Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Review a Great Game Day: Team Fortress 2

 This article is in response to the fantastic Review a Great Game Day holiday that 1 More Castle has created. I've chosen Team Fortress 2 for PC. It's also available on Mac and Linux.

For the season of Lent, many Christians choose to give something up as a sacrifice. Some people give up chocolate, some give up cigarettes. Josh Hartnett gave up sex in some movie I didn't see back in the day. For me, the decision was easy.

I had to give up Team Fortress 2. I had put 304 hours into that game, it was clearly the one luxury I valued more than any other. It is a game that, any time I have 10-20 minutes, I'll make time to play.

It might just be the perfect game. For those who aren't aware, Team Fortress 2 is a team-based free-to-play first person shooter. There are different classes of characters with different abilities and weapons, ensuring that nearly every gamer gets a unique experience. Wanna just crank up a machine gun? Pick the russian Heavy. Like torching people with a flamethrower? Pyro is your man. Do you abhor violence? Pick the doctor and heal your teammates!

Far from the gritty, ultra-realistic Call of Duty games on the market (fine games in their own right), TF2 has a Norman Rockwell art style and a wild sense of humor.  Seriously, one character throws jars of urine at enemies and players can start a conga line instead of shooting each other. And most of the time, you'll need to work together with your teammates to win a variety of game modes, including King of the Hill (control the point in the center for 3 minutes), Payload (push a cart of explosives into the other team's base), and my personal favorite, Mann vs. Machine.

MvM is where I've spent the majority of my 304 hours. Instead of killing other players, you're tasked with clearing a handful of rounds of robotic versions of the different classes you can play as. This play mode is fantastic. I've had some really intense moments where my team literally won at the last second (you lose when a robot gets into your base and plants a bomb). And when I mean at the last second, I truly mean that: The robot had jumped into the air and was about to land with the bomb when we finally blew him up! If one or two of those bullets had missed, we'd get a game over.

That intense gameplay is what keeps me coming back for more. When you're overwhelmed by an army of robots, and you're managing to hold down the fort, and just when it seems like you're about to gain the upperhand, a tank bursts through the walls, demanding that you blow it up (which takes a lot of firepower and time), while juggling the other robot running towards your base with a bomb.

What to do? Pray your teammates take care of that renegade robot while you try neutralizing this tank before it gets any closer to blowing you to smithereens.

While I'm fairly competent with every class, Pyro is my specialty. I wield that flamethrower with bad intentions. Whether it's burning an opponent alive, or airblasting them down an endless pit, being a pyro is a joy that I've yet to find replicated in any other game.

Team Fortress 2 was the first modern PC game I had ever played. While a member of Apple's cult, I had an old eMac computer (a really reliable gem of a machine) that was on it's last legs. Couldn't run new software because my processor wasn't an Intel, couldn't upgrade the flash player, and couldn't play any games made past 2006.

So when I switched to PC two years ago, I started looking for all the great PC games I had missed out on. Things like Arkham Asylum, Bioshock, FIFA, etc. But one game stuck out in a PC Gamer magazine my wife got for me. Team Fortress 2 sat at number two on their greatest games of all time list (published in 2012), only trailing Skyrim. And OMG it was free! I didn't have the money for a new game, so I gave this TF2 a shot.

The graphics blew me away. The goofiness of the game still makes me chuckle (one gamer had the screen name Brotato Chip, which will always be the best screen name in the history of mankind). And the people, for the most part, weren't giant jerks. I've seldom run across someone using homophobic slurs the way other games are plagued. And the gameplay itself? It is the most polished first-person shooter I've played, and it's not even close. Even on a stock, cheap mouse, it controls extremely well. And you can go without spending any money on it and you won't be a competitive disadvantage.

The first "next gen" game I got my hands on didn't disappoint. Some people have golf to relax. I've got TF2.

And in addition to Valve updating the gameplay with new maps and playmodes (they always keep the game fresh), they also produced what I consider to be the best animated short film of all time, Expiration Date, using characters from the show. Really funny, and they give the characters engaging personalities. If you have 14:59 of free time, give it a watch.

More than 300 hours later, I'm still in love. And while the passion might have cooled down a bit over that amount of time, my flamethrower is still scorching hot and ready to burn you alive. Just don't challenge me during Lent.


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