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

Yes, Yes, a thousand times yes!

Although I agree with legion about the whole "Steam should work like Xfire for non-steam games" thing...all I can say is: give it time. Valve is exactly what the PC community needs and the new steam is the best thing to happen since PC gaming since Blizzard.

See you all online in a few minutes, gotta walk the dog.

I'm not sure if I'll get into the game again tonight, but yeah, TF2 is a huge win for Valve and Steam is all shiney and fun.

Dysplastic wrote:

Although I agree with legion about the whole "Steam should work like Xfire for non-steam games" thing...all I can say is: give it time. Valve is exactly what the PC community needs and the new steam is the best thing to happen since PC gaming since Blizzard.

No argument here, I only brought that stuff up just to counterpoint the high level of praise in the article. I wouldn't call it the best online multiplayer setup yet, but obviously that doesn't mean that it's not kick-ass. It is kick-ass, especially considering how new it is, and I don't doubt that it will only expand from here. It should make the guys at Xfire worried, and it should make the Games For Windows Live group completely re-evaluate their product.

There still isn't a way to invite friends to join your game on any PC system so far.

Is there a package out there that is just Half Life 2 and Team Fortress 2? Honestly I don't care about the Episodes and I've already uninstalled HL2 which I had borrowed from a friend in the first place. Eh. I guess I never got into the first Team Fortress as much as others. I was too busy doing other things at that time in my life.

Yeah, I was wondering about a similar issue... Quake Wars is being sold as a full separate game. Does TF2 have a comparable amount of content for me to justify buying it for a full-game's price (I don't care for HL2 or its expansions), or is it merely something that feels like an addition rather than a product of its own ?

I would definitely pay 50 bucks for TF2 on its own, and consider the rest of the stuff as freebies. Who knows, maybe Portal will be fun.

But seriously, TF2 seems to be the answer to many different things people were looking for in an online, team shooter. And as a bonus, pretty much every public server I've been on has been remarkably free of asshats. Bonus.

I agree with Roo, and the article for that matter. This is one hell of a game. The different classes really make the game more varied than any other online game I played. And not only in the different ways you can play, but also in the multitude of different encounters you can have. Encountering a Heavy is a whole different story then encountering a pyro, and then depending on your own class you take certain actions.

I absolutely love the TF2 but the one thing I miss from the old game is the grenades. Firstly they were tactically very useful (for clearing sentry guns with the soldier's nail bomb in particular). But some of them were also great fun. The concussion grenade that made the screen sway and warp and spy's gas grenade that gave hallucinations added to the experience. I'm guessing Valve dropped them because of balance issues but it seems like they would have been right in keeping with the style of the new game.

Anyone know if there's been any commentary on the decision to have no grenades in the game?

I'm gonna chime in with Roo and the rest; TF2 is worth 45 bucks on its own, and you're telling me I get Portal, HL2, both eps for free? Sign me up.. o wait, already did.. but hey, that's fine.

Also, it will be available on its own at some point via Steam, but I don't know about anywhere else. At least, I get that impression from Steam since they have it priced separately outside the Orange Box on there.

RE: Pyro: Rabbit is spot on here. They are freaking fast, so that's fine, even on larger maps. As to the Flamethrower being limited in range.. Dude, it's a freaking Flamethrower. It's not a sniper rifle.

EvilDolphin wrote:

Anyone know if there's been any commentary on the decision to have no grenades in the game?

The TLDR version of the post in the SteamCommunity forum for TF2 is that nades suck and are never, ever coming back. Unless you're a demoman, because they get all sorts of them.

I do miss the Nailgun on my scout however, anyone find a good way to take down enemy Sentry guns with these guys?

Johnvanjim wrote:

I do miss the Nailgun on my scout however, anyone find a good way to take down enemy Sentry guns with these guys?

With Scouts? You don't. However, should you insist, the handgun at range isn't horrible, although you'll waste a bunch of ammo doing it.

Grenades were my least favorite part of the old game. They added way to much "la la la dead" to it, especially on competitive servers.

rabbit wrote:

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.

The medic is actually the second fastest class after the scout. A Pyro is slower than a medic.
I think there is a huge group below that, with everything from Pyro to Sniper, not including the heavy.
Also the way the flame behaves when you move means it actually gets shorter as you run directly towards an enemy. If you strave across a room it maintains its range, but if you move forward the flame shortens.

rabbit wrote:

Grenades were my least favorite part of the old game. They added way to much "la la la dead" to it, especially on competitive servers.

I didn't play TF but I don't mind the lack of grenades here, and I experienced plenty of grenade spam in BF2.
I also got 1-shotted last night a few time by the demoman's primary gun. Bloop, dead. I like playing demoman but I'm not sure how I feel about 1 grenade taking down a heavy at full health. I'm fine with the Sniper headshot and Spy backstabs as 1 shot kills but I'm not as happy with the demoman doing it.

Scaphism wrote:

I didn't play TF but I don't mind the lack of grenades here, and I experienced plenty of grenade spam in BF2.
I also got 1-shotted last night a few time by the demoman's primary gun. Bloop, dead. I like playing demoman but I'm not sure how I feel about 1 grenade taking down a heavy at full health. I'm fine with the Sniper headshot and Spy backstabs as 1 shot kills but I'm not as happy with the demoman doing it.

I've had it happen to me a time or two, and I'm in the opposite boat. If a demoman can hit me in the chest with a grenade, I do not deserve to live, regardless of class. Sniper headshots on a heavy aren't that hard, I've landed plenty of them. Same thing with disguising as a Spy for the shank. But to hit someone in the chest with a grenade on the run? That's skill(or luck)

Yeah, I don't have a problem with the Demoman. My experience is that you need some SERIOUS timing to get a headshot explosion with a grenade.

The luck part is what bugs me.
If a heavy and a demo both turn a corner at the same time and come face to face, each surprising the other. They both pull the trigger reflexively. Demoman shoots a grenade, heavy starts to spin up (but doesn't fire for a second).
In that scenario, the demoman should definitely get the first shot off, because of the way the weapons work. If he doesn't take the heavy down quickly or get to cover, he's toast.
But in that scenario, if the demo gets a lucky shot the heavy is dead in 1 hit. That doesn't happen with a sniper who has to charge up his shot or a spy who has to cloak or disguise himself to get into position.

The heavy shouldn't come out of that encounter unscathed, or even necessarily be the favorite to win, but the unexpected 1 hit KO doesn't feel right when no one else gets an accidental 1 shot kills. They're all deliberate and require setup.

Scaph, in your scenario skill is less of a factor than in other parts of the game. In a face-to-face, instantaneous situation such as you describe, the heavy is designed to be the victor. The other characters are designed for smarter play. I think it was made fairly obvious that the heavy was not designed to be smart.

IMO, Scaphism, the flaw in your argument is everyone else has ammunition they can pretty much control. You point and shoot with a sniper and a bullet goes straight, same with a soldier, etc. A demoman's ammunition is a lot more unpredictable. It's much harder for a demoman to get a straight shot on something due to bouncing and such. Unpredictabily leads to lucky shots.

As to personal grenades being god. THANK GOD. TF/TFC were all about, you open a door, 10 people throw a grenade in, then you run in. Nade spam is bad.

wordsmythe wrote:

Scaph, in your scenario skill is less of a factor than in other parts of the game. In a face-to-face, instantaneous situation such as you describe, the heavy is designed to be the victor. The other characters are designed for smarter play. I think it was made fairly obvious that the heavy was not designed to be smart.

And if all else fails.....

IMAGE(http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v80/Desolate_Knight/1190614686875.jpg)
(That image is simply ment for humor, not to belittle your views.)

Hey, I don't mind playing the heavy (though I haven't picked up TF2 yet). I'm just saying it's less of a "finesse" class.

There's the first "Cry Moar Noob" comment I've been waiting for.

I don't think it's a flaw in the argument - as Wordy says, in the face to face situation where two enemies are surprised, the Heavy seems to be designed to be the victor, but whether by luck or by design he's not going to. Maybe it's an intentionally designed weakness, but I'm surprised by it regardless.

As for aiming the grenade launcher - aiming it isn't actually difficult. It has a pretty stable trajectory. When it bounces though, it bounces around like a football (american). I saw someone on the Valve forums write that the grenades do less damage after they bounce - I don't know if it's true or not but it seems to mesh with what I've experienced so far. The question isn't whether nades rolling or bouncing around is out of whack, because there aren't going to be any bounce/roll grenade headshots. But if a demoman can 1 shot a heavy on the run it makes the demo even strogner and the heavy weaker. And you can bet that players are only going to get better at aiming the grenade launcher, particularly if it is a guaranteed 1 shot kill on any class.

So maybe here is the heart of the issue: If any character besides the heavy comes face to face with a demo, they will both get shots off. If a grenade headshot kills them instantly, they've still gotten a shot off and damaged the demo. The heavy won't because of spin up time, so he's vulnerable to being taken by surprise. His large HP pool and being able to swin the barrel in advance are supposed to be his "protection" against being ambushed. The demo should be able to get multiple grenades off before the heavy starts firing though. (Not tested, just theoretical.)
Come to think of it, a Pyro has the same problem - even in close quarters when both sides are surprised, the pyro doesn't have the range to damage someone with the flamethrower. It takes a half second to extend to full length and then (effectively) gets smaller as he runs towards them. Assuming they move at the same speed or faster (nearly every class does), he can't actually catch them if they backpedal while firing.

Maybe the answer is that it was designed that way on purpose and the Heavy and Pyro are supposed to have their shotguns out while turning corners and only break out the primary weapon when they're "in position". I just don't understand the reason for that. I'm not concerned about the situations where someone gets the drop on a heavy or pyro - good on them for a successful ambush, just like a sniper or spy getting off their 1-shot kills. They worked for it. I'm just not a fan of the surprise or random 1-shot kills.

Edwin wrote:

There still isn't a way to invite friends to join your game on any PC system so far.

Excellent point. It's the little-but-very-useful features that makes Xbox Live the complete package it has become over time (and it's been a long evolution to this point), and it's those things that these PC-based systems still need.

@Scaph: If you're having that issue coming around corners and not getting off shots, then spin up before you round the corner. Alt-fire for the Heavy sets the barrel spinning; applying primary fire at that point results in instant carnage. I've gotten a few kills here and there coming around corners with a heavy like that, just have to make sure you have the ammo to back yourself up.

Also, since we're discussing strategy, an open plea to all engineers: Build a dispenser first.

AnimeJ wrote:

Also, since we're discussing strategy, an open plea to all engineers: Build a dispenser first.

IMAGE(http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v80/Desolate_Knight/engy.jpg)

Spy's sappin mah sentry!!

I know I wrote a wall of text but I did note the spin up.

me wrote:

His large HP pool and being able to swin the barrel in advance are supposed to be his "protection" against being ambushed.

I know it's meant as friendly advice and hopefully someone who didn't know they could do that before does now, but I still don't know if that solves the problem.
The heavy's mobility is his real weakness. He gets to the front slower than any other class - if he needs to slow down even more to spin up the barrel before turning a corner, it exacerbates that weakness. He's essentially rooted in place while the barrel spins. That's what makes me think that the heavy and pyro are suppposed to run around with their shotguns out and only pull out the primary weapon when they're in position.

It's just especially frustrating to lose a coin toss (two enemies meet at a blind corner and both are surprised) as a heavy when it takes you so much longer to get there in the first place. Maybe that just means the heavy needs to be played more cautiously or to travel with someone to scout ahead of you. I don't know the answer, and maybe it's intentionally designed that way, but my instict as a player (and I put maybe too much time into analyzing these situations) says that the HP cushion is supposed to give the heavy a chance to react to the coin toss situation. Other classes can dodge. I think I'm okay with grenade headshots OHKO for other classes, but for heavies I think it should take one to the head and one somewhere else - which is still very feasible. I think he should be mostly dead after the headshot but not 100%.

This is the first online game I've ever gotten into... I've tried a few others but the super-hardcore atmosphere in a lot of multiplayer shooters just drove me away. I have to agree with the article that the stylized graphics and general wackiness makes this a lot less intimidating than a lot of other shooters. Even if I'm getting creamed I (usually) at least get to laugh at my own stupidity.
The stat tracking is really amazing, and the Steam community which seemingly materialized out of nowhere is a great start to something along the lines of Xbox live. Given that I'm not much of a console gamer I'm hoping this gets more developed.

As far as TF2 goes, I don't have too many complaints. If I can name any issues, I'd say the Pyro needs a bit more range. He's fast but it doesn't help much as you can't outrun a bullet, and the needed point-blank range still gives the opponent a lot of time to react. I can usually set someone on fire, but by then they've also taken me out... and they still have time to get to healing. On the other end of the spectrum the turrets seem a bit too much. A decent turret placement can be awful hard to counter.

@Scaph: Kay, missed that in the wall of text. However, there's one other thing that I forgot about, and while I'm certain you're aware of this, but the Heavy isn't really an offensive character. Sure, he's great to have on assaults, especially with a medic backing him, but he's really meant for standing on a cap point with a Medic or two building Ubercharge and a Dispenser nearby feeding him ammo unloading on the hordes approaching.

Don't get me wrong, I love taking a Heavy/Medic combo into the fight, but that's definitely a weak point for them, and it shows.

Scaphism wrote:

There's the first "Cry Moar Noob" comment I've been waiting for.

I don't think it's a flaw in the argument - as Wordy says, in the face to face situation where two enemies are surprised, the Heavy seems to be designed to be the victor, but whether by luck or by design he's not going to. Maybe it's an intentionally designed weakness, but I'm surprised by it regardless.

As for aiming the grenade launcher - aiming it isn't actually difficult. It has a pretty stable trajectory. When it bounces though, it bounces around like a football (american). I saw someone on the Valve forums write that the grenades do less damage after they bounce - I don't know if it's true or not but it seems to mesh with what I've experienced so far. The question isn't whether nades rolling or bouncing around is out of whack, because there aren't going to be any bounce/roll grenade headshots. But if a demoman can 1 shot a heavy on the run it makes the demo even strogner and the heavy weaker. And you can bet that players are only going to get better at aiming the grenade launcher, particularly if it is a guaranteed 1 shot kill on any class.

So maybe here is the heart of the issue: If any character besides the heavy comes face to face with a demo, they will both get shots off. If a grenade headshot kills them instantly, they've still gotten a shot off and damaged the demo. The heavy won't because of spin up time, so he's vulnerable to being taken by surprise. His large HP pool and being able to swin the barrel in advance are supposed to be his "protection" against being ambushed. The demo should be able to get multiple grenades off before the heavy starts firing though. (Not tested, just theoretical.)
Come to think of it, a Pyro has the same problem - even in close quarters when both sides are surprised, the pyro doesn't have the range to damage someone with the flamethrower. It takes a half second to extend to full length and then (effectively) gets smaller as he runs towards them. Assuming they move at the same speed or faster (nearly every class does), he can't actually catch them if they backpedal while firing.

Maybe the answer is that it was designed that way on purpose and the Heavy and Pyro are supposed to have their shotguns out while turning corners and only break out the primary weapon when they're "in position". I just don't understand the reason for that. I'm not concerned about the situations where someone gets the drop on a heavy or pyro - good on them for a successful ambush, just like a sniper or spy getting off their 1-shot kills. They worked for it. I'm just not a fan of the surprise or random 1-shot kills.

This scenario doesn't work with how I play a heavy. When going around your hypothetical corner, I either: a) start the turret spinning with right mouse button as I round the corner, or b) have my shotgun out. Anyone's shotgun does very lethal damage at close range when kept at chest/head level, and with heavy's 300 hps...I run around with shotgun until I think I'm close to the enemy, then I spin up, then I round corners or whatever. When i've been naded as a heavy in the way you're talking about, he's always had better position (like uh, running up behind me...or at a height i.e. 2fort murder hole).

Speaking of which, if your intelligence room is getting hit with constant spies, and engineers can't keep sentries up, being a heavy down there can be a hoot. Spray anything that enters the room, while sitting your fat arse on a dispenser. Five minutes later...change classes or go on offense when all the spies give up.

I don't get this Demo beats Heavy discussion. To get a headshot with the grenade launcher, the Demo needs to have excellent accuracy plus the ability to guess the distance between him and the heavy, to predict the arc.

As a rather constant Demoman, I can easily say that I fear HW guys. They've killed me way more then I've killed them, just ask Gaald. Only time I would have an advantage is in a tight corridor where we have a corner in between us.

I just think the Demos who are getting these one shot kills on HW are just VERY good players and could kill anything with a loaf of bread. Try being a Demo and attack a HW guy.