The Melee Weapons of Team Fortress 2: A Brief Analysis

Visit for a lot more TF2 "stuff."

Editor's note:
Great statistics DIRECTLY from Valve related to this post can be found here. It is better than anything I could ever compile myself!

You can read my guide to playing the soldier effectively against other classes, along with other class guides and strategy pages, here.

Before I get into the main topic, let me dispel this myth about control points in Team Fortress 2:

If you own a control point and it becomes halfway captured by the opposing team, standing on it does NOT increase the speed at which you regain "ownership" of the point. Period. There is no evidence that shows this.

How did the above rumor even get started? Maybe people confused this with the property of control points where standing on them prevents capture by the opposing team.

Anyway, on to the main topic.


I was really curious about how melee weapons in TF2 worked, so I ran some tests and crunched some numbers.

Pictures of some of the classes' melee weapons are interspersed with information... keep things "fresh" and "interesting."

Going into this my questions were: "How much damage does each melee weapon do? Do different melee weapons do different amounts of damage? Does your character class have an effect on how much damage you take? Are some weapons really faster than others? Does where on the model you hit an enemy effect how much damage they take?"

I was able to answer all of these questions. What order should I present the results in? I don't know.

First, the simple stuff:

  • Where you attack an enemy does not effect how much damage they take. The only exception to this rule would of course be the spy's backstab -- but then again, that isn't even really in the same category as other melee attack as it does no damage -- it's just an instant kill. This gameplay mechanic might be extended to other weapons too, of course, with the exception of the sniper's rifle that can get a headshot which again, is an instant kill and outside of the scope of other attacks. When considering the damage other weapons do it's important to consider how "direct" of a hit you get. The scout's primary weapon is obviously going to do more damage if you're hit by every pellet in his shot. The soldier's rockets will do more damage if the person is hit dead-on by them as opposed to just being hurt by the "splash damage" from the explosion.
  • Your class has no effect on how much damage you take from melee attacks -- again, this is probably the case with other types of attacks. In other words, a heavy has no measurable defense benefit over a scout -- not directly, anyway (there are other outside factors, such as a medic's inclination to heal a heavy more than most other classes, or an enemy's inclination to kill a medic before other classes, that surely have an indirect effect on the "safety" of a class).

Different melee weapons do different amounts of damage. Preliminary tests also suggest that some weapons have a greater range of damage than others, but this needs to be studied further. The scout's weapon is the fastest. Its speed appears to be balanced by it's relatively low melee damage -- whereas other classes seem to be able to do melee damage well into the 70s on a non-critical hit, the scout's attack did a maximum of 36 damage in our testing. Basically, you are trading speed for damage when you use the scout. It seems balanced, and for some players and certainly in some situations, the scout's melee attack is undoubtedly preferable to the others.

Our data set was small and not very well balanced, but we were able to learn the things above. We do not know the exact range of damage of each of the melee weapons -- aside from the scout, they appeared to be in the same range -- 40s on the low end, 70s on the high end.

The sniper's attack seemed to be noticably slower than the other attacks. Our hits were consistently higher though -- no attack landed for below 60 damage. Perhaps this is a trade-off for the apparent slowness of his attack.

  • Location of attack does not matter (except backstabs and headshots, of course).
  • Class choice does not award any explicit defensive benefits.
  • Scout has the fastest weapon, but it is the weakest -- there is a tradeoff here. Average damage is about 30.
  • Other classes' melee weapons do damage ranging from the low 40s to the high 70s.
  • Some classes may have damage ranges that are higher or lower than others, and these may be dependent on the speed of attack or other factors yet unknown, or maybe even no factors at all -- just Valve's choice.
In the future we could learn a lot more about the mechanics of this game with similar tests. We will need larger data sets to give truthful estimates of the range of damage of each weapon, and we should use the melee attack sound effect in combination with a time measurement piece as a metric to see just how fast each attack is. This is a really rich and well balanced game and I'd like to spend as much time as possible learning the secrets behind its mechanics -- if no one beats me to it.

Thanks to Glass Brain for taking the time to help me with these tests.


no2mro said...

Thanks a lot for doing this. I've been curious about the "gears" of this game since shortly after beginning.

I had figured Valve would post all this information on their main site. But that's just the bias I picked up from my World of Warcraft days; every number, every question you could have is scrutinized by the players of that game - and openly discussed by the developers :).

It shouldn't be long though until people like you post more blog entires :D.

Most useful bit of into you've found, for me? That as a sniper I can shoot someone's foot (at least this is inferred) and it does the same damage shooting them in the torso would do.

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Xavier Meyer said...

Uhhh I hate to nit pick here but sniper rifles and backstabs don't register as scripted "insta-kills" but do so much damage there's no way of surviving them. A sniper's headshot does right around the neck of the woods of 502 points of damage on headshot and spy's backstab ALWAYS does x6 the enemies total health

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