Last month, the voice behind Team Fortress 2‘s Soldier, Rick May, passed away at 79, after contracting Covid-19 during rehabilitation from a stroke in February. This week, Valve’s vibrant battlefields grew a little sombre, as an update brought official tributes to the voice actor across TF2’s farms, forts and fighting pits.
For some, May will be forever known as the voice behind the infamous “do a barrel roll” line in Starfox 64. But for us PC folks, his voice is best recognised as the roaring bloodthirst of TF2’s Soldier, screaming “maggot!” from across gravel-pits and payload tracks. Some TF2 players have already sent off the Soldier with their own farewells, including a 21-gun salute atop the bridge on 2fort.
This week, Valve paid official respects to May with a small game update that, nestled quietly among minor bug and exploit fixes, included “a tribute” to the Soldier voice actor. Valve’s tribute takes the form of statues dotted across what seems like all the official maps, notably including rocket-jump playgrounds Hightower and Doublecross. The bronze statues show the Soldier saluting, with a plaque reading “Rick May 1940-2020 – That was a hell of a campaign, son”.
That statue will occasionally play one of the Soldier’s in-game taunts and voice clips. For my money, though, none of them holds a candle to the simple elegance of May’s best line in the role: “I have done nothing but teleport bread for three days”. The game’s title screen has also been updated with a new piece of music – a Team Fortress-inspired take on remembrance staple The Last Post.
It’s hard to say that May’s been immortalised in Team Fortress 2. One day, even Valve’s servers will shut down. But it’s a hell of a gesture for one of our medium’s most definitive voices.