The long-awaited update to Team Fortress 2 was released Tuesday evening, so I've only had a brief amount of time to play around with Gold Rush, the map showcasing the new payload game type. In a word, the new game play theme is awesome. Gold Rush is much more enjoyable than Dustbowl (which I love, by the way), and I really hope more maps of this type are released over time.
Here's how Gold Rush works. A mine cart, carrying a Fat Man style bomb, must be moved from point A to point B through 3 different stages. The attacking team (BLU) moves the cart simply by standing near it; the more team members surround the cart, the faster it moves. If the cart is left unattended for 30 seconds, it begins to move backwards towards the starting point. The map is played just like Dustbowl; there are a total of 3 stages in which BLU attacks and RED defends. Once either BLU successfully attacks all stages, or RED successfully defends a stage, the teams swap sides and the stages are played again.
Gold Rush is definitely a tough map. The defending team almost always has a height advantage, making it difficult to make quick progress. A number of choke points slow things down even more. But like every other map in Team Fortress 2, things are very well balanced.
The other major change to the game comes through the new unlockable weapons and achievements. Medic is the only player class that currently supports these new features, so everyone is inevitably playing as a Medic. A total of 36 new achievements are available, and for every 12 that you unlock, a new weapon option becomes available. First up is "The Blutsauger," a syringe gun mod that leeches health from each enemy you hit. Next is "The Kritzkrieg," a medi-gun mod that gives the person you use it on a 100% chance of firing critical damage (instead of the standard Ubercharge). Finally, "The Ubersaw" bone-saw mod provides a 25% charge to your Ubercharge meter for every hit you make on an enemy. I've only gotten 4 out of the 36 achievements so far (Surgical Prep, Trauma Queen, Intern, and Group Health), so I've got quite a ways to go. Some of the achievements look impossible to get, so I doubt I'll make it all the way.
If you'd like to try out Team Fortress 2, along with the new updates, Valve is offering a free weekend this weekend (May 5-6). I can't recommend this game highly enough, and the Steam service is great, so check it out. If you do check it out, look for me; my username is jgbCodeMonkey.