> I'm not sure how right or wrong I am on this viewpoint, but I think that if people can't tell who it's meant to be from the lineart/need to rely on skin tone, then it's not good enough.
There's no right or wrong for that. It's more of a style question. Some people draw very generic or abstract people, so likenesses aren't all that important. But for the rest of us, yes, faces should be recognisable, even if it's just a sketch, and even if a few characteristics aren't visible. In fact, with TF2's brilliantly character designs, I like to take it farther than that. You can push yourself to master the shapes of their bodies, the outline of their profile, or any given feature on their face so clearly that you don't need any other part of them to know who it is. It's giggling good fun, if you're into observational drawing.
Anyway, I think this new version looks a million times better. Even if you're not happy with the finished piece, I think you should still be happy with the progress you've made on it.