Once upon a time, long long ago, young aabicus made up his mind that he was ready to buy an unusual hat. I’d recently unboxed an Orbiting Lantern Officer’s Ushanka and sold it for $200 through Paypal, so I felt comfortable dropping some of that on a replacement unusual for a class I actually played.

Screenshot from June 12, 2012
Screenshot from June 12, 2012

Which hat was a no-brainer; my beloved Prussian Picklehaube was the first hat the game had ever dropped, and it sat proudly on my medic’s head ever since. But what particle effect? There were so many, and I had to weigh the pros and cons of the various effects because I’m not the sort to change my mind after making a purchase. As my perennial unchanging Medic outfit shows, I stick with the cosmetics I choose for the long run.

At first, I looked at the various flashy, attention-drawing unusual effects, but ultimately decided that they would be more of a liability on the battlefield. Snipers already target medics more than any other class, and highlighting my head with a glow-in-the-dark target seemed like it would cause me more trouble than the fashion perks would justify.

You might have never noticed this, unless you’ve closely looked at a flies unusual in-game, but the flies aren’t just little specs. Their sprites come with wings and little legs! So cute! Picture by stephy. 

Back then there weren’t too many unusual effects, and the only real candidates for the subdued shopper were Massed Flies, Nuts n Bolts, and the green and purple confettis. (And I guess smoking but smoking was needlessly expensive back then.) The confettis didn’t match at all with my white and team-colored outfit, and ultimately I decided that the flies were cooler than the bolts due to their unique form of attachment to the hat. Whereas most unusual effects either float in a fixed orbit around the hat or radiate off the hat and disappear (like Bubbling), flies is the only one I know of where the particles have this ultra-random jiggleboned swarm that covers a whole 5-foot radius around the equipped class. No other unusual can really compare to the flies’ sphere of influence, especially if you buy multiple unsuals with it.

Nowadays, you can buy and equip three different flies unusuals and become a true lord of the flies!

Thematically, they’re also probably the most realistic particle effect for a soldier on a battlefield. With warfare and shooting and bodies everywhere, it makes perfect sense that a frontline medic would have a swarm of flies following him around. I’ve had teammates tell me that they started realizing I was nearby whenever my flies started showing up in their peripherals. This is probably the best-case scenario for a medic unusual, in my opinion. Visible to your teammates, invisible to snipers, and cheap as hell on the market. Honestly I wish Valve would add more unusuals that used the flies’ form of jigglebones. Personally, I’d kill for “Massed Fireflies”; it would be almost identical to the current flies but they’d glow in the dark. You can’t deny that would be a sexy as hell unusual effect.

And make sure to try out cl_uses_third_person_model. The flies effect is particularly impressive with this camera style.

There’s just something great about having a swarm of flies at your command. Never walk onto the battlefield alone, bring a posse of friendly flies!