Team Fortress 2

"Medic!"

There's no sound quite like it. Well, there's the sound of the medic running around screaming "I am on fire!" That's pretty good too. Oh and then there's the grumpy school teacher protesting that the "enemy has been granted additional time."

Never mind it's all good. It's all brilliantly good. The weapon sounds, environmental effects, the music -- each perfect for the setting. In fact, the sound design of Team Fortress 2 is so good it would almost be reason enough to play it. But luckily, there are other reasons. Here they are.

It's almost free. I was going to be buying Half Life 2: Episode 2 no matter what. I would likely have paid $44.95 just for that. I have no burning interest in Portal, and I already own HL2 and Episode 1. But here's the thing, I'd also pay $44.95 to play Team Fortress 2. So by my twisted algebra, I'm either getting Episode 2 for free, or I'm getting TF2 for free.

It looks fabulous. It's not Space Giraffe trippy "oooh look at my HDR" fabulous, but fabulous in an entirely different way. By abandoning the pervasive trend towards photo realism in first person shooters, Valve's nailed it. The game looks wonderful in any resolution (seriously, it looks great in a 640 by 480 window), is completely unique, and highly immersive.

Even more important is the animation. I find myself increasingly taking "good" animation in games for granted. Developers have become very sophisticated in the art of motion capture and representation, from the big daddies of BioShock to the performance characteristics and deformability of the cars in Forza 2, the goal is realism. TF2 throws that out the window. Taking cues more from traditional animation than from game design, the animations are exaggerated, fluid, and because of that, just plain funny. The animation is perhaps the key to why TF2 simply feels so good.

It's designed to be fun. This may sound axiomatic since we're talking about games here, but there's a difference between "lets go to the circus and watch jugglers" fun, and "lets go ride our bicycles 100 miles in the rain" fun. Having done both, they are both entertaining, but very different.

TF2 is designed to be the circus-clown kind of fun. Some of this is obvious - the Demoman flashing the happy face on his crotch as his taunt, for instance. But the goof-factor is built into nearly every component of the game, from the design of the buildings and characters, to the pacing of the maps. On top of this, there are dozens of stupid little extras. My personal favorite pointless touch is the Nemesis system. When someone kills you often enough, the game puts little fists over them whenever you see them, so you can make sure to smack them hard. It's the difference between being annoyed and enjoying dying.

It's designed for people who suck (and you guys too) If you're 18 years old, have sharp reflexes, and 3 hours a day to play first person shooters, you will kick my ass. I might get a lucky head shot or chainsaw once in a while, but there's not much I can really do about this. TF2 is designed to reward multiple play styles. Most of the time when we see that on a box what it really means is "it's designed to reward one play style, but if you're a 'tard you can play this other way." In the case of TF2, there are substantial, necessary and skillful roles to fill that do not require quite the lightning reflexes of a heated Gears match.

That's not to say that being an Engineer, or a Medic or any other class is necessarily easy. Each of the 9 classes is accessible, but each is also best played by someone who knows what they're doing. I don't know what I'm really doing yet, but I do know how to maintain a defensive placement with a couple of other engineers, for example, and if I find myself out-pinged and out-caffeinated, I know i can at least do something useful and fun.

It's dynamic. Another marketing buzzword which usually means "things change all the time for no apparent reason." In TF2, the dynamism comes from map design, player styles, and strategic shifts. Playing against a team which is determined to turtle is very different than playing against a team that's all offense. And these differences mean you need to experiment with different classes and strategies. The mix of classes is constantly changing in response to the situation, and this just plain makes if un-boring. In a game of, say, Battlefield 2, while there are many choices about how I can play a given round, in general, they're going to devolve to what I happen to be decent enough at to play, and the variation is nowhere near that between a Scout and a Medic in Team Fortress 2.

By keeping the classes extremely limited they've ensured that each class is truly unique. None of the classes is unplayable, boring, or underpowered.

It's highly strategic. Because of its fundamental simplicity, TF2 resembles a game of chess more than a flat out fog-of-war, artillery-laden chaos-battle. More than any multi player game in recent memory, I want to play with a real, regular team against other regular teams. I'm not delusional enough to think I will, but I want to because I can see deep and evolving map strategies and counter-strategies emerging.

Just like the tournament scene for Magic: The Gathering, the orthogonal possibilities for a given map are exciting and enticing. Have you tried an all-scouts raiding attack in Gravel Pit? I have, and let me just say it's insanely great, nobody expects it, and you can get away with it. What about an all heavies march-of-doom on the control point maps. Strategies like that would never survive long term, but I can easily see dozens of viable, reproducible strategies that would at least be a hell of a lot of fun to try.

It's Short. Unfortunately, this isn't true of all the maps. The territorial control version (represented by Hydro in the beta) can go on for ever, in particularly frustrating fashion. But the core of Team Fortress has always been 2forts capture the flag, and the TF2 version of 2forts is essentially perfect. There's a sweet spot in multi player games for me. Dying has to matter enough that it's not a pure zerg-fest, but at the same time, I'm completely done with games that force me to run for 2 minutes just so I can get killed again. TF2 seems to strike the balance perfectly.

It's PC. I'll admit it, I have great love for the PC as a gaming platform. But until recently (when I kicked off the last round of gaming nirvana with Civ iV: Beyond the Sword, took a detour through BioShock, and landed on TF2), I'd spent far more time with my 360 than with my PC. At the moment, playing TF2 on the PC doesn't buy me anything in and of itself. But it does fill me with hope: TF2 with a good mod community would be a game I play for a long time, possibly years, just as the original was.

It's Steam Baby! The dirty little secret of the TF2 beta is the heavy, heavy win for Steam Community. Here are all the reasons Steam suddenly rocks even more than it did last month, but WAY more than it did when it launched.


  • 180 people in the GWJ Steam community. My 99 person friends list on Xbox LIVE is simply a poor substitute.
  • Fantabulous server finding, filtering, and managing.
  • Dedicated servers are easy and free to set up.
  • Multi and single person chat that just works.
  • Spy on all your friends games, join them with a click.
  • Stats. Where did this come from? TF2 stats beat the crap out of Xbox LIVE.

Two months ago, Xbox LIVE was hands down the single best game community and multi player management experience out there. I can't even imagine going back now. Sure, if nobody I knew was on Steam, it would suck. But with games like this, it's only going to get better.

Is it a perfect game? No. Is it everything I hoped TF2 would be? Yes, and then some. I guess it's impossible for a game to be an instant classic when it's actually the sequel to a classic. But regardless, it's going to be an icon on my desktop for a long, long time.
--

Thanks to the GWJ community for the screenshots

Comments

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Yea, this game is absofreakinglutely amazing. I have never, ever had more fun with a multiplayer FPS, period end of story.

Death - Spot on. I've never been less frustrated about dying in a game. 'Your Head! --> Your Torso! <-- Another bit of you! ^' I absolutely love that, and will eventually collect gigs of screencaps of where I got gibbed and there's bits of me in the screen.

Everything else: I love Steam. It's absolutely amazing, and I have a hard time reconciling this Steam with the much maligned Steam from back in the day. Are they really the same thing? I don't know, and I don't care.

All in all, I love the fast pace, it's an absolute blast. The respawn timer is perfect, just enough to make you think twice about zerging, and forces the coordination.

PTT is awesome, I absolutely love it. I have a hard time remembering to hit the right key, but that's fine.

The strategy and dynamic aspects are awesome. Last night we were running through, and there was one of the push for control points maps where we got slammed trying a scout rush, but turned it around with a balanced team and just absolutely tore it up. Awesome to see how that flows from one round to the next.

I never really was on your side.

Mmmedic!!

From what little I was able to see while trying TF2 on a friend's PC, I agree in your assesment of the game on all fronts. They recaptured the endless combinations potential which made possible by TFC's brilliant simplicity. 2fort is indeed almost a game of chess.

Great writeup. I love seeing a Team Fortress game again. I missed the playstyle since folks moved on from TFC.

I cant think of any fps where I've actually found myself laughing at my own demise, fantastically fun to play and teamwork as well!

The animation style allows for a game like TF2 to achieve longevity without having the graphics look dated compared to games that go for photorealism. Look at what WoW has done. Their decision to use a less realistic style and more cartoony style allows for the game to escape the "out of date critiques" many games suffer in terms of replayability.

The different combinations make it great. An all scout rush is not only a blast, but not hard to convince everyone to participate in. It is just hectic mayhem that I found myself just pulling out the bat and swinging at red blurs that flew in front of my screen.

You hit on everything I think I would talk about with TF2. I haven't played TF since I was in college, and my love for it is back in full-swing. They seem to have balanced the game to near perfection. From the speed scout to the wind-up of a heavy's chaingun, it all just feels right. I've had a blast playing as every single class. Granted, I'm not nearly as quick on the reflexes as I once was, but as you and Penny Arcade point out, they've done a wonderful job of ensuring I'm not left out. I think I'll be playing this for months, if not years.

Have you checked out the developer commentaries? They're a hoot - and do a great job of explaining decisions they made and some of the lower-level game mechanics. You can really tell this was a labor of love for all of them.

"If you're 18 years old..."

It absolutely is a labour of love and it shows through all its pores. I had another one of imaginary "achievements" last night: a person on a pub server (be)/friended me because we were having and all around hoot. I also played on a 24/7 Dustbowl server when I coudln't get into Stan's Launge. It was absolutely fantastic. I must've played for like 4 hours straight. Not a single run through felt even remotely similar. In fact, I've come to enjoy the repetition of the same map to a great extent. I think I'll be looking for such servers in the future. I think it allows for deeper strategies to develop. It makes it more than just a game. And let me tell you, holding off the final cap point on Dustbowl, for 14 full minutes, after you've been steamrolled on the previous 5 caps, is a phenomenal feeling.

Nice piece.

My only quibble is this: "lightning reflexes of a heated Gears match"

Gears doesn't require fast reflexes. It's one of the slower shooters I've played. TF2 seems much faster and more suited to twitch gamers.

Nice writeup, I totally agree. I really prefer games that have character and their own sense of style, and TF2 really does this exceptionally well. We've already seen realistic soldiers done time and time again, I think the art style was a great choice to set this game apart. They did a great job also on the gameplay, and making each class feel and play very differently from the others.

I'm also brand new to Steam and have to agree it seems a really cool service for getting gamers together. I wonder though, does anyone know offhand of any future multiplayer games that will use the service?

wasn't half life 1 episode 1 available at stores for 19.99? how is 44.95 for ep2 and tf2 viewed as nearly free for anything?

araczynski wrote:

wasn't half life 1 episode 1 available at stores for 19.99? how is 44.95 for ep2 and tf2 viewed as nearly free for anything?

Perceived value, you dirty skimmer.

rabbit, the superhuman genius wrote:

I was going to be buying Half Life 2: Episode 2 no matter what. I would likely have paid $44.95 just for that. I have no burning interest in Portal, and I already own HL2 and Episode 1. But here's the thing, I'd also pay $44.95 to play Team Fortress 2. So by my twisted algebra, I'm either getting Episode 2 for free, or I'm getting TF2 for free.

See? He's buying Episode 2, a game he would pay 45 bucks for. he's also getting the absolutely super marvelous wonderful here to save you from cancer Team Fortress 2, which he would also pay 45 bucks for. So, since he's only having to pay 45 bucks once, he's getting one of them free. Makes perfect sense, I think.

1Dgaf wrote:

Gears doesn't require fast reflexes. It's one of the slower shooters I've played. TF2 seems much faster and more suited to twitch gamers.

Hrmm... I think you're probably right, and so far I'd say Enemy Territory might make a better example. But my experience in gears matches has been that I get owned really quickly to snipers and precision, maybe its not fast reflexes, it's accuracy. Or just plain suckitude.

peterb wrote:

"If you're 18 years old..."

I put that in there just to draw out a coffee grinder (grin).

*cough*

EDIT: Why do my posts have so much empty space in them recently?

EDIT: Thanks, quintin. I'll kill the quote.

I love it, like others have said I haven't had the twitch to want to go into the computer room and fire up a (multiplayer) game for a while. I'm sneaking in rounds while the kid sleeps, I try to get a few more in before and after dinner and maybe just one more before bed.

I love that there are roles that don't require uber-mouse/sniping skills. Much like Tycho at PA said, they've made being a support role (Medic for me) cool and fun.

I hope there are more maps from valve with the actual release but the community will help fill that gap too.

McChuck wrote:

*cough*

EDIT: Why do my posts have so much empty space in them recently?

Your sig will start vertically where your avatar and location text end.

TF2 really hits the nail on the head in so many ways.

The "goof factor", as Rabbit calls it, could very easily have been obnoxious, annoying, or just plain eye-rollingly bad (pick a later Crash Bandicoot game for an example). This is especially true in a testosterone-filled, online slugfest, where such a "goof factor" would seemingly have no place. Instead, it was handled with the very finest of touch, and not only adds to the fun, but helps take the edge off of the sometimes harsh world of online shooters, without sacrificing a single drop of the competitiveness and the gratification of blasting your opponent to bits. That's "worth waiting 10 years for" brilliance.

I love this on the PC, and can't wait to play it on the 360. This streamlined take on TF should translate extremely easily to the gamepad (anyone's personal preferences about stick vs. mouse aiming aside). I imagine something like the triggers for fire and alt. fire, the bumpers for switching weapons (something I'd like even better than the number keys or mouse wheel on PC), face buttons for jump/crouch/medic!/etc, the face buttons for things like the engineer's build menu (four build options, four face buttons, whaddaya wanna bet?), etc.

Oh, and as for the point about how great Steam and Steam Community is, this is true...... except for the fact that all the cool features are limited to Steam games only. Sure, I can import my other games as shortcuts to launch from inside Steam, but Steam Community has no idea WTF they are. As a result, Steam cannot completely replace Xfire yet, let alone be talked up as Xbox Live's superior. It's great until you want to join someone's Battlefield game, then it's worthless. It's a great start, and I would love nothing more than for it to bring the friend tracking and game joining functionality to ALL major online PC games, and not just Steam ones. Until then, Xfire and Xbox Live still have a massive feather in their caps that Steam Community doesn't.

Ihavebeenplaying this game for 49 hours straight maybe I should go shoot someone for realz

Jeebus, now I have to buy this in addition to Quake Wars. I knew this when I saw the engineer and heavy guy promos, but your evil article just sealed the deal. Evil, evil article.

I look forward to playing TF2 in the evenings, something I haven't had in a multiplayer-centric game in a long time. It has pretty much squelched any desire I had to pick up Quake Wars or Halo 3 as I am getting that shooter itch scratched so nicely. Now if we could get just 4 or 5 more maps - even just one new CTF map would be sublime.

I love 2Fort - as Rabbit pointed out, it is extremely well balanced. I think my second favorite map is Gravelpit, just because I love the epic defensive struggles around point C that usually occur. The sheer mayhem and frantic firefights are so much fun.

rabbit wrote:

...None of the classes is unplayable, boring, or underpowered.

I disagree with that claim for only one class: The pyro definitely needs some work; his flamethrower's range is too limited, meaning he only works in close-quarters. What is he supposed to do in maps that are dominated by large open areas? In my case, the answer is, be another class.

But otherwise, after having spent 10 hours with TF2, I keep craving more. It even motivated me to create a Steam Community group for my university's gaming club; I'd been trying for years to move them into the realm of PC gaming, and I think TF2/Steam may be the game that makes that possible. Yeah, there's Xfire, but I can't depend on others having Xfire, whereas you have to use Steam for Valve games.

I went into the GWJ community server once and had a blast. I hope to see many of you there again in the near future.

Valve did a really good job balancing the classes in TF2 which I felt was a problem in TFC. In TF2 you can actually have an engineer out on the battlefield helping out instead of holding back all the time. I also love the amazing sense of teamwork. Following a heavy as a medic and jumping around cover while trying to heal him is just plain fun and could mean the difference between a win or a loss. Nice article Rabbit, and good job Valve.

I've never really been into FPS games online as I suck as them and just get bored fast. But this one is so absolutely awesome in every way that I find myself really anxious to get home from work to play it. I have Metroid Prime 3, World In Conflict, Halo 3 and tons more coming down the pipe and I can put any of them aside in a heartbeat if someone says they want to play. This game is pure gold.

So much fun... and I agree with Legions point that the cartoony graphics helps keep the mood lighter than most online shooters, at least for now. Hopefully it'll continue after full release and a few more kiddies get into the games. Heres hoping.

Case in point - I'm playing as a heavy on a public server last night, I got a medic hooked up to me and approaching 90% to his ubercharge, I got a pile of teammates behind me and a wall of bad guys comes around the corner, and I'm mowing them down left right and centre. Starting to think I'm pretty hot stuff y'know..

Then I get run over by a train. Got so lost in the moment I ignored the clanging warning, just... splat

Funny enough as that was, I hear someone over voice eventually say 'Dude you didn't even SEE that did you', and everyone (total strangers) just fell about laughing. It was just great stuff.

Simply awesome game - fun, fast, and frenetic. The art direction rocks balls, and production values are amazing.

If it wasn't for World of Conflict I'd be in game with all of you more. 'til then ...

If you haven't purchased it - go grab it, it's worth every cent.

I posted this in the TF2 Catch All, but just wanted to share it here, too, since it really enhances all the great things about the game ...

7inchsplit wrote:

I put together a little playlist to run in the background while playing TF2, and it made the whole experience shine even more. I tried to match the aesthetic as much as possible (ie, spy, lounge, Looney Tunes, surf). I put the playlist together in Rhapsody, so all tracks are available through there.

• Powerhouse - Raymond Scott (version by Don Byron from the album Bug Music)
• A Gringo Like Me - Ennio Morricone
• Pink Elephants on Parade - Lee Press-on and the Nails (I wanted the Sun Ra version, but oh well)
• Planet Claire - The B-52s
• Dynamite - The Clee-shays
• Tippi-toes - The Meters
• The Chase - Ennio Morricone
• Mr. Pushkin Came to Shove - Combustible Edison
• ?? - Esquival (can't remember the track name)
• Mesquito from Meggido - Rabbinical School Dropouts (jazz + klezmer!)
• Gear! - Dave Myers and his Surf-tones (from Lost Legends of Surf Guitar, vol. 1)
• Straight to the Top - Tom Waits

I heartily recommend trying this out - there is nothing like stealing the other teams intel to Powerhouse, or raining grenades down on enemies to Pink Elephants on Parade. These tracks should be a good start, and I hope to expand this some more.

It seems like the better the players get in TF2 (the more they get the idea of the game), the more people want to use real teamwork, especially on the "red defends" maps, and 2fort. When you have people on the mic coming up with strategies, or people calling for help (like me!) and half your team shows up...god what a rush. I have been on the receiving end of a scout rush, and it's freaking hilarious and scary at the same time. They tried it again...and got mowed down by 5-6 turrets. Somebody already mentioned the whole "rock paper scissors" feel of the strategies...but dang it, it's much more fun than that might imply.

Especially great being on the side that's lost the last few rounds, and suddenly you've got 3 medic/heavy pairs, a couple soldiers and/or demo guys and BOOM, you roll over them like they're not even there.

I definitely had some frustration at first (mostly from getting killed by spies). But once I learned the mantra "don't get frustrated, switch characters and get even...." it's all been good. 40 hours in the last two weeks. And even playing with you guys while connecting from Greece....awesomeness.

Re: Pyro

Answer: He's the second fastest class after scout. Try it. He's a killer run-n-gun. Granted, he has less to do in a big wide open map than he does in, say 2forts. But then again, engineers can get pretty pointless in TC maps. They all have their place.

shihonage wrote:

Jeebus, now I have to buy this in addition to Quake Wars. I knew this when I saw the engineer and heavy guy promos, but your evil article just sealed the deal. Evil, evil article.

You should. I'm not a fan of...well anything online but I am loving TF2 and playing with the GWJ crew is even better.

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