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February 7th, 2011

How To Live With Grenades (The Exact Opposite of a Self-Help Book)

Posted in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare News, Counter-Strike: 1.6 News, Counter-Strike: Source News, Halo News, Left4Dead News, Team Fortress 2 News, Team Fortress News, Uncategorized
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Grenades! The exclamation mark is part of the proper spelling, because no noun has ever deserved one as much. This single usually-shouted word contains more warnings about the fragility of life, the urgent need for immediate action, pure excitement and sheer explosive force than ten self-help books and a thousand philosophy courses. It’s also much more useful, whether you’re faced with zombies or just trying not to waste your damn time in general. They’ve been essential part of blowing things up for centuries. Ever since man first thought “I really want to kill all those guys but they know that and won’t let me come over.”

They lead to far more arguments online than in the real world, because a real grenade’s entire function is to render the target incapable of discussion. We’ve looked over some of the most popular first person shooters to see how they deal with this most urgent of action-items.


Halo revolutionized first person shooting with three things. The first was the beautiful Warthog.

The first time suspension was sexier than suspenders.

The second was making grenades effective, which sounds like making steak delicious but had been screwed up by every other game in history. Even the incredible GoldenEye (which you can now replay on Half–Life servers!) included grenades as one of the regular weapons. Which was the problem. It meant you had to cycle through the weapons to get them and a situation where you have time to idly flick through your armory is the exact opposite of the time you need a grenade. Halo servers attached grenades two an always–on button, and – along with the regenerative shield – revolutionized console shooting combat forever.

Modern Warfare

Call of Duty 4 embraced grenades like a noble soldier in a crowded trench, and did far better out of the deal. It certainly lasted longer. Modern Warfare’s emphasis on realism unfortunately includes how grenades are utterly, utterly lethal. Every CoD expert has inbuilt reactions because of them – if you want to kill a Modern Warfare player, just sneak up behind them on the sidewalk and make that “tinkling” noise. They’ll automatically sprint into traffic.

Just another day at Shipment
The downside is that grenades are realistically effective in real combat, where dying doesn’t count as winning. Modern Warfare servers don’t have that limitation. A cheap enough player can choose 3x Frag Grenades and Martyr to spew more random explosive death than a meteor shower, which is at least the act of a random uncaring cosmos and not a cheap scumbag. The Martyr perk in particular, where you drop a grenade after dying (i.e. it rewards you for being worse than the player who killed you) has divided the CoD community into two camps: those who think it’s cheap, and the cheap–asses who use it and whine that it’s totally fair.


The most contentious because Counter–Strike servers are the most popular, the most competitive, and more unlikely to change than Commandments carved in solid diamond and frozen in Carbonite.


The problem is that CS uses status–changing grenades, the annoying smoke and the appallingly annoying flashbang. It may be a real tool used against terrorists but that’s because we hate terrorists and don’t want them to have fun. Blindness breaks one of the fundamental rules of fun game design: removing control from the player and/or scrambling their input so their ability makes no difference.

Not fun, especially when you know there’s someone trying to shoot you in the head.

Team Fortress Classic

The genesis of truly classic class–based combat. The makers of Team Fortress Classic knew that variety was the spice of life. Unfortunately they didn’t know that “making up a bunch of different things” is to “game design” as “blowing up a quarry” is to “constructing a building.” Team Fortress Classic servers are fun, but about as balanced as Muhammad Ali versus Tom Thumb on a seesaw.

Worse interpersonal relationships than a Tila Tequila show

The grenades are a greater collection of flaws and cliches than American Idol auditions. The concussion and plague grenades annoy the target more than outright death, which at least doesn’t scramble their controls, while the worst offender is the Engineer’s EMP grenade. The damage done is proportional to the metal carried by the target, which sounds cool and involved the very first time you see it. The second time you realise “Doesn’t that mean Engies could one–hit kill Heavies at long range from any direction? And isn’t that more broken than Atlantis’s levees?

Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2 is the greatest upgrade in history. They took all the potential of TFC and made it actually happen, and the most important part was taking out all the unbalanced grenades…

… and turning them into part of the Dustbowl ecosystem.

A psychocycloptic part

The Demoman means all the great grenade tactics still work – indirect fire, anticipating enemy paths, targeting groups – without breaking the balance because the Demoman has a longer reload time and less close–range combat skill than a pregnant woman. Which doesn’t stop idiots who think “Charge forward screaming” is an acceptable tactic from complaining that he’s too powerful.

Left 4 Dead

You could discover a call–center full of Neo Nazis and it still wouldn’t be a more perfect place for grenades than a Left 4 Dead server. Most of the thrown weapons on L4D servers aren’t regular grenades, with the bile jar and the brilliantly Tankicidal molotov, but sometimes nothing but a beeping cylinder of explosive pipe–bomb death will do.

Explosive ex-zombie excellence

It’s also the most perfect world for these grenade-a-likes: huge hordes of enemies swarming without tactics, you need to blow a hole and advance instead of killing everything, and in a reversal of the real world your enemies are attracted to the noise explosives make.

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