2fort then, once two odd buildings separated by a moat and governed by that marvellous croaky HL1 computer-overseer voice, has now become an odd blue smoke-belching industrial complex labelled 'General Industries Co', separated from a strange red farmyard affair. "These are what we call facades," continues Brown as he walks towards what is outwardly the red team's General Feed Co agricultural outpost. "You've got this low-tech, more farmy look then as you start moving closer towards the actual base, and through the facades we start to drop little hints within the environment that maybe not all is as it seems.
"Here we have some cows, but if you look pretty closely they're actually billboard cows. And then if you look around you start to see bits of technology that don't really look like they belong."
Indeed, the further you get into the base, the more the front is revealed to be nothing more than a movie set, with more odd futuro-'60s objects and sound-effects appearing, bleeping and blooping the deeper you delve.
I mean, when you hit the flag room there isn't a patch of rural anywhere - just a huge seat where your supervillain boss normally sits, loads of old computers with big data wheels on and an impassable window that overlooks a massive room full of Jetsons-esque computer terminals. What's more, although it clearly won't be a primary focus of the game, this NOLFy tangent of TF2 is set to allow Valve to break new multiplayer ground (for them), by providing character bios and a touch of back-story between levels. Whether there will be a single-player contingent is still undecided, and very much a talking point at Valve HQ.
JUMP THAT ROCKET
But enough of this, 'what of the gameplay?' I hear you grumble. There'll be new maps with new game modes - but the backbone of the game will be what it's always been - attack and defend. Indeed, the legacy of the relentless and punishing second-most iconic map Dustbowl looms large over proceedings. Beyond this, a lot is up in the air - Valve are still in full playtesting and fiddling mode and don't want to promise anything that won't appear in the final product. But through asking repetitive questions and sighing a lot, I still teased some gems from bitten lips.
One of the most interesting departures for TF2 is what the Commander mode first mooted in the '99 announcement has evolved into. "We built a fully-functioning Commander mode in one of the early versions of TF and played the heck out of it. Our experience was that it wasn't so hot," explains TF2 co-creator Robin Walker, describing something that was along the lines of what we've seen enter the Battlefield series.
"Next, we want to try something that's not Commander mode but still delivers its advantages. In a 30-minute experience you don't want to have one goal of 'win the game', and then half an hour later you know whether you achieved it or not. We want to carve that half-hour experience up into little things, into mini-goals. Like 'someone needs to take out that sentry gun!', 'someone needs to take out that heavy!', 'we've got two guys coming in someone needs to be ready!' It's far more rewarding to achieve 30 things throughout a 30-minute experience". So is a Quake Wars-style mini-mission system coming? Don't count it out.