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Wednesday 19 September 2007

Team Fortress 2 Review [Slim]

Nine years! Nine fucking years! In 1998 Robin Walker and John Cook were contracted by Valve software to write a sequel to Team Fortress (A free Quakeworld Mod) for the Quake II engine. Now, numerous E3 demo's later (anyone remember E3 1999?), several concept changes, leaks, cancellations, delays, bleats, pisstakes, Team Fortress 2 has earned Duke Nukem Forever levels of vapour-dome.

But here it fucking is! It's almost hard to accept that the TF2 I unlocked on Steam last night is the same game I've been reading about for so long. It's here! What's more, it fucking rules!

Now such a declaration doesn't come easy for me, I was worried about TF2. CS:CZ was shit after all, Valves track record isn't necessarily a banker, and my concern was that we'd just get a pretty Team Fortress Classic, a pretty good game, but a game completely ruled by those 'in the know' vs the rest of us who play other stuff too. A reskinned TFC would be just what the fans of that game want, and there are many, and it must have been tempting for valve to deliver.

What they've delivered is somethign better, a team game for the masses.

Team games with classes aren't new, spawned from the original Team Fortress you have games like the Battlefield series, Tribes and very recent Shadowrun. All these games have the potential for superb team based action. All these games tend tofall apart in playbecause that teamwork doesn't happen unless you're in a clan.

But this cooperative breakdown doesn't tend to happen in Team Fortress 2. The classes all have very clear roles, the maps and objectives are superbly highlighted, the visuals define the roles in such a way, that cooperation between the classes in the teams happens in a very natural way. You're a medic? If you heal that heavy he'll kick arse and you can hide behind him. Worred about frags? Don't be, you'll get points for assisting the kill. At a choke point? Save up your ubercharge, then fucking go for it. The balance between the classes is very delicate and brings through such strategies in an obvious, and very satisfying way.

Of course, it's early days, and there will still be online frustrations. An organised team will always steamroller a bunch of randoms in Team Fortress, that's not going to change sadly, although the uber squad should get more of a challenge. Straight out aiming skills are far less important at least, with some of the best killers barely needing to use the cross-hair at all.

First impressions though, it's a great game, can't wait to try some more!


  1. I think I must be one of the very few that actually put some hours into the original Team Fortress. It's kind of spooky knowing that 95% of the kids playing TF2 now don't even know what exactly it's a sequel of.

    Regarding your point of a remake of TFC, by some insane coincidence some group has actually released exactly that on the HL2 engine. The free mod Team Fortress Forever. Which is actually really good news because if you like that sort of gameplay (all about the conc grenades) then there it is.

    Regarding TF2, well what's to say? A massive congratulations to Valve is in order. I've thrown a lot of flack their way in the past concerning their multiplayer efforts, particularly with Counter-Strike when they basically took what was a awesome game and then kept changing it to suit their inexpert play style until we eventually got to the place where the Valve Headshot Lottery is an often used phrase in anguish.

    However with TF2 they've examined the game from the ground up and removed anything that wasn't necessary or would end up being a massive barrier to entry such as the silly conc-jumping stuff in TFC. Above all, they gave it a genuinely brilliant graphics style all of it's own and then polished it and polished it and polished it until it gleams from every crack. Everything just works and looks good while it's working.

    Above all else they managed to have achieved something which I didn't expect. That ability to take a twitchy shooter and make you want to keep playing it it for hour after hour. Honestly, I thought I was too old for this shit. We've long held one of the big successes of Counter-Strike is the down time which ends up equating to stamina in a single session but TF2 doesn't really have that, instead it just has fun by the bucketload.

    Jesus and this is a beta too. I tell you what, it's the most polished beta I've ever seen. Still, there are some things that probably need addressing. The Pyro is the only class, I think, which seems to be genuinely a bit shite class balance wise. It could of course mean we're missing something but it seemed to be a widely held view. The flamethrower is shorter range and does less damage than a heavy so why would you?

    It seems a bit too easy to dodge soldiers rockets and take them down with much lesser weaponry on light classes but then again maybe that's a lack of skills on our behalf. The heavy, I think, could probably do with a bit of a nerf bat. The hitpoints are kind of insane. Certainly it racks up kills unlike anything else. I expect there may be some tweaks there, but nothing major. In a sense if there's a class that keeps the guys happy that have to be top of a score board in kills then that probably helps too.

    When the full game comes out there's going to be bots. I had a play trying to activate them in game without any joy. There's a complete lack of server documentation as yet which is a bit annoying but then joyfully you can run it more or less default and you're good to go, unlike CS. The game also seems to give people some bother or not run at all on systems which were/are fine with the HL2 source engine. That strikes me as beta ironing out material. And the sound also needs fixing, the positional audio is completely wrong right now.

    But they'll fix it I have no doubt. It'll also be good to see some third party levels as well. It seems there's an impressive variety of gameplay styles in the levels there are. Hopefullythird party guys can add levels the same way, with an intro video showing you what's what - and perhaps multi-stage gameplay with the pop-ups showing you what you need to do.

    We may end up tiring of the eternal twitch fest at some point but right now I'm thinking this isa corking game to schedule an evening on which everyone can come in and have a laugh and oh how long have we waited for a game like this.


  2. Looks like a bucket load of fun, I liked playing engineer in TFC but found myself being Medic when I got tf2 to work last night. The UT style healilng (link) gun is great, allowing you to heal while still in cover.

    But it crashed for me. A lot.

    I had a new HD which I was meaning to port xp over to, but took the plunge this morning and battered vista onto it. See if tf2 can work any better on that tonight I guess.


  3. I'm playing on a Dell XPS M1710 and I've had nothing but trouble getting the game running. Once it's up it's fantastic but map rotations and starting up take forever. 5+ minutes if it doesn't crash, map rotations are slightly shorter. During map rotations the screen goes black and there is no sign of activity but eventually it continues. In fairness I do only have 1 gig memory (something I will be correcting shorty) but I'd still expect it to run this game smoothly.

    As far as I'm concerned thats a minor problem compared to how much fun I've had playing this game. Don't get me wrong I want it fixed but once you start playing you've totally forgotten the time it took to get it up. I had a sneeky few games at work yesterday and after about 10 minutes of play I had a small crowd of people behind me, most commenting on how cool it looks, some laughing at, well, mainly my stupidity but also at some of the characters and taunts. It's been a long time since I've played a game and just had fun, even Lurkers comments about lack of back up and shit team were like water off a ducks back.

    I love the snapshots you're offered of your killer and the way it keeps a record of your nemisis and revenge kills, gives it a nice personal touch as well as being a great team game.


  4. Any interest I may have had in Fortress Forever dissolved the moment I saw this video. The developers have basically hard coded every single movement exploit from every fps into the game, making it essentially just a trickjumping mod.

    TF2 isn't working for me right now, I'm getting a black screen after the loading screen so I'm a bit stuck right now but I'm chomping at the bit to get involved, I've not heard a bad word yet.


  5. Quick update for those having bother with the intial menus, modify your shortcut to run the game (not from steam natch), add:

    "-windowed -w 1024" (without the quotes) to the end ofthe shortcut to run the game in a 1024x768 window. Then once you've sorted all the menu shit and joined a game, set to full screen, and you should be ok.

    Hopefully just a temporary fix, lots of folks have this problem and it's been well reported to teh Valves.


  6. The Pyro's role seems to be basically an AOE style ambush guy. He can quickly flame a bunch of guys, then fuck off, leaving them damaged for the soldier or heavy to mop up.

    I think the classes strengths really depend on the numbers you have playing. From last nights session, 8 v 8 seems to be about the sweet spot, one of each class.

    I can't imagine any more than that really works very well, certainly my short time on publics 12 vs 12 just seemed a bit silly in terms of weapon spam.

    Last night a few people asked 'why does my weapon sparkle sometimes'. That's the critical hit system, which is somehow linked to your score performance, and I think then it's a percentage chance.

    Love that the flag stays dropped for 30 seconds if it's carrier is bagged, that's fucking geninus!


  7. That was great fun last night. I remember reading something about why the pyro dosen't suck but can't recall at the moment. The Spy was great fun though, as was clubbing people with the bat as scout and that heavy just makes me giggle.


  8. I've tried camping out chokepoints with the Pyro, but not had a lot of success. He has a very cool fire axe melee weapon though.

    The soldier is a great class, really important. I wouldn't agree that the rockets are too slow or ineffective - you really need to lead the target because the splash damage isn't that effective (which makes sense because the graphical effect is just a scorch mark and smoke, there's no explosion to speak of). The rockets deal a large amount of damage with a hit and result in those fantastic gibs. Good for taking on a Heavy or his Medic if their attention is elsewhere!

    There are graphics-associated startup problems with this game/beta. I've had to replace my ATI Omegas with a the most recent official Catalysts and that has helped, but I still experience the frustratingly inconsistent Engine Error - Direct3D Failure which I'm sorry to say is somewhat of a reminder of the IDirect3DDevice9 error that Counter-strike would also randomly throw. Both suggest to me the way Source uses DirectX, because no other games result in either of these errors.

    I don't remember giggling at a PC first-person shooter before, but I've found myself being very happy at the things that happen. Like playing as a medic, backpedalling away from an enemy heavy, only to have him hit by a train... its just laugh out loud funny!


  9. I only got up and running after 11pm last night, by which time Snatch was empty. I therefore jumped on a public for an hour. The game does indeed seem like brilliant fun. Ithink things will be much better when folks [inc me] have an idea what’s going on, and there is not2 heavies, 4 engineers and2 medics on each team and people try and balance the classes :)

    I clearly suck at the game, but it was great fun.I enjoyed being the medic, and spent a while just running behind an attacking Heavy causing havoc in enemy base or being a Pyro and working in tandem with another bloke or two doing sweeping defence in the 'facing worlds' style CTF map. While the pyroclass does indeed seem useless, I really had fun playing with it and just dealing a small bit of damage, which alongside a rocket or two messes blokes up :)

    I really love the 2 types of capture and hold levels, they are brilliant fun.

    The game ran brilliant on my mac, via bootcamp. But I’m clearly going to have to get a l33t DX10 PC tho, as I'm going to have the phone in my new place Skype only [and there are no good skype phones for Mac] and there are a stockpile of PC games I want to play [HL Ep2, Stalker, Company of Heroes] and now this :)


  10. I quite like it, didn't expect to.

    First off, hate the look. It's purely a preference thing though, since what it does, it does competently. But I'd much rather see a realistic looking style - then again, that might detract from the simplistic fun of it, so I'll happily reserve judgement on that.

    Otherwise, it's a lot of fun. Keeps old fucks like me happy because it isn't all about twitch shooting. You can quite happily never fire a shot in anger throughout an entire game and still contribute massively to the team. Medics plus heavy weapons guy make a particularly satisfying combination, with the medic mostly ducking in and out of cover and trying to keep in range with the heal gun.

    I have doubts about how it will play on public servers though, since like all games of this ilk, it could be made or broken on how well people play as a team. Take away the clever interplays between the classes and you have a fairly run-of-the-mill deathmatch shooter.

    Looking forward to playing it once, maybe twice more ;)