Team Fortress 2 (Windows)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
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Written by  :  Chris Wright (105)
Written on  :  Nov 17, 2007
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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Gaming at its finest

The Good

After years of waiting, Valve has finally unleashed this marvellous creation upon the world. It has been nine years in development, but the wait is finally over, and the good folks from Bellevue have met or exceeded every possible expectation.

Featuring a colorful cel-shaded 1950's-inspired art style, TF2 bursts at the seams with fun and excitement. The basic premise of the game is that two teams (Red and Blue) are in perpetual conflict over various construction sites, bases, military installations, and in one map, briefcases. A typical game will feature twelve players against twelve, and each player may select one of nine different classes. Now, the class system is where TF2 really stands out. Although the Sniper, Soldier, and Heavy Weapons classes could be thought of as rather mundane, an experienced player knows that all nine classes present great potential for fun.

The Pyro wields a devastating flame-thrower that can easily light up half a dozen enemies. Ignited players will burn for about 10 seconds and up to half their health, making them a class to instill fear and confusion. However, the Pyro is largely ineffective at any distance, meaning a good player will have to use stealth and cunning in order to get close enough for ignition.

The Scout is incredibly fast and nimble, and all but impossible to hit. When faced with numerous opponents, however, the Scout dies exceedingly quickly, so he must be played cautiously. The Scout can also double-jump, which gives him access to advantageous positions and shorter routes.

The Engineer builds things, namely an upgradeable Sentry Gun, Teleporter Entrances and Exits, and a multi-purpose Dispenser giving health, ammunition, and metal. Metal is used by Engineers to build and repair structures, and must be managed intelligently. The Engineer is unable to seriously compete in face-to-face combat, but can dish out considerable damage from the side with his pistol or shotgun.

The Spy is the nemesis of the Engineer. When your team is unable to penetrate an air-tight defense, the Spy gets it done. He can use his invisibility cloak to slip past enemies, disguise as any class on either team, and place an electronic sapper on Engineer structures. The sapper disables a structure and damages it over time until it either destroys the structure, or it is knocked off by an Engineer. The Spy can also instantly kill anyone in the game with his butterfly knife, if it is aimed at the back, side, or scalp of an enemy.

The Heavy Weapons guy wields a massive minigun affectionately named Sasha. It offers unparalleled damage at medium range, but is ineffective at both long and short range (unless a player can perform fast and precise turns). The Heavy is incredibly tough, but slow, and moves even slower when firing his minigun.

The Medic is the Heavy's best friend. The Medic heals people with his lock-on, short-range Medigun, and after doing enough healing, can 'Ubercharge' a player for 10 seconds. This confers invulnerability, although a savvy player with explosive weaponry can bounce the Medic away from his target, breaking the power link and causing both to drop back to down to mortal status. The Medic is also armed with a tricky-to-use but powerful Syringe gun, and an extremely powerful Bonesaw for up-close operations.

The Soldier is the bread-and-butter class of TF2. This is a slow, powerful class armed with a Rocket Launcher. Although it fires rockets that both decrease in power and are easy to dodge at medium- to long-range, a Soldier can devastate an opponent who either isn't looking at him, or who is caught unawares while turning a corner. All else being equal, a team with two or three good Soldiers will dominate a team without any. They are difficult to kill, intimidating, and indispensable in any situation.

The Demoman is a bit of a wild-card. He carries no guns, but rather two different types of Grenade Launchers. The first type shoots bouncing grenades that explode after a few seconds, or upon striking an opponent mid-air. The second launcher fires sticky grenades, that explode at the click of a button. A Demoman caught by surprise can be easily dispatched by any other class, but if they are careful about protecting themselves with Sticky grenades, they are a formidable adversary.

Lastly, the Sniper carries the most deadly long-range weapon in the game, a scoped rifle. Without using the scope it has limited usefulness, but when zoomed it has a charged shot that reaches maximum deadliness after about five seconds. Headshots count at about triple damage, and are usually one-shot kills. The Sniper also carries a modestly-powered submachine gun, and a hunting knife. In most situations at medium- to short-range however, the Sniper is outgunned.

The Bad

There is not a single flaw in Team Fortress 2 to my knowledge. There have been many complaints on the official TF2 forums about certain classes being unbalanced, but the consensus among knowledgeable players seems to be that everything is, in fact, exceptionally well-balanced.

The Bottom Line

This is a very fun 24-player online game that is probably the most significant release on the PC since DOOM . It holds endless potential for fun, due to its bright, colorful, stylized graphics, interesting and varied classes, well-designed maps, strong player base, and excellent voice-acting. I expect that it will be played by tens of thousands of people for at least the next five years. Essentially, it replaces Counter-Strike: Source as the most complete and compelling team-based first-person shooter on the market. It's also downloadable off Steam, a mere $30, and runs well on modest hardware.