So begins the Third Annual Scream Fortress Very Scary Halloween Special. Just like the Terrifying Team Fortress Haunted Hallowe’en Special, and the Second Annu-Hell Scream Fortress Hauntdead Halloween Special (or Halloween 2009 and 2010, if you prefer) before it, it’s a fairly large TF2 update featuring one Halloween-themed map, complete with its own boss NPC.
The Halloween 2011 update hype began when Ray Baitt (a Valve employee who previously worked at WETA Digital to create and animate Gollum, from the Lord of the Rings), the creator of the Spine-Chilling Skull (one of last year’s more well-known Halloween-themed hats), posted a very informative post detailing the creation of the Skull on the TF2 blog. That was on the 11th of October. Later on, they teased it some more with a mysterious new menu background, but on the 21st, they released a bizarre little blog post that touched on the Halloween 2011 update (didn’t make that much sense, though – something about Ethan Hawke and Presidents’ Day). In it, Valve talked about how the release of the 2011 update would be postponed, in order to give new players a few days to replay the Halloween 2009 and 2010 maps, and catch up on some of the Scarechievements and Ghostchievements.
TF2 fans kept themselves busy during those days by taking a look at the Night of the Living Update. Do you remember the days of the infamous “fake updates”? Whether it was the Guard Dog Update, or one of the many fake Engineer Updates, all created by the fans, these things were a ton of fun to look through. Although just like the Fancy vs Nasty Update, one of the more prominent fake updates, all of the items featured herein are available for download. They are, of course, simple weapon re-skin mods, but some of these are being used in the actual update. But then the 27th of October rolled around, and at last, Valve unleashed the Halloween 2011 update. It started with a blog post that heralded the release of a brand new comic: The Bombinomicon comic! The comic is 10 pages long, and explains some of the lore behind the update. It also retcons the Demoman’s backstory even more.
Turns out the Demoman didn’t lose his eye as part of a grisly explosive accident. Instead, he lost it as a child, while he was helping Merasmus the Magician clean his castle. The young Demo made the terrible mistake of reading a cursed demon book: the Bombinomicon! The spirit inhabiting the book possessed his eye, thus contradicting the Demoman’s official backstory that instead implies he lost his eye around or before the age of 6, as part of an explosive accident involving a plan to kill the Lochness Monster. (that may or may not be the same one that also took his original adoptive parents). But wait! That same passage has been contradicted before, when we saw the Demoman with his biological parents (that only adopted him after he blew up his original adoptive parents at the age of 6)… with both eyes. Valve, I think it’s time for a new Demoman bio. The strange thing is they’re not even using the full, current backstory on the new official site – they’re still using the old one, from before the WAR update. Which contradicts both retconned backstories – the post-WAR one, and the one we just got with the eye demon. In any case, moving away from incomprehensible plot holes, the comic is absolutely hilarious. Merasmus is, by the way, the same magician that sent the mercenaries to the 10th century for Medieval Mode. I’m really hoping to see this comic in the upcoming “Valve Presents: The Sacrifice and Other Steam-Powered Stories”. Be sure to check it out.
But let’s talk about the update! And no Halloween event would be complete without an insane blog post to announce the update and creep you out at the same time. Yes, Valve are truly the masters of horror. The update features a reskin of Viaduct, known as “Eyeaduct” . In this map, you’ve got the usual Halloween stuff: pumpkin bombs, random gifts, and so on. It’s pretty nice, but it’s disappointing to see Valve reuse an older map, slap on a fresh coat of paint and call it a Halloween event map. It works, sure, but navigating it can be a pain, and you can really tell the gift placement just sucks on a map that wasn’t designed with gift spawning in mind.
But wait! The map has also got the fearsome Monoculus, the Demoman’s disembodied possessed eye. It’s constantly floating, and it fires eyeball missiles that are guaranteed critical hits. Normally, it’s calm, and only fires a slow-moving eyeball missile at a time, but if it takes too much damage, it’ll get enraged and fire a ton of these at once! In addition, every so often, it’ll teleport to a different location on Eyeaduct, but it’ll leave a residual portal vortex, that will transport any player approaching it to the Underworld, a brand new area within the map. In Underworld, you are constantly taking damage, so you’ve got to get out of there quick! But random gifts also spawn in the Underworld, so you can’t just run out of there instantly. Consider hanging around for a bit to see if any gifts spawn together. But don’t start camping for the rest of the round! Because once you leave the Underworld, you gain invulnerability, a crit boost and a speed boost. This lets you dish out a lot of damage to the boss, and it even allows you to completely stun him for a few seconds. Always keep an eye on Monoculus’ health bar at the top of the screen, and keep in mind that this time, there’s a 90-second time limit to the boss battle. If you don’t get him in those 90 seconds, he teleports out and you have to wait 5 minutes for him to return.
So, that’s all pretty great on its own, right? But like last year, you’ve got the randomly appearing Haunted Halloween Gifts. This time, however, they don’t carry garbage paper masks. They’re packing Halloween costume pieces! Each class now has its own Halloween-themed costume set (wearing the whole costume doesn’t give you any sort of bonus, except for the Soldier, who gets competely new robot-themed voice lines; and the Engy, who gets a voice filter that makes him sound like a fly), formed out of one hat and two Miscs. This means collectors out for a full, complete set will have 27 items to look out for. But wait! Gifts that spawn in the Underworld gain “Haunted” quality! Apart from purple text, there’s nothing special about these, but collectors who really want a completely complete set will now have a grand total of 54 items to look out for. I’m actually quite disappointed about this – the same gift system? Even though we all know how flawed it is? How much it encourages and downright rewards lone-wolf play, ignoring map and team objectives, going Scout and running around, team-stacking, and a variety of other questionable activities? Why not come up with a new system?
In any case, each player has also received a Halloween Goodie Cauldron, an item box similar to the Manniversary Gift. It contains the all-class, all-player Seal Mask, which everyone is guaranteed to get, but it’s also got one random Halloween costume piece. In addition, all Ghastlier Gibuses currently on the market have been upgraded to brand new Ghastlierest Gibuses, and all Ghastly Gibuses are now Ghastlier Gibuses. There’s a few other hats, but only two new weapons. All Halloween-restricted items can now also be worn on “full moon” maps – these include all three of the Halloween event maps, although whether or not other full moon maps count (Doublecross, and Pipeline, for instance) as well. And there’s only two new Eyecheivements, which is really disappointing.
Still, the update is pretty damn fun. And that’s about all there is to say about it. Now, get playing!