a Rail' chapter. You know, that frightful section with the tedious trains then glorious rocket launch.

The footage leaked to ValveTime is a rough cut of a planned gameplay video the Black Mesa team put together, Black Mesa team member 'Raminator' has responded, which somehow got into the wild early.

"The build featured in the video is between four and five weeks old," he explained. "You won't be seeing very many changes between what's in the video and what's in the final product."

As for the iron sights aiming seen on the revolver, a feature not in the original Half-Life, that's only available for the .357 and crossbow, boosting accuracy a little but lowering firing speed. After fans grumbled about seeing this in the leaked video, an option's been added to disable it.

Raminator says that following the leak, the team is going to be "moving some things forward" when it comes to showing us more of the long, long, long-in-development mod.

Some frankly unwatchable footage of an early version of the 'Surface Tension' chapter has also been leaked, though darned if I can see anything in it.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

If you've been waiting for the right time to bite on Left 4 Dead 2, your patience has paid off. Valve has just released a hefty new update, just as it puts the game on sale for 75% off. This also comes among a tease of several new L4D-related updates coming soon.

The Cold Stream update is a community created campaign in which you'll battle zombies while avoiding a watery grave. The update is free, and also includes the L4D1 campaigns Blood Harvest, Crash Course, Dead Air, and Death Toll. Meanwhile, you can also now play with all Mutations all the time. The Xbox 360 version will be updating soon as well, but will require the Passing DLC for access to the Mutations.

Other announcements include L4D2 as a Games on Demand title on Xbox 360, the impending release of the game on Linux, a Minecraft-inspired community campaign, survivor skins coming to the Xbox 360 version of Minecraft, and the addition of the characters to the Source Film Maker.

If you're tempted to get the game, be advised that it's $4.99 for roughly the next 24 hours on Steam. You would be wise not to wait.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

We may have seen the final release of Half-Life co-op mod Sven Co-op last week, but oh, it's far from over. It's getting a free standalone release on Steam, and Valve has given the team engine access to tinker under the hood and add new features.

The free release through Steam will include the base Half-Life campaign so everyone can play without even owning it, the announcement explains.

"Full engine access will allow many previously impossible features to be added to the game, as well as new functionality for Half-Life's level editor," team leader Daniel Fearon said elsewhere. The announcement specifically mentions "larger and more detailed" levels.

The mod's been going for a staggering fifteen years, but apparently is still warming up.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Valve has muttered and murmured about bringing Steam and its Source engine to Linux before, and now it's revealed the plan--port Steam and Left 4 Dead 2 to Ubuntu 12.04, then work from there. Steam will come to Linux in all its glory, and Valve's building a speedy OpenGL version of Source it can use for more of its games too.

The Valve Linux Team already has Steam and L4D2 up and running natively on Ubuntu, the 11-person group formed in 2011 explains in its first blog post. They need a bit more work before we can all play with them, though, and Valve notes, "Our goal is to have L4D2 performing under Linux as well as it performs under Windows."

Why Ubuntu? The team explains, "First, we're just starting development and working with a single distribution is critical when you are experimenting, as we are. It reduces the variability of the testing space and makes early iteration easier and faster. Secondly, Ubuntu is a popular distribution and has recognition with the general gaming and developer communities."

Depending on how well it goes down, the team will look at bringing Steam to more distros. And, naturally, Valve wants to bring more of its games to Linux.

Linux users have enthusiastically supported efforts to bring proper games to its platform (sorry, Tux Racer), consistently paying far more to the Humble Bundles than Mac and Windows folks.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

After over a year of public testing, Valve will officially launch Left 4 Dead 2's 'Cold Stream' DLC later this month. It packs versions of original Left 4 Dead campaigns Blood Harvest, Crash Course, Dead Air and Death Toll, as well as the community-made Cold Stream. On top of that, a patch launching alongside will make all of the game-altering mutations available at all times.

The DLC and accompanying patch will launch on July 24, Valve revealed in a blog post. Valve put Cold Stream up for public testing last March, followed by the remaining L4D campaigns (No Mercy had launched before). Now, thanks to the wonders of Valve time, it's finally ready to roll out.

Valve has been rotating mutations weekly since February 2010, with only one available at any time. Their weird and wonderful effects have included turning all enemy infected in Versus into tanks with 'Taaannnkk!,' the infinite ammo M60 madness of 'Gib Fest,' and mode-mashup 'Versus Survival.' When the new patch launches in the 24th, you'll be able to play any of them whenever you want.

While the Cold Stream DLC will be free on PC, Valve will most likely charge on 360.

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