Team Fortress 2 has now joined the ranks of Free to Play Shooter MMOs, and you can hear the heavens rejoicing! Launched in 2007 from Valve Studios, TF2 took the genre to new heights and really brought a totally different style. Doing so not only in its gameplay, but also in the way the game was portrayed artistically.
Team Fortress is a 3D shooter from the 3rd person perspective. It is developed by the Valve Corporation and released now through the Steam game service. What sets it apart from other Free MMOs is the fact that the game is still getting good amount of updates and patches even after it was released as an ftp, just a few days before this review was written in late June 2011. So after a 4 year, and very successful, run as a PTP game, the launch of the free to play version has seen an explosion in players, and rightfully so.
Getting Into the Gameplay
Getting started is rather simple. Log in to your Steam account and select the game for download, depending on your connection, you will soon have the game in your grasp and be loaded up in no time. There are no characters to create or levels of character customization, at least not to start.
Once you have yourself logged in, I highly suggest running through the training. As the game is much different than many of the other shooters you may have played. The games training mode does a fantastic job of walking a player through the basics and giving them an excellent understanding of the games controls and the basic features of several of the different character class types.
Learning these basics is important as the variety of class types that you can play truly makes TF2 special.
Have Some Class
The different character types that you can play in each game are separated into class types: Offense, Defense, and Support. Inside of these types there are, at the time of this review, three different classes per type.
- Scout – Armed with speedy legs, a Double Jump ability, and a Scattergun that is lethal at close range. These guys are the hit and run experts. The Scout’s secondary weapon is a gun called the Sandman which can launch baseballs at opponents to stun them for a short period of time.
- Soldier – Ever want to shoot your friend in the face with a Bazooka!? Now you can! Fire away and do massive amounts of damage not only on direct hits, but also with proximity shots. When you get to mid range swap the Bazooka for a Shotgun and blast away!
- Pyro – FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!!! Time to set the world on fire with this Maniac! Nothing like roaming around with a flamethrower and just setting anything and everything on fire, the best part of this is enemies will continue to burn and take damage for as long as they are ablaze.
- Demoman – Demolitions are his specialty. In the form of two weapons meant to keep enemies at bay as also create massive amounts of destruction. The Demoman’s Grenade Launcher will shoot multiple grenades into an area and direct hits are devastating. His sticky bomb launcher is great for setting traps for enemies. Set your sticky bombs and hide when your enemy walks in unsuspectingly, pull the trigger and watch him be blown to bits.
- Heavy – If you want to consider one class in TF2 your tanking class this is it. The Heavy is a tank through and through. Loaded with tons of health and a mini-gun that will mow down his enemies, but these benefits come with a price. He is slow as a snail. If he gets close to his opponent, watch out, he will break out his boxing gloves and knock them into the middle of next week with one Mike Tyson like KO Punch.
- Engineer – The games construction class can be a brutal killer. With several buildings at his disposal, nothing more valuable to his kill total than the Sentry Gun. Although the Engineer is armed with a couple weapons himself. He will spend the majority of his time setting up Sentry Guns to take out unsuspecting enemies as the turn the wrong corner or try and steal a control point. Also able to set up teleporters to help his allies move around the map much more quickly. The Engineer can play a vital role to winning in any game mode.
- Medic – The name pretty much says it all. The Medic is the quintessential healer class of the game, couple a Medic with a Heavy and they will create some major havoc. When hurt in battle characters are able to call for the medic through the use of the E keyboard key, and they will come running. The majority of points a Medic earns in a game is from healing his allies as they are blowing up the enemies.
- Sniper – If you enjoy hiding in a corner and looking through the long lens of a scope to get that perfect head shot, then the sniper is just your guy. Not only are you able to be a crack shot with the Sniper Rifle, but the Sniper carries his trusty bow that can do devastating mid-range damage.
- Spy – What more can be said that the simple name “Spy” doesn’t really spell out. Disguise yourself as your enemy, go stealth to sneak around the map, backstab those who think you are on their team for an instant kill. Yup, you can do all that. The spy can be a very powerful ally, but also a scary enemy.
The class variety is one of the things that really set Team Fortress 2 apart from its competition. That and then add in the fact that each class has an anti-class. This essentially puts all classes on the lookout for this counterpart that can take it down in an instant. Also, makes a player look for those characters that it can take down much more easily. This just adds to the strategy level inside a pretty much straight forward blow em up shooter MMO.
One of the greatest features of the character class options is that you can swap out each time you respawn for a different character type. So you are never limited to just one class for the entire game. This is a feature that really gives the game some high marks.
Game Modes Galore
The number of game modes will keep anyone coming back for more, always something new and always something different. Inside of the different game modes there are even sub-modes, just adding to the options a player has available to them. Once in a game mode you can literally play for hours, as each game just continuously runs, restarting over and over again at the end of each battle. Here are just a few of the game modes you will be able to jump into.
- Random – If you want a surprise and like the aspect of not knowing what type of game you are going to jump into, this is a great option. This will do exactly what it says and drop you into a random game type for you to play in.
- Capture the Flag (Intelligence) – Each team has a briefcase filled with Intelligence. The object is simple, capture the Intelligence and return it to your base. First one to do so the set number of times wins!
- Control Point – Work your way through the map and coordinate your strikes with your team members to create an opening to access the enemies specific control points. The more teammates you are able to pile on the control point the faster it will become yours. On the flip side, for those defending, your job is to do anything and everything you can to keep your enemies from capturing these spots.
- King of the Hill – Quite simple really, one control point, two teams, first team to take over the control point wins. Hectic and fast paced.
- Payload – Delivering the package through a maze all the while getting shot at and blown up. Each side gets a shot to deliver the Payload through a series of checkpoints and to the final destination.
Now as far as game modes go, many of these are very standard, but somehow Team Fortress 2 does an amazing job at making these all seem brand new to the player. Additionally, since there are varieties of each of these it only adds to the games ability to draw a player in for hours on end.
How Free Is It?
Any time a Pay to Play game goes free the first thing we all think about is what limitations are there going to be. Now Team Fortress 2 does a good job at making the bulk of the gameplay’s free experience not much different from that of a paying player. With that said there are still noticeable limitations for free players, but any purchase no matter how large or small will remove these limitations and open up an account to the Premium level.
Additionally, you will not see a virtual currency in the game; items in the cash shop are simply labeled with their exact cost. The item shop is the one place that will allow a player to get creative as far as their characters are concerned. With that and a variety of weapons to choose from, and even some maps that are player created can all be accessed in the cash shop.
Graphics and Sound
Graphically speaking you will see something completely different when it comes to Team Fortress 2. Something that is a mix between Saturday Morning cartoons, and Ren and Stimpy. This is done purposefully and with hilarious intent. At times you may find yourself getting blown to bits because you are watching another character and the silly way it may do something. This is just another layer of added entertainment value that the game brings to the table.
In the sound department, you can tell that this game has the production value of a pay to play game. High quality sound effects as well as a solid music score. These are always the little things that add to the sounds of rejoice from gamers when we hear that a pay to play game is going free to play.
The Final Word
When games that were previously pay to play announce that they are going free to play. There are few players that will have a frown on their faces. Games in the pay to play market just show that little bit extra when it comes to polish, production value, and attention to minor details. Team Fortress 2 is no different. With solid gameplay features, a long list of character classes to play, simple and user friendly UI, all wrapped in a visually appealing, and at times hilarious, package. It is hard to find anything not to like and fully enjoy in Team Fortress 2.