I really can’t express how glad I am that Team Fortress 2 comprises one third of The Orange Box, though that joy isn’t for the usual gamer reasons. True, I’m glad that one of the best multiplayer games ever has been revived at last and I’m glad that The Orange Box is getting a multiplayer portion, but I’m also glad for what Team Fortress 2 lacks.
So, what is it that Team Fortress 2 is missing that might make me happy? One word; story.
Unlike the other parts of The Orange Box, Team Fortress 2 doesn’t have a complicated backstory about a mute physicist in an orange-coloured metal jumpsuit fighting aliens across different time periods on the whim of a blue-suited, raspy voiced man/super-powered sorcerer.
Nor is it shrouded in mystery like Portal, introducing an important new character who must struggle against a faceless scientific enemy in order to survive.
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Team Fortress 2 has none of that, which makes it a lot easier to write about from my perspective. It also makes it a refreshing break from the slew of awesomely written FPS games on the 'must-have' list for gamers this year. What Team Fortress 2 is, is a clean, streamlined game which has cut away all the chaff and left us only with the ripening wheat – the fruit of Valve’s efforts. Team Fortress 2 has only one premise, one hook, one concept – Red Team versus Blue Team.
And that’s enough for me.
What Team Fortress 2 lacks in story however, it makes up for in innovation and smoothness. The Team Fortress series originally began back in 1996 as a mod for Quake and has made the slow transition to the improved Source Engine after years of work since then, with only the Team Fortress Classic remake being released in the meantime.
In fact, the development cycle of Team Fortress 2 has proven so long and convoluted, with many publicised changes being made to the game's system and engine, that the game has often been decried as vapourware – relegated to the same status as Duke Nukem Whenever.
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Now however, the original Team Fortress team has finished the third game in the series of seminal multiplayer games and it’s as glorious as ever. One of the things that makes the Team Fortress games so successful is, I think, that they can be either as complicated or simple as a player wants them to be. Never was this more true than with Team Fortress 2.
For the uninitiated, Team Fortress can just be a simple team deathmatch game. You jump in, choose a side and what type of player you want to be and then you go kill the guys who aren’t dressed in the same colour as you. For the more interested players though, Team Fortress 2 can be a decidedly tactical affair which uses cleverly designed maps, well-balanced and purpose-specific classes to make every match worthy of your full attention.
Just how can the game get so technical whilst at the same time being so accessible? Well, a lot of it is down to the delicately crafted class system which uses nine different class choices to give players a choice of what style they want to play and how they want to contribute to the teams victory.
Scout, Soldier, Sniper, Spy, Heavy Weapons, Demolition, Medic, Engineer, Pyro – there are so many choices that we couldn’t possibly look at them all.