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The next big Team Fortress 2 update is almost here, and it’s a doozy. Players can’t decide if they love it or hate it.

Yesterday Valve announced the Gun Mettle update, which gives players who pay $6 access to a three-month-long campaign of skill-based challenges which will earn them visually unique weapons. No two weapons will be alike, Valve claims. Each paint job will be at least “a little” different. Weapons will also come in six grades of rarity and carry various levels of wear and tear. There will likely be more campaigns in the future.

Starting to sound familiar? That’s because it’s eerily similar to the cosmetics-heavy weapon system in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. It’s given birth to a lively gun buying/selling/trading economy, a cornerstone of the modern Counter-Strike scene. Naturally, Valve would want to spread the wealth a little.

Also, with Valve-created TF2 content updates becoming a little less frequent, it seems like GabeN’s all-chef kitchen is trying to transition the game to a place where players—not Valve—keep some of the ingredients fresh. First they added a Workshop for custom maps, and now they’ve got a weapon economy (on top of the pre-existing hat economy we’re all oh-so-familiar with).


Now, you are probably thinking Some Things. Thing the first: “Six American dollars? But previous TF2 updates were free! Valve, I will remove my shirt, revealing my glorious mane of chest hair, and challenge you to fisticuffs.” First off, I’m glad you’re proud of your chest hair. Opinions vary on that stuff, but wear it proudly and no one can hurt you. Second, only the skill-based campaign costs money. There’s more to this update, and it’s all free.

The free portion of the update is actually pretty substantial, adding a new Valve map, three new community maps (including Snowplow, finally), the ability to test out new weapons by snatching them from corpses, and—most importantly—the most significant re-balancing the game’s seen in ages. Nearly every class has seen significant revisions—some nerfs, some buffs—many of which players have been wanting for quite a while.


Some changes are more... contentious than others:


The community reaction to the whole thing has been a bit strange. One contingent of fans is upset at Valve for, once again, focusing on cosmetics and economies over gameplay. Except... they’re fine-tuning gameplay a lot too, so it’s kinda tough to fault them here. Not only are there big balance changes, but the weapon pick-up mechanic opens up all sorts of new strategies for certain class loadouts—albeit with a risk of strategy-free chaos ruling the roost. Ideally, though, players will be able to be more reactive and adaptive, subbing out one weapon pairing for another on the fly, temporarily.

Other fans are unhappy because they feel like TF2 is getting hand-me-down Counter-Strike features. That I can kinda understand, but a) it seems like they’ve tailored the weapon system to fit TF2’s unique curves and contours, and b) it’s hardly the only thing this update’s packing. That said, it is a bit unfortunate that you can only unlock weapons by spending money and running campaigns. If only there was an alternate gameplay path to upping your arsenal.


Now, if the weapon system or balance changes make the game suck, well, then complaints will be fully warranted. But as is, it seems like Valve struck a nice balance between side dishes and the main course. Players have been clamoring for something like this for quite a while, so these are exciting times. The update is set to drop later today. Are you gonna hop in and check it out?

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