Why I Love: 'Team Fortress 2'
How Valve Worked Its Way into My Heart
Truthfully, I feel a bit guilty when talking about video games so much. I feel this way because I don’t find myself playing them as often as I once did. There’s three reasons for this. The first is that I feel as though the golden era of video games has come to an end (more on that in the future). The second reason is that gaming has become ridiculously expensive over the years, and being a student in 2017 doesn’t exactly have its financial perks.
But the third reason, and the reason that accounts for the overwhelming majority of guilt that I feel, is that I’m extremely picky. Don’t get me wrong, I can have a good time with lots of video games, and I can typically pick up on a game’s quality right away. But when I really think about it, there are very few games that I would spend hours and hours on by myself, and this is because I often find myself getting bored with them after a short while. This almost always has nothing to do with the overall quality of the game itself. I’ve simply been cursed with a “fun-factor” that’s a little too proud for my own good.
After thinking for a bit about the games I greatly enjoy and what they all have in common, I’ve narrowed it down to two key things.
Firstly, I like when games have variety — not necessarily multi-genre, but when the game offers you a plethora of options to tackle a situation or experience the game. It could be character-oriented like the Mario series, with its multitude of power-ups offering a new twist at every turn, or it could be environment-oriented like the Crash Bandicoot series, where every death animation corresponds to the game element that dealt the fatal blow. In essence, games that don’t spend too much time with one thing often stand out to me.
The second and more important element is finding the right balance between the game helping you along with its tools and you yourself having to figure out the situations. Hack and slash games like Dynasty Warriors are all good and fun, but pressing ☐ over and over again gets boring for me after a while. Conversely, as much as I appreciate the Fire Emblem and Sid Meier’s Civilization games, I find figuring out the best way to progress forward without screwing yourself over to be tedious at worst and with very little payoff at best. I love games that I can sit back and get into, going about my tasks as they come, but with just enough trickiness that I have to keep an eye on the game and keep all of my options in mind.
Thanks to these fine-tuned perceptions of mine, I have a very hard time sitting down with a game for very long, and I sometimes hate myself for it. However, having such pickiness means that, when a game that meets this criteria is finally discovered, a beautiful bond is formed between person and game.
For me, that game is Team Fortress 2.
It balances my pickiness to a T. You have nine characters, each with varying attributes, such as speed and health, and with their own loadouts that have only gotten larger over the years, allowing for a multitude of different playstyles for each already-unique character.
With all of these elements to play around with, all you need is the freedom to explore and strategize, and Team Fortress 2 delivers. Once you’ve figured out your favourite ways to play, you’re given the challenge of learning how to apply them effectively from map to map, game mode to game mode. For example, an Engineer, who typically defends a single area with the all-powerful Sentry Gun, is more than welcome to whip out a shotgun and Mini Sentry Gun to help focus on making a push, but not every map layout, combat scenario, or team makeup is going to complement that very well. Similarly, a Sniper coming toe-to-toe with a bazooka-wielding Soldier would make a wise decision in attempting to flee, but perhaps putting up a fight against the equally-frail Spy would end up being worthwhile. No matter what type of game mode you pick, you’re always going to have to come up with a way to keep up with your objective effectively while taking the entire situation into account, and it’s almost never the same. The sheer scope and unpredictability of Team Fortress 2 makes each experience a new one, and that’s not even considering the still on-going updates or the exponential ways that you can strategize in coordination with others. I’ve never played a game that provides the players with so much agency and freedom to complete the objectives as they see fit.
Even without my harsh criteria for how much or how little I can enjoy things, the game is still brilliantly well-done. The art style is reminiscent of a Pixar film, which is charming just by default, and pairs very well with the personality of the game; each character has their own traits that more often than not reflect the traditional role of their class, like the spunky, fast-talking Scout or the boisterous, looming Heavy Weapons Guy, and you can hear them all spit out their own quirky quips throughout their battles.
Even the gameplay isn’t without its surprises. On its own, it’s just as good as any well-made First Person Shooter, but it’s been spiced up a bit more thanks to the community. Rocket jumping, where a Soldier will shoot a rocket at his feet and sacrifice health in an effort to travel long distances or achieve great heights, is now a common practice. Folks have also become more wary of Spies throughout the years and have made “spy-checking,” where you attack your “teammates” just to be sure that there’s no mole amongst your men, crucial to success. Team Fortress 2 is a perfect example of how a game that already had so much could be bolstered astronomically by the creativity of its community, both with the normalization of game exploits and the countless combat combinations that Valve has available for them to explore. And with new maps and weapons still being added to the game ten years after its release, it’s safe to say that TF2’s colourful take on strategy won’t be without variation any time soon.
And yes, hats.
As someone who’s so fascinated by video games, it can become quite frustrating when your preferences make it difficult to sit down and truly absorb the platform that you so love. Team Fortress 2 unlocked that satisfaction that I searched so long for, and I will stand by it until I finally bite the dust. I’ll even argue its superiority when confronted with games just like it, perhaps games with a setting in the future or games with characters named Tracer or something like that. Keep an eye out for when such an argument roles around!