Team Fortress 2’s latest update, Jungle Inferno, is proof that the magic is still alive.
Every year there is talk of TF2 running out of steam (no pun intended), and every year it continues to draw a crowd (also no pun intended – or, indeed, present). During the recent four-day Jungle Inferno event the number of concurrent players spiked to its highest level since 2014. It has dropped off a little since, sure, but it looks like it will stabilise around 70,000, which is roughly the same as in 2013.
The update adds new maps, rebalances weapons that long needed attention, and throws in crates of cosmetics, but it is the new weapons that stand out for me. New items are the yardstick by which I always judge TF2 updates: when maps fall out of favour and cosmetic prices rise and fall on the game’s community marketplace, the best weapons quickly become staples whether you are pushing payloads or capturing control points.
Jungle Inferno added four new Pyro weapons and one for the Heavy, but it is the Hot Hand and the Thermal Thruster that I want to focus on, both going to our favourite arsonist. The Thruster is a jetpack that, like the best TF2 items, creates a completely new playstyle that you never knew you needed, while the Hot Hand is a novelty glove that you slap enemies with. It embraces the silliness that has always set TF2 apart from other shooters.
Combine them and you have got an ultra-mobile Pyro that loves a swift backhander. To unlock them you have to complete new weapon contracts. Some of them seem all but impossible unless you have an enemy team willing to help you out, but collude with the right people (I have found 2Fort servers in the game’s ‘Casual’ mode to be the friendliest) and you can circumvent this mountainous climb. Once I’d achieved this, however, and unlocked all of the weapons, I decided to limit myself to jetpack and slaps only, keeping my flamethrower stashed in my belt.