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Team Fortress 2

Steve Hogarty goes hands-on with Valve's classic shooter reborn

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DOUBLE TEAM
This symbiotic relationship between the Medic and the receiver of his magical health beam allows for some great moments of strategic cleverness, and sometimes a nice bit of hilarity too. The ultimate achievement for a Spy, whose main ability is to go undercover and appear to be an ally to the enemy, is to persuade an enemy Medic to begin healing him. Not only does it make his disguise all the more convincing, but it provides excellent comic relief the moment the Spy's ruse is discovered and he's killed in front of the hapless and embarrassed Medic who was helping him.

Another returning hero from Team Fortress Classic, the Well map, has had a similar aesthetic overhaul, and now sports a train yard where previously there was none. On top of this, it's also become a control-point map, with a linear series of points that must be captured in order.

As an Engineer, I found myself placing teleporters to move my team-mates forwards more quickly. Turrets were built, upgraded and repaired using metal found in guns and ammo on the battlefield, and dispensers were constructed to shovel ammo and health into the needy hands of other players on my team.

Part of the challenge of being an Engineer is placing turrets in the right spots - too far behind the combat and they're no help, too far forward and they're impossible to repair or upgrade without taking one between the eyes. All the while, information on the objects you build appear on the HUD, telling you not only when they need repairing, but how much they're being used. And yes, seeing ten people use your teleporter really does make you feel loved.

READY TO BLOW
Hopping over to the Demoman class turned it into a different game again. Turrets and teleporters were now somebody else's problem, and it was my job to load control points with pipe bombs before heading to the frontline. The Source Engine's physics capabilities allow for some interesting ways to kill people with grenades, and when the train yard you're fighting in sees more than a few speeding trains thundering through it, the sight of somebody evading your explosives only to be hit by an oncoming train is as thrilling as it is frequent. And of course, the pipe bombs I'd left back at the control point could be detonated as soon as the HUD showed it was under attack.

Quite clearly, the classes in Team Fortress 2 are more than just different weapon loadouts - they're drastically different ways of playing the game.

VIEW TO A KILL
On the next map I found my class niche as a Sniper, quickly noticing that staying zoomed in increases the power of your shots. More than a few times I killed somebody in the same instant that they killed me, resulting in the camera cutting to the cluster of gibs who'd delivered my fate. There was the occasional ragdoll Scout being blasted across the screen by a lucky grenade, and a paranoia-fuelled Spy hunt in which several innocents were mistakenly targeted.

It's in these moments that the reasoning behind the vibrant Disney-esque visuals becomes apparent, and you realise exactly why Valve ditched the realism in older builds of Team Fortress 2. It's because it's a bloody funny game, and there's no point trying to fight that on any level of design, from the visuals right down to the broken bottle melee weapon.

SAFE HANDS
On top of all this, Team Fortress 2 simply feels like a really solid online shooter. The running speeds, the jumping, the weapon balance - from what I've played, it's all absolutely spot-on. Valve are building on over a decade of experience, and as I'm
sure you've noticed, their back-catalogue of online shooters contains some of the most played games in existence. For them to get something fundamentally wrong with Team Fortress 2 would be damn near impossible (touch wood).

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