In case you've been so caught up in RealID drama to ignore the other happenings on in gaming news, Valve released the final class update for Team Fortress 2 yesterday following an interesting promotion. The Engineer update also came with a few new maps, including a new Payload Race map, plr_hightower, and it looks like Valve finally figured out how to make PLR fun.
The update focused on adding new weapons and features to the Engineer class with the goals of untethering the player from their buildings, particularly their Sentry Gun, and increasing Engineer mobility altogether. The update hits the mark perfectly; I haven't even played the new Engineer yet, but I love all the new choices presented. A big issue with typical class updates is that the class gets overplayed. We have class caps (limit 4) on our server, but I have no qualms with more teleporters and dispensers!
The first enormous change (that doesn't involve acquiring new weapons) is that Engineers can pick up and redeploy buildings now. If an upgraded building is redeployed, it begins life as level 1 but instantly starts upgrading itself to its old level right before the Engy's eyes, without any input or metal. To redeploy a level 3 Sentry Gun takes maybe 6 seconds. There were plenty of times last night when I rounded a corner to find a level 3 SG there when only moments before there was nothing.
One problem with the old Engineer was how reliant the class was on its Sentry. If destroyed, typically the Engy was in hot water. Well Valve added a new shotgun called the Frontier Justice that shoots "Revenge Crits" after the SG is destroyed (even if blown up by the Engineer himself!). For every kill the Sentry gets, the shotgun stores 2 Revenge Crits; for every assist, 1 crit. The downfall is that the Frontier Justice has half the magazine size of the normal shotgun (3 versus 6), and doesn't receive normal crits.
If planning isn't your thing, you can equip the new melee weapon, a mechanical hand called the Gunslinger. It provides an extra 25 Health to the Engineer, guarantees a crit on the 3rd successive melee strike, and let's the player deploy a Mini-Sentry. This cute little tripod costs only 100 metal (versus 140 for the normal SG), builds 4 times faster, and deploys with full health. Problem is that it cannot be repaired or upgraded and only deals half the damage as a normal Sentry. This certainly helps the Engy be more offensive.
Another game changing weapon replaces the pistol and is called the Wrangler. Activating this device let's the Engineer take control of their Sentry, letting them aim the stationary gun with no range limits and fire at double the normal rate. A laser originating from the Engy points to the target, and the Sentry gains a damage shield that absorbs 66% of incoming damage. Should the player die or deactivate the Wrangler, the SG becomes inactive for 3 seconds. Previously infeasible sentry locations and now usable since Engineers can overcome the range limits.
There is also another wrench you can find which adds a bleed effect to victims, making pesky Spies easier to dispatch.
I think it may be too soon to tell if the game has completely changed. Very rarely does anyone do the typical Sentry turtling, but that may be because of the novelty of the update. The game does feel fresh though, as many people are trying out crazy tactics and enjoying all the new options.