Team Fortress 2 is the long-awaited sequel to Valve’s original Team Fortress Classic.
Built on the Source engine, it’s a team-based fragfest with a focus on teamwork and a cartoony, slapstick style. It’s massively popular, with over ten thousand players on at any given time, and for good reason: TF2 is fun, exciting and addictive. The gameplay is fast and engaging. There are unlimited respawns, and on most servers the respawn time is low. This ensures that you’ll be back in the action quickly, and since maps are not very big you’ll quickly find your way back to the fight. The gameplay pits two teams (Red and Blue) against each other on a variety of maps.
There are three main game types. There is Control Point, the most common, where teams compete to secure control points (by standing on them). On some Control Point maps, the teams are split into offense and defense, with defense starting with all of the points and attempting to hold them until time runs out. Other Control Point maps have all the points up for grabs, and both teams must attempt to capture points while securing their own (in gameplay reminiscent of Onslaught mode from Unreal Tournament 2004.) There is also the old favorite Capture the Flag (although few maps are available for this mode), and a new gameplay mode, Payload. In Payload, one team must push a cart containing explosives (the more players that stand by the cart, the faster it moves) to the enemy team’s base (while they do everything possible to stop it.)
The heart of Team Fortress 2 is the class system. Each player can choose between one of nine classes (and can freely switch classes each time they respawn.) These classes all broadly fall into three roles of offense, defense, or support, and each comes with at least three weapons (a primary, secondary, and melee). However, each class is very unique, and each one offers a different gameplay experience. For offense, players can choose between the scout, a fast-moving but fragile class suitable for seizing objectives, the soldier, whose rocket launcher makes them a great all-around damage dealer, and the pyro, a fast-moving fighter whose flamethrower makes them useful against groups of enemy but useless unless they are at close range. For defense, there is the demoman, who can plant explosives to defeat unsuspecting foes, the heavy, who is the toughest class but also the slowest and uses a giant minigun to mow down foes, and the engineer, who can build a variety of buildings to assist his comrades. Finally, players can choose between the support classes. Two are pretty straightforward; the medic heals allies and the sniper shoots people in the head. The third is the spy, and is very unique. Spies can cloak for a limited time or disguise themselves so they appear as teammates to members of the enemy team; this allows them to sneak behind enemy lines, plant sappers on enemy buildings, or stab enemies in the back. However, if enemies become suspicious they will quickly attack him, and the spy cannot hold his own in direct combat.
These different classes are widely varied but there is something to like in all of them. The more one plays with a class, the more techniques and tricks the player can find.
The game is remarkably deep, but is fortunately free of a steep learning curve (one can jump in and be adequate at the game almost immediately). New content is also being added for free on a consistent basis; new maps, the Payload game mode, and additional content for the Pyro and Medic have already been added, with more to come.
Each class is remarkably well-balanced, which means that success will come to the team that is best able to work together, rather than the lone ranger who relies on his own skills. It’s a refreshing change from many multiplayer games where teamwork and cooperation is rare.
Team Fortress 2 is great fun, and comes highly recommended. It’s well worth a purchase, or at least a look. You can buy it on its own, or packaged in the Orange Box, a compilation offered by Valve that also includes the award-winning games Half-Life 2 and Portal. Happy fragging!