Sometimes I get annoyed at how nobody in TF2 is a blanket generalist who has something to do in any situation. Sometimes I don’t want to rely on my teammates for crap, I just want to go be a versatile tanky health-regenerating speedster who laughs at the term “competitive weakness”. Once upon a time, I would then go play Team Fortress Classic and their combat Medic. Nowadays, I’m finding that Loadout has been scratching that itch for me instead.

Loadout has done a great job of carving its own little niche out of the cartoony multiplayer FPS genre. (That really needs to be a bigger genre…) As advertised, there are a huge medley of weapon parts to choose from, really truly allowing anyone to make EXACTLY what playstyle they’re looking for. You’ve always wanted a single shot bolt-action sniper rifle with iron sights, so you can pretend to be Simo Häyhä? Done. Did it always bug you that none of your shooter games had a flare shotgun? This one does. You’re welcome.

But don’t lose yourself in the splendor of making the zaniest mishmash of parts you can; my biggest piece of advice is to keep it simple, stupid. The following loadout is my personal favorite, and has clocked probably 90% of my playtime.

Shootin’ dudes in the nude, the way God intended.

For those who don’t play Loadout, that is a default pulse rifle, and a default pulse rifle that shoots healies. And a default hand grenade, but I actually swap that thing out for either a personal shield or droppable turret on a semi-regular basis. You could afford the unlockable parts to play this loadout (read: healy bullets for the secondary) after only two matches. You now have an effective presence at short, medium, and long range, can block off entrances with a steady stream of pulses, deal minor posthumous damage, heal up teammates either in combat or during lulls, and cycle around your tertiary equipment to fill whatever battlefield role you want to specialize in.

(I guess I could be honest and say there’s also a compact stock and bioscanner scopes in the pic, as well as bouncy bullets on the secondary so I can heal myself by shooting walls, but those are definitely not necessary to do well with this loadout. They just add slight adjustments that fit my playstyle.)

Speaking of turrets, Loadout‘s are thankfully far worse than TF2’s. They have maybe a 90 degree field of vision, and they die instantly to a single melee attack. You’re pretty inconvenienced if you wind up in its field of view, but intelligent and aware enemies can easily work around them. In general, I’ve found that Loadout avoids the problem of making any particular set of weapons overpowered. The most OP weapon in the game is mobility; you can roll and jump and dive and I haven’t yet managed to hit any sort of skybox. The best defense against most weapons is not getting hit by whatever they’re shooting. Though I must add the second-most OP weapon is heals; Loadout is not immune to the problem that if one team has a healer and one doesn’t, things will quickly go pear-shaped for that Medic-free team.

What it suffers from instead, and badly, is a bunch of underpowered weapon parts. All shotgun weapons have pitifully short range, a couple hammer units out and the bullets just stop existing. Fire suffers from most of the problems it does in other games, Juice is really not worth whatever weapon slot you lost equipping it…for the most part, you should either use assault rifles or rocket launchers because they haven’t subtracted any stat points in favor of situational or less useful gimmicks. However, the game wouldn’t be the same without all those options, and I can imagine its quite tough to balance all the myriad options at your disposal, so I can’t really fault them for trying.

If I could change anything about the game (and this seems really obvious…) I would make it possible to edit your loadout mid-round. I’m not talking weaponcrafting, I just mean switching grenades for the personal shield, or your pre-made pulse rifle for a pre-made grenade launcher. The problem is that before the match starts, you have no way of knowing what loadouts the other players have or even what gamemode and map you’ll be playing. So there’s absolutely no way to choose a loadout based on the general details of the round about to be played, forcing me to always keep the most generalized and versatile loadouts possible. One time, I decided to try out the ‘Jump boots’ equipment, only to find myself dropped into Comm Tower Blitz, a map with huge sightlines and a game mode revolving around both teams spawning near each other and shooting the crap out of a single (changing) control point. This was not the environment for jump boots, I needed my grenades or maybe a turret, but I had no choice but to suffer through a very painful match before I could change my equipped weapons. Considering the bread, butter and Branston pickle of this game is messing with your Loadout, I’m frankly baffled by the inability to do this.

But the game is still loads of fun, and free to play at that. I just wish the clientele were better; I am decidedly not particularly good at FPSs, but I still seem to topscore, topheal, or topcapture every round, if not more than one of those. Here’s an example of me doing it without damage-dealing weapons. I’m positive its the quality of player I’m facing, but there’s currently no way to choose your opponents whatsoever beyond private matches, though I suppose it would only hurt the game to add some sort of locked ranking system. Then the average quality of player needs to just get better somehow, I don’t know.