Are you a fan of first person shooters but don’t like the international war or zombie apocalypse genres that seems to be dominating the gaming industry at the moment? Perhaps you prefer something a little more light-hearted and casual when it comes to gaming?
I don’t think I am a hard core gamer by any means but I like to fill some of my downtime with some online games, in particular Team Fortress 2 from Valve. I have been playing it semi-regularly since it first came out and have had tremendous fun in the process, particularly when playing with my brother-in-law and his family.
So what is it all about?
Basically, there are two team, BLU (Builders League United) and RED (Reliable Excavation & Demolition) that are pitted against each other in a variety of scenarios, including:
- capture the flag (grab the flag from the enemy base and take it back to your own),
- payload maps (i.e. one or both teams have to push a cart to a designated point whilst fending off the other),
- team deathmatch (no respawning until the next round),
- control points (which has several variations but involve capturing multiple checkpoints).
On top of that, you have nine different character classes to choose from, some of which have had new unlockable weapons released with subsequent patches of the game over the years. They each have their strengths and weaknesses and some servers enforce a limit on how many of each class are allowed on each side at any one time. The classes are evenly distributed across three categories, specifically:
- Scout (small and nimble and unable to sustain much damage but can pack a punch at close range)
- Solider (loves to use the rocket launcher up close or from afar)
- Pyro (no surprises here but this guy likes to burn stuff)
- Demoman (his speciality is blowing stuff up with grenades or sticky bombs)
- Heavy (large and slow but devastating at close range with his minigun)
- Engineer (able to build teleports, sentry guns and dispensers for health and ammo)
- Medic (no surprises, this guy can heal team members)
- Sniper (again, no surprises here – prefers to pick off enemies from a distance)
- Spy (this guy can cloak himself in invisibility or disguise himself as another class on either team)
This is only the tip of the iceberg. As mentioned, there are unlockable weapons for some of the classes (with the rest to receive their upgrades over time), new maps and hats (a collectible novelty item) amongst other things. Another amusing touch is the personality assigned to each class and showcased in some hilarious trailers that use the same graphics used by the actual game (albeit optimised for visual quality). My favourites are the Heavy with his thick Russian accent and the Sniper (you can’t blame me for liking an Aussie character, can you?).
If you get into this game, you’ll probably find some natural affinity or ability with a few of the classes but I’d urge you to give them all a shot. I used to hate being a spy as I initially found them weak and boring but I now quite enjoy the challenge as well as sneaking up behind enemies whilst cloaked and backstabbing them for an instant kill. Also, experimentation with how various classes can counter other classes is all part of the fun (after all, another person’s weakness is there for you to exploit for your entertainment).
For US$20, it’s not going to break the bank (especially with the strong Australian dollar) and will probably last you for a long time to come. It’s available through Steam for Windows (as well as MacOS X soon) and downloadable over your Internet connection. Otherwise, it’s available at game stores for Xbox 360 and PS3.