Team Fortress 2 First Impressions

18:05 Tue 03 Mar 2009
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I recently started playing Team Fortress 2 at the insistence of some former Nimblefish colleagues, and am finding it a lot of fun so far, despite being rather bad at it.

Despite also being a combat-oriented FPS, it’s a significant change for me from Quake/Q3A/CPMA, because I mainly played one-on-one tournament-style deathmatch in those. That’s not even an option, to my knowledge, in TF2.

Instead, it’s all heavily team-based. On most maps you just can’t get very far acting alone, at least not at my skill level. My inexperience with FPS team tactics, combined with my lack of knowledge of the maps, means I spend rather more time than I would like getting killed—often victimized by people who are acting as a team.

The most common way in which teamwork is evident is when players are acting in tandem with a medic. Running into this pair on your own is unlikely to lead to success. There’s a lot more to it, team-wise, but even that basic level makes a large difference.

I’m pretty sure there are only two teams on any map (the canonical Red and Blue), although it’s possible that there are maps out there with more sides.

There are nine classes in the game, each of which has its own role, advantages, and weaknesses, and each time you die, you can choose to respawn as any one of them: Scout, Soldier, Pyro, Demoman, Heavy, Engineer, Medic, Sniper, Spy. I’ve only logged significant playing time with a few, but my impressions thus far follow.

Heavy: I made a real effort to play a lot with the Heavy as I figured it would help me learn the maps and get used to the game while having a few more hit points. Not a class to pick in maps with a lot of open space, or where you’re not sure of Medic support, but the raw firepower can make it fun.

Sniper: Sadly, I’m just not a good enough shot for this class. Map knowledge counts for a great deal with this class too, as knowing where the right sniping spots are is critical. The same goes for knowing the choke points that a Sniper can help hold.

Spy: They seem great, but so far I’ve found them extremely difficult to play.

Pyro: My current favorite class, “guy with flamethrower” is a lot of fun. What could be better than setting people on fire? Faster-moving than the Heavy, but limited by quite a short range, the Pyro seems at the moment to have the right balance of speed, offensive power, and ability to take advantage of sneakiness for me.

Scout: I haven’t played as the Scout much, but playing against them is extraordinarily annoying, particularly on maps with large open spaces. Valve have released upgrades for some of the classes, including the Scout, and the upgrade gives the Scout the ability to hit a baseball at other players from a distance, with a successful hit stunning the target. This makes Scouts extremely dangerous, and able to go toe-to-toe with a Heavy if they have some maneuvering space, which seems kind of wrong.

The maps are pretty good, and I like the various team games I’ve played so far: Capture the Flag, holding control points in various combinations, and trying to move a cart on rails to checkpoints.

It’s been an extremely successful game, and remains popular, but it seems hard for new people to play, at least on their own. If I hadn’t gotten into it playing with friends, I’m not sure how much I would have liked it. If you’re going to try it, I advise playing with friends (which is pretty easy to accomplish given the Steam Community widgets that let you follow friends into games), or just being aware that your learning curve might be steep.

All that being said, right now I’m enjoying it quite a lot, and it’s really the first FPS I’ve played online since Q3A/CPMA.

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