If Joe expected to have his sanity questioned for declaring (the quite simply brilliant) Portal his most-wanted title in The Orange Box then I expect I should probably prepare for a similar response when I say that Team Fortress 2 is my most wanted titled from the The Orange Box.
Despite only getting onto the Team Fortress 2 beta last Friday, I still managed to clock up over 17 hours of play-time by the time I got to work on Monday morning.
Before we get onto TF2 though, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane...
The original Team Fortress was released in 1996 as a mod for QuakeWorld, a set of multiplayer enhancements released by id Software for the original Quake. In 1998, Team Fortress 2: Brotherhood of Arms was scheduled for release as a standalone game, built on the Quake engine.
Of course, that never happened because in 1999 the Team Fortress team joined Valve and ported the game to the GoldSRC engine as an official Half-Life 1 mod. The ported game was called Team Fortress Classic and despite the overwhelming success of TFC the promised sequel, Team Fortress 2, slipped off the radar completely - with many condemning it to the realms of vapourware just like Duke Nukem Whenever.
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However, a number of high-ranking execs at Valve (including Gabe Newell and Doug Lombardi) hinted that TF2 was still in production at the same time as Half-Life 2. It was therefore to the delight of many when Valve officially announced that Team Fortress 2 would be shipping in 2006. Not surprisingly though, the projected release date slipped by almost a year in typical Valve fashion.
One Year Later...
The first thing everyone will have noticed from the fantastic trailers and 'meet the' teaser videos is that the graphics have taken a distinctly cartoony and cel-shaded turn which, despite some complaints on various forums (from the same three people so far as I can tell), works brilliantly with the less-than-serious gameplay that Team Fortress Classic was always famous for.
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Die-hard Team Fortress purists though will be pleased to know that, despite the new art direction, most of the core gameplay remains the same as in the original title. Of course, not everything is unchanged and while the classes are consistent with the original, some tweaks have been made to the formula.
The biggest of these changes is the complete removal of grenades, which in my opinion is a great decision on Valve's part. I say this because having your spawn point grenade-spammed was one of the most annoying things about the old game, and it was all too easy to do. Some of the more subtle changes to the game have affected a few of the classes a little; some of these changes are slight and others more revolutionary, but I believe they improve the overall Team Fortress experience.