Valve Corporation released Team Fortress 2 (TF2) in 2007, a class-based, first-person shooter (FPS) that is still thriving after 11 years. The free-to-play game retains a massive dedicated player base and is always within top 10 most-played games on Steam. It is known for its wacky and silly gameplay mechanics that set it apart from other FPS games. TF2 is commonly recognized as the father of modern-day class-based shooters, inspiring games like Overwatch and Battleborn. However, TF2 still remains one of the largest games being played online.
Unlike most pure online multiplayer FPS’s, TF2 has a surprisingly deep storyline behind the action. The simple gist of it is that two brothers, Redmond and Blutarch Mann, both inherited half their father’s land. Both wanting to take the entire plot, they enlisted the help of nine mercenaries. In the game, you play as one of the nine playable mercenary classes, each one having their own unique attributes and personalities. The mercenaries were first introduced in their very own shorts created by Valve. The Soldier, for example, is a super-patriotic and slightly-deranged American who shoots rockets and smacks people with his trusty shovel. The lives and stories of the mercenaries have been explored through a series of films and free comics Valve has released. As a result, Valve has created a cult following with players eager to find out more about their favourite mercenaries.
TF2 is known for its wacky style and tone. One of the most recognized parts of the game is its cosmetic items, leading Valve to refer to the game as the “worlds #1 war-themed hat simulator.” There are hundreds, if not thousands of cosmetic combination for every class, adding to the wild and nonsensical nature of the game. Another absurd part of the game is when you eliminate an adversary, their bodies will often be amusingly thrown all over the place (“ragdolling”) or explode into several bits, depending on the method you chose to take them out. The classes’ personalities are shown through a wide variety of in-game voice responses. For example, when the Soldier dominates the Heavy–an absolutely, massive unit from Russia–he shouts, “Stars and Stripes beats Hammer and Sickle. Look it up!” These aspects add to the charm and the overall goofiness of TF2.
The mechanics and gameplay are the life-blood of TF2. While other games have tried to replicate it, none of them are as rewarding to master as TF2. This is due to its deceptively simple nature. Arguably, the best things about this game are the combat and movement mechanics. Most weapons are semi-automatic, meaning you have to press the fire button every time to shoot. As a result, dodging is a crucial part of most combat interactions in the game. Dodging a rocket or a point-blank shotgun blast could mean the difference between life and death. This makes it so every time you successfully defeat an enemy gamer in combat, it feels extremely satisfying. The combat in this game is much more advanced though, with each class requiring hundreds of hours to master. The high skill ceiling keeps people playing it over the long term. No matter how much you play, there’ll still be something you haven’t mastered. For instance, the Soldiers rocket jumping, the act of propelling yourself into the air with a rocket, can be amped up with a challenging, well-timed crouch-button tap. It is hard to master but gives big payoff to the dedicated players who do. Players will come back to this game because they will always have something they can do more efficiently and effectively.
TF2 wouldn’t be alive to this day if it didn’t have such an amazing community. For the last few years, Valve has heavily relied on the community to create new cosmetic items and maps for updates such as last year’s Jungle Inferno Update which added five new user-created maps and over 40 community-contributed cosmetic items. Valve even runs an annual community event called the Saxxy Awards, a contest for short animated films created with Source Filmmaker, an animation tool produced by Valve themselves. Throughout the years, the community has created hundreds of high-quality shorts that could rival Pixar’s quality. One of my all time favourites is Agent Gunn: Vulkanite which won best overall in the Seventh Annual Saxxy Awards and which showcases the tremendous amounts of dedication from the community. They designed custom assets, models, maps and even scored their own music for the short, all without any monetary compensation whatsoever–just do for their love of TF2.
Even after playing TF2 for almost 3000 hours, I find myself constantly going back to it. I’ve tried playing other games that have followed in TF2’s footsteps but none of them have ever captivated me like TF2 has. This game just does class-based shooters so much better than its competition and has developed a passionate and devoted fan base that allowed it to last 11 years, something few games have ever achieved. TF2 will stand as one of the best, if not, greatest FPS ever created. Here’s to another decade of crazy and wacky fun!