After two days of hyping lead-up, the new Mann vs Machine game mode for TF2 has been released as part of a huge, yet free game update. It’s almost 1GB in size, and it should be distributed to you via a Steam auto-update.
Aside from revealing the other two MvM maps: Coal Town and Decoy, Valve have also debuted Day 2: Mercs and Day 3: Bounty of the MvM update. I’m going to run through their contents.
Day 2 introduced us to the various intricacies of the Mann vs Machine game mode, including the Upgrade system. Using money collected from dead machines, you can buy yourself weapon and ability upgrades from the Upgrade Station in the rest periods between attack waves. This is the Upgrade interface:
I was hoping the upgrades would be reflected in actual modifications to the weapon’s appearance, but it seems like this won’t be the case. I also thought one could buy actual weapons from here (weapons which would expire once the mission is won or lost), but I guess that’s what trading is for.
Still, this is pretty sweet. You can upgrade all of your weapons, and you can also upgrade your own abilities (and there are LOTS of upgrades, as the Tactics section of the Day 2 page shows us). This’ll really shake things up a bit!
But then there’s another thing: Canteens. At the end of your very first successful Mann vs Machine mission, you will receive one Canteen, free of charge. You can also craft Canteens using 4 pieces of Scrap Metal.
Each Canteen holds 3 charges, and can be either re-filled or filled with a different kind of power-up at the Upgrade Station. These Canteens are not separate items – you only get to use a single Canteen, which you will have to fill or re-fill at an Upgrade Station. And every merc class can use every kind of power-up Canteen, with the exception of the Buildings Upgrade.
Here’s the different types of power-ups a Canteen can hold:
- UberCharge – gives you five seconds of personal invincibility.
- Critical Hit Boost – gives you five seconds of full critical hit power.
- Ammo & Clip Refill – instantly refills both your ammo reserve and your loaded magazine.
- Return to Base – instantly returns you to the respawn room, also giving you a temporary speed boost.
- Buildings Upgrade – when consumed by an Engineer, upgrades all of his buildings to Level 3.
Well, MvM is certainly sounding like a really interesting kind of game mode, that’s for sure! If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Valve is trying to cram Dota 2 into TF2 itself!
Lastly, let’s go through Day 3 of the MvM update. This is “Bounty”, and it explains the most controversial addition of the entire MvM update: Mann Up Mode. Despite having a huge FAQ section that explains how Mann Up Mode works, Valve still managed to confuse and anger a significant part of the fanbase. Now, I’ll try my best to completely explain how this works.
- When you play Mann vs Machine, you have a choice between two core MvM game types: Boot Camp and Mann Up.
- Boot Camp is essentially the core MvM-TF2 experience – you get random drops, you have all of your items with you, you can do anything you want. You can play as long as you like, you can play every mission and every map.
- In terms of economy, items, and player rewards, there is no difference between Boot Camp and regular TF2 – you’re not getting cheated out of anything if you choose to play on Boot Camp.
- Boot Camp is completely free, and can be played on every community server running the MvM game mode, as well as a variety of official Valve-operated servers running Boot Camp.
- Mann vs Machine does not support locally-hosted servers right out of the box (unlike L4D; L4D2; Alien Swarm; and Portal 2), but any servers you somehow manage to host locally will run Boot Camp.
Now onto how Mann Up Mode works. Watch out, this is a big one:
- Mann Up Mode can only be played on special Mann Co servers. These are just Valve servers – and a very large number of them, at that.
- To enter Mann Up Mode, you need to buy a Tour of Duty Ticket from the Mann Co Store. A Tour of Duty Ticket costs $0.99, or €0.75.
- A Tour of Duty Ticket is only consumed once you have first completely beaten a MvM mission in Mann Up Mode. Only if you win and survive every attack wave, will your Ticket actually be consumed.
- A Tour of Duty is a collection of missions that span multiple maps, or even the same one map. There are Tours of Duty for all the standard MvM maps (there’s nothing exclusive), but the Tours of Duty themselves are an exclusive feature of Mann Up Mode.
- When you first win a mission in Mann Up Mode, and your Ticket is consumed, you will receive a Tour of Duty Badge. These badges track your progress through Mann Up Mode’s Tours of Duty.
- The Tour of Duty Badge tracks your progress through a ToD. When you first beat a previously unfinished mission in a Tour of Duty, your Badge will be updated, and you will receive a random item reward. Emphasis on the “random”, folks – you only get the fancy robot loot if you complete a whole ToD.
- However, you can’t get an item for beating an already finished mission. You can only get one from beating a mission you haven’t fully completed.
- You will always need a Tour of Duty Ticket for admittance in Mann Up Mode, but if you complete a ToD mission you’ve already won, your Ticket will not be consumed. It is only consumed when completing a new mission.
- However, if you buy a Squad Surplus Voucher from the Mann Co Store, you will get items at the end of an already completed ToD mission. They cost $1.99, or €1.50. These Vouchers can only be used in Mann Up Mode.
- When the Tour of Duty mission has been completed, regardless of whether or not it has been previously completed by any of the 6 team members, your Voucher will be consumed, and you and your 5 teammates will receive an item. Vouchers stack, so if all six players have Vouchers, all six players will receive six extra items each.
- Once you have beaten every mission in a Tour of Duty, your Tour of Duty Badge will be upgraded to a higher rank, and you will receive a rare item reward. These rare item rewards are only acquired by completing a Tour of Duty, by finishing every mission. The items contained therein are unique and robot-themed. They are exclusive to Mann Up Mode, and they can only be obtained by completing an entire Tour of Duty (you might not get these items by just finishing a single ToD mission in Mann Up Mode).
- Once your Tour of Duty Badge has attained a higher rank, you can now complete each mission again to obtain more items. Then your Badge will be upgraded again, and you will obtain a new rare item reward. And so on, and so forth, ad infinitum.
- Keep in mind that Tours of Duty are exclusive to Mann Up Mode. And so, you will need a Tour of Duty Ticket every time you finish an unfinished mission in Mann Up Mode. Only then will your Badge progress be moved forward.
I think I’ve covered just about everything, but there’s still a lot of murky waters with regards to Mann Up Mode. Still, this flowchart does a great job of explaining it in a more simplistic and concise manner.
In itself, Mann Up Mode is an interesting idea, executed pretty badly. Putting aside the fact that it… simply wasn’t something we should have been asked to pay for; it favors significant playerbase segregation, and cripples TF2’s infrastructure, in exchange for some relatively meager rewards.
It’d have been best if the ToD Tickets had contained admissions to more than one Mann Up mission. And those Surplus Vouchers are hardly needed anyway. Since you only get random items for completing a single ToD mission, then why not simply have players be awarded these items, even if they’ve already completed a ToD mission? They are playing Mann Up for a reason, after all. Tickets would still be consumed, but if Tickets contained more admissions, it wouldn’t be a problem. And that way, you’d get rid of these unnecessary Surplus Vouchers.
So it’s certainly a bit flawed – and we don’t know if Valve will do anything about it. But at the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide if you want to pay up to get in Mann Up, and keep in mind that you’re not really missing out on anything. That’s enough of the word “up” for this article, by the way.
As for Mann vs Machine itself? Personally, I found it to be… well, obscenely fun. Not only does it give birth to a whole new breed of cooperative teamwork, but it’s one of the most action-packed and intense experiences you can find in any multiplayer FPS out there.
It’s got so many intricacies and complexities, that it really becomes more than just a co-operative game mode – it becomes a unique game experience unlike anything else out there. It’s also obscenely replayable, and it more or less exceeds every expectation I had set for it. By a mile.
The production values are great, as well. This is not some sort of cheap, rushed game mode. On the contrary, it’s something Valve has been working on for over 2 years, and it definitely shows. There’s also plenty of new dialogue, and the new maps look great, and play very well!
There’s been some severe problems with the matchmaking, yes – but if you use the server browser, then you really should be having no problems. And I suppose many of the problems are due to the initially small number of active MvM community servers – but we should see that number steadily increasing over the next couple of days.
But there are some balancing issues here and there – should Giant robots aside from the Scout even carry the bomb? I think not, but we can all agree that any uber’d robots, Giant or otherwise, should not be able to carry the bomb.
And sure, the Giant robots may not be quite as big as we thought they’d be; and yes, the dreaded Tank, is not only surprisingly small, but also completely harmless with no attacks of any sort; and sure, the lack of robot Engineers represents a lot of wasted potential. But despite those issues, MvM is still an extremely well-crafted and solid multiplayer release.
While the matchmaking could use a lot of work (local hosting from a lobby needs to be added as soon as possible), but on the whole, this is a must-play, for anyone even remotely attracted to a solid co-operative FPS experience.
That, and it’s free. So go play it!