Team Fortress 2 (PC) review
"Until recently, Team Fortress 2 was classified as vaporware - software that is hyped up, then never released, ala Duke Nukem Forever. It appeared on every major vaporware list, and was considered a joke to players of Team Fortress: Classic. The rumors that Team Fortress 2 would never exist got to the point where a fan-made TFC clone for the Source engine was made. Then out of nowhere, Valve announced a miracle: Team Fortress 2 would become reality. "
Until recently, Team Fortress 2 was classified as vaporware - software that is hyped up, then never released, ala Duke Nukem Forever. It appeared on every major vaporware list, and was considered a joke to players of Team Fortress: Classic. The rumors that Team Fortress 2 would never exist got to the point where a fan-made TFC clone for the Source engine was made. Then out of nowhere, Valve announced a miracle: Team Fortress 2 would become reality.
Until TF2 was released with the hours of developer commentary that came with it, I had no idea that so much effort and planning could possibly go into making an FPS game. And yet, everything Valve advertised the game is actually present. First off is the class system, which is unique in that it manages to have nine classes without any of them being useless or any of them feeling the same as another. In order to break away from Counterstrike (where it was practically impossible to tell who was and was not on your team by looking at them), the developers of TF2 decided to use a cartoon style, with different nationalities and races representing the nine classes of Team Fortress.
Say goodbye to your secret crap, moron!
For instance, the first class on the menu is the Scout; a thin, lanky teenager who runs twice as fast as everyone else, all whilst shooting them with a sawed-off shotgun and shouting various insults in a thick Brooklyn accent. Sure, he can jump twice in air and his shotgun will kill most anything in a few hits up close. To top it off, he captures points twice as fast as everyone else. However, he only has 125 HP and can easily be killed by just about anything that can hit him. As useless as this class might sound, it isn't at all. In fact, having a good Scout on your team can change the outcome of the map.
Run, cowards! Now is coward killing time!
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Heavy, a gigantic Russian man wielding a massive minigun. With a gigantic head and arms that are longer and several times thicker than his legs, the Heavy is almost a comical sight - until you see him charge you with a Medic in tow, ready to tear you in half with his massive gun. The Heavy has a whopping 300 HP, which can be boosted to 450 by the Medic that usually follows him around. This might sound like the best class in the game: after all, it was considered the noob class in Team Fortress: Classic. Yet, even with all that health and the massive gun, the heavy has one major weakness, that being his massive size and slow speed, which makes him easy prey for a Sniper or a Pyro.
Of course, this might not seem like a real example of how illustrated the characters in Team Fortress 2 really are. Each character has a wide variety of facial expressions, and a huge package of voices that are automatically used depending on the situation. For instance, a Medic that runs up to heal a Heavy might hear the Heavy scream out "I love this doctor!" with his thick Russian accent. Later in the game, the same player might heal an Engineer, which greets him with "You're alright, doc!" in his Texan drawl. On the same token, an Engineer building his robotic sentry gun in his team's base might give a yell of "Sentry, goin' up!", while the same Engineer building in the enemy base would say nothing at all, in order to stop the enemy from noticing his presence. The other amazing thing (proved by Valve in one of their developer commentaries) is that once you've seen a picture of every class once, it is very simple to identify them from a silhouette or just from listening to the sounds they make.
Also amazing are the maps included with the game. Yes, some of them are utter crap that encourages Classic Dustbowl-style turtling (Granary), but most of them are amazing 3D landscapes that balance out hiding spots for Engineers, Spies, Pyro, and Snipers with wide-open areas for the Soldier, Medic, Heavy, Scout, and Demoman to kill each other in. Just listening to the developer commentaries makes it immediately obvious that tons of effort went into making each map - for instance, all of the control point maps have a warm-colored side (for the red team), a cool-colored side (for the blue team), and a neutral middle, whereas the attack/defend maps are all warm colors (as red is always defending and it's not supposed to be comfortable for blue players). Each team color also has unique architecture and seems realistic. For instance, instead of calling the teams "Red" and "Blue", TF2 calls them "RED" and "BLU" (short for "Reliable Excavation & Demolition" and "Builder's League United", respectively). The building styles match the motif for the game environment, which was based on old action movies.
There are three styles of map included, with a fourth on its way. First and most common is Control Point, where there are several control points on a map (usually two that begin owned by either team and a neutral middle point) that are capturable and re-capturable, and one team must own all the points to win. Dustbowl is a variation on this where there are six points divided into three miniature maps, with BLU starting on offense and RED on defense. In Dustbowl, points are not able to be re-captured by RED once BLU has taken them. The second type of map is Capture the Flag, which does not need explanation. The third is another variation on Control Point, which is Territorial Control. This is currently only on one map - Hydro. Hydro is one gigantic map split into six territories, three for each team. Territories that border each other are selected, with each territory having one control point. Capture the enemy's control point, and you claim that territory and use it to advance. Get your point captured, and you lose that territory and your team must fall back to the previous one in order to attempt to reclaim what they have lost. The neat thing about Hydro in particular is the way the map works - the whole map is visible at one time, but certain areas are closed off depending on which territory is attacking which, so the same area can be totally different depending on which paths into it are open.
Another major addition to TF2 is the removal of many annoyances from Team Fortress: Classic. One of the most major complaints about TFC from people who played Engineers was that the dispenser, a structure meant to give health and ammo to nearby friendly players, was totally useless because the Engineer had to continually run back and forth from the resupply room to keep his dispenser stocked. In fact, most players did not use the dispenser for its intended purpose, but instead as a wall with a damaging explosive effect to protect their sentry gun. The dispenser now has an unlimited ammo and health supply, and slowly generates metal for the engineer to build a sentry gun or teleporters. Also gone is the annoyance of picking up useless ammunition from the resupply room, only to either have to drop it or have it used against you by anyone with an EMP grenade.
Honestly, most of Team Fortress 2 cannot be put into words, and to really form an idea of what it's like, it has to be played. It's quite cheap in comparison to some other games, and can be bought with the exquisite Portal and Half-Life 2 Episode 2 in The Orange Box for $45. Does it still have some problems? Yes. Are those problems being ironed out? Yes. However, even with the few small flaws it has, Team Fortress 2 is definitely worth the buy. Final word: TF2 will be PC Game of the Year 2007, if not overall GoTY 2007.
Community review by timrod (December 14, 2007)
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