Team Fortress 2


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


I was wondering, will there be splitscreen multiplayer for the 360? Can't seem to find this info anywhere.

I doubt it, jonny. That's not Valve's thing.

Yeah, i didn't think so. One can hope.

I don't mind the price - TF2 alone is worth $60 IMO. This game is so much fun I might actually buy it twice, once for the PC and again for the 360.

There is a crazy personality in Team Fortress, this wild sense of ridiculous abandon that disarms me whenever I play it. TF2 originally had a realistic artstyle, and we all drooled over it at the time. Nothing looked as cool as those early films and the gameplay ideas Valve was talking about. Yet playing this new cartoony look I realize that they made a perfect decision. I remember the first time the Medic appeared in the Quake version of TF, he was this manic-axe wielding surgeon with blood all over him, clearly shooting his own drugs and not someone you trust with a bruised knee. There's something left of that medic in the current form of the game, a bit of that crazy humor.

I was disappointed that the broad innovations Valve was shooting for are gone, but having played the beta it's all good. In many ways I wish this game sold $170 million on its launch day, had Forge and Theater modes and managed playlists and all that. If I could I would take Halo 3's technology, remove that game and surgically implant TF2 in its place (using the TF1 medic, of course). This is more deserving of the 2 multiplayer games. TF2 is far more friendly to different playstyles and skill levels than probably any other shooter.

The only red flag I ever had was Valve's cancellation of the Black Box. It never seemed like a fan-friendly, Valve kinda thing to do. Why make your biggest fans buy the same contend twice? My guess is that they looked at Portal, TF2, and Episode 2 closer to launch and told themselves they had a $60 package, not a $40 one. However, you shouldn't renig on promises and expectations. It doesn't hold well in the game industry. In the end, like I said earlier, I'm buying it twice. Valve's been great to me and deserves my money. But I've got my eye on them.

As a consumer I agree with you about the Black Box Souldaddy.
Thinking as a business though, I think it was a stellar move, and it was done far enough in advance of the launch (and enough has happened in between) that it's not major news anymore. The only people who will remember and carry any ire are the truly hardcore, who will most likely buy the game regardless. And even if they don't they're basically living in a vat of internet nerd rage.

For everyone else, if you already have HL2, you give it to a friend. Valve turned all of those customers into a marketing force for them. When you get a free game from a friend, with a recommendation, you're more likely to play it than you ever would have if you'd just seen it on a clearance shelf.
If you never tried Episode 1, this brings you back into the fold
And Team Fortress 2 looks to be a full fleged game, worth the full asking price, provided it does get more maps (by Valve or talented fans). I can't say anything about Episode 2 or Portal, but assuming they live up to the standard of the other games in the Orange Box they should be good if not great.

I'm not sure how I can give Steam-bought Half-Life 2 "to a friend".

You can't till release.

Is that a new feature ? Can I actually transfer my previously bought (on Steam) standalone HL2 to a friend's Steam account ?

No, just this time.

Do explain, please.

a little bird told me on 10/9 Circuit City will be selling ORANGE BOX for the PC @ 37.99


All I know is there needs to be more 1dgaf on the server, having some bloke with a euro accent over the voice-comm does something to the game to make it more authentic somehow.

arthur42 wrote:
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...

I dunno about the international version, but the US one most certainly does.

Eezy_Bordone wrote:

All I know is there needs to be more 1dgaf on the server, having some bloke with a euro accent over the voice-comm does something to the game to make it more authentic somehow.

You've not been playing with Nossid then