Team Fortress 2 Beta Review

It’s been 10 years in waiting for the original Fortress players. The original Team Fortress, created by 3 Australian lads on the Quake engine, bred a new level of clan play online and helped breed the CS players that you see whining on servers today. The original version gave us one of the best online team FPS games because the focus was the balance, the speed of the game and the selfless team aspect. So when the Team Fortress 2 Beta was finally available, all of the QWTF and TFC players jumped in with baited breath, hoping their classic games would have enough of an influence to keep some semblance of them intact.

First, the look of the game.

The early synopsis from most was disdain that it all looked like the Incredibles and that the grittiness of war isn’t going to be there. Boy were they wrong. The art style is not only exceptional but gives this game it’s own style entirely. With cartoony animations and over the top colors it’s all just a visual explosion when you get in. As a game developer the biggest impact to me with this style is that the poly counts aren’t through the roof like a game such as Crysis, which is important for your market as it keeps people with lower end PC specs able to play and TF2 is no exception, it runs great on sub par PC’s. As well, a wide range of custom animations per class is here so you can thank a teammate, taunt an opponent or just say stupid stuff while running around. It was a risky venture to go with a cell shaded approach but the pay-off is huge as everyone who’s seen me play this game has been amazed how well it displays.

Second, the classes.

Team Fortress is all about it’s 9 classes and the carry over for this sequel was intent on keeping each classes specifics in place. With the removal of grenades from all classes arsenal this became more of a challenge than expected by Valve and some classes have been altered. Here’s a breakdown of each class.

Scout: TF2’s scout sports a sawed off double barrel shotgun, a pistol and an aluminum baseball bat. Combined with the highest speed of any class and the ability to double jump, the flag happy scout is always a must have for teams hellbent on capping the flag or rushing to cap a point. The double barrel shotgun is very powerful and can take out heavy classes in 2-3 shots, lights in 1-2. The aluminum bat can one shot kill some classes if hit from behind.

Balance Concerns: The double barrel shotgun is much too powerful for a class with breakneck speed. A scouts primary priority is flagrunning and not chasing down enemies.

Sniper: The sniper in the original QWTF was the dominant class with an adept sniper able to keep entire outside areas clear of enemies. This isn’t the case with the TF2 sniper as the ability to twitch shoot isn’t at the same level as it used to be. But it’s still an adequate class with the rifle with a deep FOV, a strong machine gun and the machete one of the more powerful melee weapons. When zoomed in, the sniper has a charge icon that fills and gives the shot a more powerful ballistic.

Balance Concerns: If the sniper FOV is not editable through scripts then the deep zoom will limit use. As well, with only the machine gun to defend themselves at close range snipers will continue to be scout/spy fodder with alot of the newer maps limiting line of sights.

Soldier: The most played class of any version of Fortress, the frag class hasn’t changed much at all. With the rocket launcher, standard shotgun and the shovel as the melee weapon the soldier is one of the classes medics will follow. Fortress soldiers have always been about the juggle and this is even more evident without their gren1’s and nail grenades. If you can’t get the hang of direct aiming you will not enjoy the TF2 soldier. One addition is the reload system which will now load a single rocket to fire when your 4 are depleted.

Balance Concerns: The removal of a soldiers gren1 is devastating. Skilled soldiers used this to finish off opponents with the rockets just there to juggle or push their opponent in a particular direction. But people will adapt to the new style soldier and will excel in both offensive and defensive scenarios.

Spy: This is the one class that has received the most love from Valve. Originally the spy was a sub-class that you’d use occasionally to throw a wrench into an engineers defense but no longer as a number of strengths have emerged with the TF2 spy. Armed with a silenced pistol and a butterfly knife they don’t sound menacing but they are. With the ability to instantly go invisible (for a short duration) and be able to disguise as a member of the other team spies are having a field day penetrating a team and stabbing them all from behind. With the one hit backstab kill anyone who stands still is open to their attack and combined with the invisibility they are able to get anywhere. Spies also have a zapper they can place on sentry guns that not only disables them but saps their health until dead unless their engineer rescues it.

Balance Concerns: Currently the class the most in need of a downgrade as spies are ripping up all classes during the beta. This class should be a support class and toned down to take advantage of disorganized defenses and not being able to wipe out entire teams! Hopefully Valve realizes this.

Demoman: The piper has kept the bulk of his weapons with detpipes, grenade launcher and arguably the funniest melee weapon, the moonshine bottle (which breaks on contact). The regular grenade launcher can handle 4 grenades per load while the detpipes can hold 8, however they are of lighter damage. The main issue however is that the pipes can’t be detonated until 1.5 seconds after firing and don’t bounce but stick to anything in their way. Binds may allow this to be more concise but right now you’ll want to steer clear of head on fights with them. And where did the long range dynamite we saw early on go?

Balance Concerns: Pipes need some love, changing them to detonate 0.5 seconds over 1.5 seconds would make this class a lot more formidable in close battles. This class is still very spammable and with alot of maps with tight areas, demomen can dominate by just holding down a button.

Medic: The largest change came to this class, which originally was one of the deadliest classes. With decent speed their weapons have been downgraded with the medic syringe gun taking over from the super nailgun. While this weapon is decent the projectiles arc making long range not possible. As well a bonesaw has been added as a melee weapon instead of the infection axe and this weapon is formidable up close. But the main weapon of the medic is the healing gun which can heal any class very quickly, making a medic sidekick needed for any heavy weapons guy and soldiers. As well, when 100% healing is reached, both the medic and his sidekick can become invincible and can penetrate any defense.

Balance: Obviously the whole healing process needs to be tweaked down as heavy weapons guys with 450 health are virtually invincible versus another solo class. Give them some more offensive love and this should all balance out.

HWGuy: In earlier versions of Fortress this class was useless as their heavy firepower came with the penalty of slow movement. While this is still in place they are beefed up and can wipe out an entire team if a medic is with them. Their chaingun does massive damage, they have a shotgun as well and their melee weapon is their fists! Glad to see this class being used alot more.

Balance Concerns: 450 health HWGuys seem to turn the tide in many a battle, this should be a concern for Valve, this should be a defensive minded class but you see a ton of them using teleporters to be a huge offensive force.

Engineers: This class has one of the most devote followings of any class and most are happy with the current setup. With their level 3 sentries holding down complete areas, dispensers to feed the team and their shotgun, handgun and spanner the engineer is really dependent on their sentries to rack up the kills. Gone are EMPs and exploding dispensers, 2 of the best weapons the engineers had but they seem to do alright. Their newest addition are teleporters which make for a great addition to team strategy.

Balance Concerns: The sentry guns will always have to be looked at. Currently they are at a nice level but more extensive testing will be needed.

Pyro: Considered the most useless class of all the Fortress versions, the pyro has a flamethrower and shotgun along with a fire axe as their melee weapon (which is rather slow but does excellent damage). With no long range the pyro is limited in their attacks and isn’t a class you’ll see a lot of. The flamethrower is quite powerful and the burn effect is one of the best in the game but the pyro needs corners and ambush tactics to be successful. However, they are one of the best spy checker classes.

Balance Concerns: With no long range attack they are still quite useless when faced with an adept sniper or soldier.

Thirdly, the maps.

With 6 maps available in the beta it’s an amalgamation of classic TF and TFC maps. 2fort4 and Well6 make re-appearances as staples of Fortress with their CTF style and Dustbowl and Hydro are also present with the Attack/Defend game modes. All of them are impressive to look at with the objectives more realistic and the textures and layouts top notch. With new maps promised on release we can’t wait to see what else is in store but the strength of the Fortress community has always been the map makers and creating amazing new maps and re-creating old maps (we want to see 32smooth, Canalzon and Bam4 all re-created!) and for PC users this shouldn’t change. It’s unknown exactly how console users will be able to have new maps implemented but hopefully Valve has thought of this.

Finally, the competitiveness.

Team Fortress is one of the most popular mods of all time because it allowed pub games to be fun even if you are on the same map over and over. It also allowed a huge community to grow from it as it’s one of the best team games to organize and battle on. For both of these to be successful balancing needs to occur and Valve will need to continue to support the game following its release.

Overall, this game is more than we expected and is loads of fun for a first timer or a grizzled Fortress vet. If you’re not into fast paced FPS games then go back to Rainbow 6 or Battlefield and skip this one. Once the official release is out and everyone can play you’ll see this game really take off especially with people unable to upgrade for games like Crysis and for the consolers who can handle aiming with a controller.

Overall Rating: 9/10

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