After ‘Team Fortress 2’ was originally announced at E3 way back in 1999, lack of news lead to many fearing it had disappeared forever. Then, in the summer of 2006, Valve released a trailer for ‘the new’ TF2 – cel-shading et al. 15 months later and along with ‘The Orange Box’, the game has already gone Gold – and that’s just on pre-orders! But should you really believe all the hype? Has Valve done it again? Steamfriends.com pulled a chair up to the game – and we weren’t disappointed.
The first thing that hit us was the incredible graphical style. It feels as if cel-shading was invented with this game in mind; It’s actually possible to believe that if it had not be presented in this way, it may not have felt right at all. This style sets it out from basically every other big online FPS at the moment and will surely start a trend when other developers see how well it flows along with the game. Every character is beautifully animated and the whole game is a joy to gawp at.
The characters themselves are yet another stroke of genius. The nine original ‘classes’ return straight from Team Fortress Classic, but much fiddling has occurred and now each class has a brilliantly unique feel to it. Split into three separate categories – Offence, Defence and Support – the game actually forces you to think carefully about which character you choose to tackle each different situation and you will usually find yourself being a different class every single round.
The Offence category includes The Soldier, The Pyro and The Scout. The Soldier moves slowly, but shouldn’t be taken lightly – he’s packin’ a beefy rocket launcher and if one of his rockets connects with your body, you shouldn’t expect to be in one piece anymore. He can also use his launcher to rocket jump to higher platforms and all this coupled with a standard shotgun and ‘entrenching tool’ (that is, a big ol’ shovel) to make sure the enemy don’t get back up make him the perfect choice for a full on assault.
The Pyro moves slightly faster than the Soldier but it’s the enemy near the Pyro that will want to move fast – that is, if they don’t want to experience a burning sensation. Packed with a short-range flamethrower, shotgun and fireman’s axe, the Pyro can cause quite a stir on a crowded battlefield and anyone caught in his flames must either find a source of health, or pray that running around puts them out before their time runs out.
The fastest of all the classes, the Scout is an extremely hard target to hit, especially when his speed is coupled with his ability to double-jump. However his speed comes at a cost and his arsenal is lacking compared to his comrades – with just a shotgun, a pistol and a baseball bat, his main role in a team is to rush in and capture objectives and points, but for frontline battling, he isn’t the best choice.
Defence is made up of The Demoman, The Engineer and The Heavy. The Demoman moves in much the same way as the Soldier and can also use his powerful grenade launcher to fire himself into the air. Along with this beast of a weapon, the Demoman carries sticky bombs which can be planted on the floor, on walls, on basically anything, and then remotely detonated, potentially causing devastating damage, either as a defensive trap or as an offence weapon. He also lugs a bottle of Scotch Whisky around with him because, let’s face it, if you’re going to cause some melee damage, why not do it with style?
The Engineer’s role in the team is just as vital. Not only can the Engineer use their workman’s wrench to build a variety of essential objects including enemy-overwhelming sentry guns and miracle health/ammo dispensers, they can also join in the offensive with their supplied shotgun and pistol, as well as using their wrench which doubles as a weapon. However, with reduced health compared with his teammates, the Engineer is best suited to staying back and keeping guard.
It’s no surprise that the Heavy is the slowest moving class in the game, what with that gigantic minigun he hauls about with him. But what he lacks in speed, he makes up for in power and strength – given the right situation, the Heavy can clear out a whole room in one burst. Together with his shotgun and his bare fists, the utter force of the Heavy makes him a formidable opponent.
The Support category is home to The Medic, The Sniper and The Spy. Armed with a crazy healing beam gun, the Medic is your best friend when you’re about to hit the dirt. Not only can he regenerate any other classes health as they battle, but as he does, he builds up an ‘Übercharge’ which, when released, makes both him and a chosen teammate invincible for a short period of time. Equipped with a Syringe-gun and bonesaw to defend himself, the Medic should definitely not be taken lightly.
It’s a case of ‘one shot, one kill’ if the Sniper scores a headshot. His bolt-action sniper rifle can be used to devastating effect at an extremely long range thanks to its built-in scope, while his sub-machine gun is perfect for close range combat. He also carries a ‘kukri’ (known to many as the “Gurkha knife”, fact fans) for sticking it to the enemy. The sniper is the class most likely to make you shout ‘OH COME ON!!!!’ after you get headshotted for the 26th time in a row.
And last but definitely not least, the Spy has a variety of tricks up his sleeve. With the ability to turn invisible for around 10 seconds, together with his nimbleness, the Spy can be behind enemy lines in seconds without the other team even realising! He can then disguise himself as one of the enemy, choosing any class he likes – to them, he looks just like one of their allies, but to his own team, he looks like a spy with a paper mask on! He can then proceed to mingle with ‘his friends’ and when the time is right, stab them in the back for a one-hit kill. However, if the spy uses his revolver or knife, his disguise will be uncovered and he’ll have to think fast to get out of a rather tight situation! The Spy also carries electronic sappers that, when placed on sentry guns or dispensers (see the Engineer) will detonate and destroy them, by which time the Spy can be long gone.
This mixed bag of classes means that there is definitely always something for everyone and we found ourselves wanting to swap classes all the time (this can be done during respawn at any time during the game) just so that we could experience each character in their entirety. The balance between the weapons and abilities prove to be essential and during a game if there is no-one on your team that is of a certain class, you’ll find yourself shouting ‘Why do we have none of these! We need one now!’. We couldn’t have asked for a more well-balanced system.