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

Yah, I'm kinda with Elliotx here.

You're welcome to check out my stats Here

The short version is:
Demo: 3.3 hours (2nd after medic) - 17 points (1st), 14 kills (1st), 2715 damage (1st), 11:02 life (1st)
Heavy: 1.7 hours (4th) - 10 points, 7 kills, 1587 damage, 3:33 life

I don't know how that compares to you guys and it's not to brag, just to show my relative experience and ability playing both.
Frankly I prefer playing Demo over Heavy, both the style and the role, and I'm trying to get a handle on how to play the Heavy better.

I'm not advocating nerfing Demos or buffing Heavies across the board, I just think in this particular case a Demo should fear going toe-to-toe with a Heavy. Being able to 1 shot him, either through luck or skill, when he hasn't worked to turn the advantage to his favor, upsets that balance in my eyes.

It's not a personal crusade either, I'm just miffed that no one else seems to agree with me on this point.

NERF DEMO!!!!

It's good to see that GWJ's rockstar popularity hasn't gone to rabbit's head, yet.

In TF2 voicechat:
Me: Is that THE Julian 'rabbit' Murdoch I hear?
rabbit: Yes, it's Julian 'rabbit' Murdoch here.
Me: You are awesome man. *swoon*
rabbit: ehhh...bite me.

Also, I should probably get out of the habit of calling Rob 'gorgeous' when we're on public servers...

Quintin_Stone wrote:
NERF DEMO!!!!

Woohoo! The masses are with me!

NERF PALADIN!!!!

Mixolyde wrote:
It's good to see that GWJ's rockstar popularity hasn't gone to rabbit's head, yet.

In TF2 voicechat:
Me: Is that THE Julian 'rabbit' Murdoch I hear?
rabbit: Yes, it's Julian 'rabbit' Murdoch here.
Me: You are awesome man. *swoon*
rabbit: ehhh...bite me.

Also, I should probably get out of the habit of calling Rob 'gorgeous' when we're on public servers...

That was you!? I thought it was some Random Grinder (tm). That was pretty damned funny. You don't often get slow pitches like that one.

This game is smart. It's competitive, it's fun, and it's brought people who wouldn't normally play this kind of game out of the woodwork. It's not like it's all that easy, but it's forgiving. I've long thought that multiplayer first person shooters left me FAR behind, but with TF2's variety there really is a place for everyone.

The stats stuff really adds another fun dimension to the game, where even someone as terrible as me can get excited over incremental improvements, lol.

I'm glad valve made this game, and I'm very glad I read this review.

Greatly looking forward to playing on the GWJ server.

Bourbon is obviously someone who enjoys alcohol... you should join the gang for Gears and Beers on Xbox Live

rabbit wrote:
That was you!? I thought it was some Random Grinder (tm). That was pretty damned funny. You don't often get slow pitches like that one.

I hesitate to think what you would have said if you had known it was me.

I was planning to grab this for the 360, not sure the GWJ community will be there though. It seems momentum is behind the pc version.

Irongut, I had the same debate for a while myself. Access to the beta, cheaper price, and availability through Steam helped push me over.

The Steam Community wasn't a factor in my decision - I don't think most of us knew much about it or how well it would work at the time. Now it's another (major) factor in favor of the PC version.

I'm sure the 360 version will be fun, and I may rent it just to see how the experience is, but I also ended up deciding that I had plenty of multiplayer games for the 360 but it would be great to have a multiplayer game on PC to play with all of my PC friend who don't (yet) have a 360.

Irongut wrote:
I was planning to grab this for the 360, not sure the GWJ community will be there though. It seems momentum is behind the pc version.

Oh, we'll be there.

Irongut wrote:
I was planning to grab this for the 360, not sure the GWJ community will be there though. It seems momentum is behind the pc version.

CONFORM!!

buzzvang wrote:
Irongut wrote:
I was planning to grab this for the 360, not sure the GWJ community will be there though. It seems momentum is behind the pc version.

CONFORM!! ;)

By which, he of course means buy the PC version

I figure it this way.

360 version matches = 8v8.

PC version matches = 12v12 and 16v16

Mordiceius wrote:
I figure it this way.

360 version matches = 8v8.

PC version matches = 12v12 and 16v16

I think 8v8 matches are good, but anything less starts to get lame fast.

Irongut wrote:
I was planning to grab this for the 360, not sure the GWJ community will be there though. It seems momentum is behind the pc version.

I'm gonna be on both - I still prefer XBL to Steam, and the 360's stability and easier voicechat (still can't get my damn mic to work, even though it works out of the game) are my primary reasons. The PC is for when my roommate decides he needs to play Super Mario Sunshine on the living room TV.

ChrisLTD wrote:
Bourbon is obviously someone who enjoys alcohol... you should join the gang for Gears and Beers on Xbox Live :-)

What makes you say that? lol. I just have a weakness for american whiskey : P

Gears and beers sounds like a blast.

Also, what's the best time for the GWJ TF2 group? I've logged into the server a few times in the evening and there didn't seem to be many people around. Perhaps I was just unlucky.

Just wanted to chime in my two cents here as well. Great write up. TF2 and the steam community amazingly has ripped me away from WoW with no thoughts of turning back. I havn't taken the time to sit down and play a FPS for more than 30 minutes in quite some time. It turns out that TF2 is the "oh so sweet" dealer to fuel my digital addictions.

Bourbon wrote:
ChrisLTD wrote:
Bourbon is obviously someone who enjoys alcohol... you should join the gang for Gears and Beers on Xbox Live :-)

What makes you say that? lol. I just have a weakness for american whiskey : P

Gears and beers sounds like a blast.

Yes, come to the dark side.

Don't deny your destiny!

Hey Bourbon, put a bunch of us GWJ'ers on your Steam community friends list. When you see more than 12 of us playing TF2, its a good idea to check the private server :). It saves time to just check your friends list rather than SLOWLY load TF2 to find no one is on the server.

Gameraotaku wrote:
Hey Bourbon, put a bunch of us GWJ'ers on your Steam community friends list. When you see more than 12 of us playing TF2, its a good idea to check the private server :). It saves time to just check your friends list rather than SLOWLY load TF2 to find no one is on the server.

Good tip, will do.

You can also just pull up your Server list. The button is right next to the Friends button on the bottom of the main Steam window. I added the private server to my favorites and it shows the number playing. Right-click -> View Game Info to see who's playing. I don't think the box that pops up auto-refreshes, though.

EDIT:

Gameraotaku wrote:
Hey Bourbon, put a bunch of us GWJ'ers on your Steam community friends list. When you see more than 12 of us playing TF2, its a good idea to check the private server :). It saves time to just check your friends list rather than SLOWLY load TF2 to find no one is on the server.

And this is a good tip but evil in so many ways. Unlike a 360 w/Live, a PC w/Steam is used for more than gaming. You're just trying to get some work done and suddenly your Friends list is full of people playing TF2. And then you start to feel that pull followed by the depressing realization of how weak your will is.

I had not noticed that McChuck, thanks for the tip.

This game is just sounding too awesome. Pity I can't play with the GWJ crowd - transatlantic lag ftl.

I was also going to go for the 360 version, but my local little community site also seems to be swinging towards PC, so my mind is changing, the Steam features are becoming very interesting.

Hey, isn't Spunior overseas? he plays with us! 1dGaf is on some island north of Paris too, and he still kills me at will.

AnimeJ wrote:
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.

Ehm, are there actually bits of your body flying around? Just curious.
Living in Germany, I preordered via Steam and got the "Orange Box[de]". When I get fragged, my dude disintegrates into cogs, bolts, springs, hamburgers(!) and things like this. I found this to actually fit the general cheeky mood of the game quite perfectly and wasn't really expecting the international version to actually contain gore...

rabbit wrote:
Hey, isn't Spunior overseas? he plays with us! 1dGaf is on some island north of Paris too, and he still kills me at will.

Yeah, but you're Rabbit - Killable At Any Ping.

OUch. You wound me sir.