The team that controls the middle of the map, whether it’s a control point or a simple cave, has the advantage over their opposition. Whether it’s simply a psychological advantage of forcing the enemy into a defensive style of play, or the very real strategic advantage of closer spawns and decreased spawn timers, those with map control are given more freedom to launch attacks however they like.
Map control is one of the most important but most overlooked concepts in TF2 and indeed many multiplayer games. “But map control is for those RTS folks to worry about, that’s why I’m playing an FPS!” I (hopefully don’t) hear you say. If you are used to thinking along these lines, playing TF2 like the new CS, then you’re exactly the kind of person that needs to be reading this article. I’ll attempt to explain as fully as I can this critical concept in the hope that you can put it to good use and ensure your team knows what they’re doing.
Basically, the team with superior map control will win the map 90% of the time. There is exception in some maps where a spy can slip through and win the game in 10 seconds, but once the two teams establish their defences and clash in the middle, map control becomes the deciding factor in the long run. If you take a hypothetical bird’s eye look at a map, it will generally be constructed such that from left to right you’ll see one team’s base, ground in the middle where the teams fight, and then the other team’s base. It is this ground in the middle that is so important, both strategically and psychologically.
Take a map like Well for example. At the very beginning, both teams rush into the middle control point and fight for it. One team wins the initial battle, and before the other team’s fallen can respawn, the victorious team takes control of the train yard. From this point on, the team that captured that middle control point will defend it with their life and treat it as a staging ground to launch attacks from. In this case, the team that controls the middle point has an almost insurmountable advantage and will almost never lose the map – it may end in sudden death, but they tend to not lose.
There are two main reasons for this – the strategic and psychological. Strategically, if the middle of the map has a control point, the team that controls it receives the very real advantage of spawning further forward, making it easier to both defend and attack and they also receive decreased spawn times. If they manage to capture the next control point, their spawn is once again moved forward and spawn times further reduced. It should be obvious why these not only give the winning team an advantage, but also prevent the losing team from regaining a foothold in the map – the team with the map control is simply better able to defend than the team without can attack.
The strategic advantage on maps without a control point in the middle (2Fort and Hydro, as well as Dustbowl and Gravel Pit if you tackle the control points one at a time) is slightly more subtle but very apparent when a team takes advantage of it. By simply controlling a small cave or any sized room with chokepoint entrances, a team receives two bonuses. Firstly, it is more able to defend against attackers by intercepting them before they become an objective threat, and secondly it can turn that mid-map point into a forward base, with sentry guns and dispensers to fortify their defence as well as teleporters to boost their offensive power.
The second reason, the psychological, stems from the first. Time and time again I’ve seen the team with control of the middle control point push further and further forward, and if they don’t manage to win outright, they are certainly wining when the clock hits 0:00. This makes sense, right? The idea of a control point map is to capture all the control points, so by pushing further and further forward, a team is simply completing their objective, attacking the control points. Apparently it’s not that obvious. Just as often as I see the winning team push forward I see the losing team hole up and camp. They have the idea in their heads that they can’t take back even the middle point, let alone the two points after that, because the enemy’s presence is too strong there. This is reinforced every time they go outside and get sniped in the face.
This is why I stress the importance of map control. It works. However what I hope this article achieves is the recognition of its importance by everyone who reads it. This has both offensive and defensive implications: the offence (those in control) should always defend their advantage without fail. On Granary for example, the team that takes the middle point should have a higher priority on ensuring control over that point than taking the next. For the team being pushed back, their number 1 priority should be to take back control of the map, doing whatever is necessary. This is often impossible without good teamwork, so it is essential that everyone realises they have the same goal and work towards it together. Regaining control is difficult but very possible.
The bottom line is that the team that controls the map is granted a strategic advantage, and therefore they do everything in their power to hold it. The psychological advantage is evident from the fact that the team that doesn’t control it doesn’t try just as hard to take it themselves. When I talk about critical mid-map points, it is these kinds of points that I am referring to – points in the middle of the map that neither team has the inherent right to control, but the team that does manage to control them gains the advantage of map control, and generally goes on to win the game.