Review: Team Fortress 2

Part of The Orange Box review

screenshot: Red team pour flames over the blue team, while the blue team fight for the capure point.
A capture point, drenched in blood and flames.

Team Fortress 2 is a multiplayer, team-based first-person shooter. Depending on which team they're on, the players have to either defend or capture intelligence briefcases and capture points. Each player can choose a character class to play as, and there are nine to choose from:

Fast mover; double-jump; captures points more quickly.
Armed with a rocket launcher.
Armed with a short-range flame thrower.
Armed with a grenade launcher and sticky-bomb launcher/detonator.
Slow moving. Armed with a minigun.
Able to construct health dispensers, sentry guns, and teleporters.
Carries a medigun that fires health at teammates.
Armed with a scoped rifle.
Temporary invisibility; able to disguise himself as the enemy.

The character classes are wildly different. The Scout is fast and bouncy, making him very handy at harassing the enemy. The Pyro is great for ambushing enemy players coming out of tight tunnels, pouring flames over them as they exit. The Engineer can build teleports that allow his team to jump across the map quickly, and his sentry gun can be lethal if setup in the right place. The Medic is a support character, able to spray health over one teammate at a time, making it much easier for the teammate to fight through heavy enemy resistance. The Spy has the impressive ability to become invisible for a few seconds, then disguise himself as one of the enemy so that he can disable their sentry guns and stab enemy players in the back.

With the characer classes and team-based objectives, I was hoping for something along the lines of Battlefield 2, but Team Fortress 2 is a very different game. The maps are comparitively tiny, and big open areas are joined together by sets of narrow tunnels, forcing the players to clash. There are no quiet moments when playing on a server with twenty players, and it never takes long to get to the action, so no vehicles are needed. Even though I'm occasionally suspicious about how a Sniper hit me so accurately, there doesn't seem to be any cheating on VAC-secured gaming servers.

Team Fortress 2 also features Achievements, but again these do nothing to gameplay once you unlock them. Of more interest are the persistent stats that the game records. While you're waiting for a map to load, you are shown the highest score (in between deaths) you've achieved with each character class. This helps to show you how you're doing with each character class, but the stats are nowhere near as detailed as those of Battlefield 2, and there don't seem to be many stat-comparison sites for Team Fortress 2 at the moment.

Team Fortress 2 is, overall, a very amusing way to spend some time. I doubt that it will keep my attention for as long as Battlefield 2, but it probably makes an excellent tournament game for organised clans. It's just a pity that I can't shoot straight to save my (character's) life.


2010-09-01: See my review of the Novint Falcon game controller. I've not been able to get the combination to work, but plenty of other Falcon owners have reported success using this unique game controller to play Team Fortress 2.

Oh, and I was wrong about TF2 holding my attention for as long as BF2. I've now racked up 390 hours in TF2 and I'm still having great fun, largely thanks to Valve's unending supply of updates and additions to the game, which they provide at no additional cost. Valve really are the pinnacle of PC gaming, and they put most other games companies to shame.