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Mann vs Machine: First Impressions


Robots are bastards. Terminator taught us this. I, Robot taught us this. Wall-E didn’t teach us this, but there was always something suspicious about that little bugger. The point is, when you’re being swarmed by a hundred of them, and one has a bomb, and there’s also a big tractor with a bigger bomb in it, the previously ludicrous firepower at the disposal of Team Fortress 2’s nine classes doesn’t seem quite so ludicrous. It seems a little inadequate. 
This is Mann vs Machine, and so far, the Machines are winning. Need a dispenser here! Also need about twenty more sentries. And a few more heavies. And a battalion of snipers at the back doing line fire with sniper rifles. That might just do it.

There are a few things that make your rag-tag group of six a little less rag tag, and a little more capable of dealing with increasingly ludicrous waves of robots who are all intent on destroying your base. The first is that you’ve got infinite lives, and just a few seconds wait between respawns. The second is that you can get cash money from the fallen bodies of the mechanical men, and you can use that cash money to upgrade your equipment.
Rocket Launchers get things like increased ammo capacity and reload speed. Turrets get more health, faster fire rates, or the ability to come pre-built as a one off. Every weapon in the game can be broadly upgraded like this for varying costs, which means that you can get to ten rockets in the chamber by the end of wave 3, if you’re focused about it.
There’s also the fact that you can prepare before the wave hits, each of you having to ready up before anything happens. It gives snipers time to get into position, engineers enough time to build up their sentry nests, and scouts to talk the required amount of smack. Either way, you’re never going to be truly ready. You’re never going to have everything under control.
You know those games where you play a ‘shadow’ version of yourself? A dark reflection, a twisted mirror held up in the players face, to show you all the ugliness of your personality, each character flaw blown up to massive proportions. The robots in Mann vs Machine aren’t just robots, but twisted interpretations of the existing Team Fortress 2 classes, so there are giant heavies with flotillas of unicycled medics keeping them healed and ubered. There are scouts that only use the Sandman, so you’ve got balls flying through the air like angry swarms of bees, only to be beset upon by a dozen monotone scouts all whacking you with aluminium bats.
It’s nightmarish, to say the least, and while you can keep them under control with sufficient amounts of sustained fire, mostly from heavies, demomen and soldiers, it’s never going to get you to the stage where you think you’re going to make it. Every victory is snatched from imminent defeat.
The aim is to prevent a bomb from being thrown down your vault. One robot carries a bomb, and some waves have a tank/tractor with its own. Bomb carriers are no harder to kill than other robots, but once they die, the bomb is dropped at their feet. Another robot comes along and picks it up, only to be mown down a few steps further on. But enough robots with enough steps, and they’re going to get to their target.
It’s why Pyros are so useful, airblasting robots backwards and keeping them away from the precious vault. Only you can’t airblast tanks, and if you don’t sustain your fire on them for the entire duration, you’re barely going to make a scratch in the paintwork by the time it’s ready to drop that bomb.
That’s Mann vs Machine once you get in the game, but there’s all sorts of ways to get in there. Right now the ‘Play Coop’ tab on the TF2 homescreen has /just/ started to work, matchmaking you with five other players to team together to face the robot menace. You can even create a party before you search, which makes things much easier.
There’s also player run servers, most of which are using a mod to expand the maximum amount of players allowed on a MvM server. However they’re still only allowing six players to play it, which means everyone else gets to spectate. Which isn’t quite so exciting. It’s still a bit exciting. All those robots exploding.
And now we just have to wait for someone to complete the whole thing solo, and we can all have a little cry about how useless we all are. It’s inevitable.