The new maps in Tough Break feel super generic, but they’re at least very well made. And after the oddity of themes like aliens, halloween and PASS Time, maybe its good for TF2 to take a step back and support some tried-and-true game modes with new gimmick-free maps.
Nevertheless I’m surprised to find myself liking ctf_landfall as much as I do. It’s Capture the Flag after all, a legendarily poorly-designed game mode. But somehow, Landfall does a really good job of balancing the concept and avoiding perpetual stalemates. The map has a wonderful three-dimensional design with two designated layers of combat that always favors players on the second floor of buildings, and I think this plays a large part in balancing out the sentries. The intelligence zone heavily favors the attackers, as a wide open area, but also contains a few protective props that create comfy sentry spots, which is a nice balance because it allows Engineers to do their job without overly punishing a concentrated offensive effort.
If I had a complaint, it’s that steamrolls tend to snowball. Oftentimes the combats can feel incredibly balanced, with both teams maintaining dedicated offensive and defensive groups and the flags in a constant state of being picked up, dropped, and returned. But if one team can destroy the enemy defenses with one well-executed stomp, they are already spawncamping and it becomes difficult for the respawned losing team to push out to even the very first courtyard, often leading to a quick hat trick of captures.
I think the aforementioned height balance of the middle area is what really makes this map. The giant tree with the catwalks leading to the second floor balconies creates a very good area for deathmatching but is also difficult to hold onto defensively, leading to it constantly changing possession and controlling the flow of the fight. It hits that stride where all nine classes can do their job effectively and nobody is overly stomped on by map design, which does not happen often in Capture the Flag.
All in all, I’d say Landfall is about as well-made as a Capture the flag map is going to be. I’m not surprised it only got 9th place in the contest though, as its charms are rather well-hidden by the generic alpine conceit and very simplistic “hallways and sightlines” map design. And it’s oh-so ripe for alternate game modes. I think a CP version where the middle point is in the tree would lead to some nice back-and-forth gameplay, though the length of the map would need to be extended some. And god help me, but Mannpower I suspect could be a blast there as well. I’d kill for a grappling hook in that intel area.