If there ever was a game that looks like it could pipe up and dance around your desktop, this is it. Team Fortress 2 is bright, colourful, animated, and populated by wonderful caricatures of men who wouldn't look out of place in a Pixar movie. Its sumptuous, vibrant visuals are so pleasing to the eye, that we wish our eyes had tiny mouths so that we could eat Team Fortress 2 like a cake. These screenshots are a testament to beauty.
And it's a functional sort of beauty too. Valve have been patting themselves on the back about their character design, how every class is immediately identifiable by their outline, and how teams colours are instantly recognisable in any situation. Every back-pat is deserved - it just works.
Ten years in the making, Team Fortress 2 shows its pedigree in every ounce of content. We absolutely adore this game and haven't had as much fun in an online shooter for as long as we can remember.
Two teams, nine classes, and six maps. The two teams are the Red (Reliable Excavation Demolition) team, and the Blu (Builders League United) team. The six maps are a mixture of re-envisioned, adapted versions of classic maps, and entirely new ones - mainly control point capturing affairs, with 2Fort providing a Capture The Flag scenario.
The nine classes are what make the game so appealing. Through their wildly differing methods of play, the classes cast wide the net of accessibility - there's something for everyone here, of all skill levels.
Let's start with the Medic, one of the easiest characters to get to grips with. This rubber-gloved German is armed with a syringe gun, a bone saw, and a medi-gun. The path to becoming a successful Medic comes not only through healing hurt friends, but by forming a symbiotic relationship with another player.
This is achieved using your medi-gun, which fires a constant and unending stream of health into whomever it remains pointed at. Find a Heavy (ideally), and follow him around, providing him with a shield of extra health. While he protects you withhis giant mini-gun.
Your medi-gun charges as it heals, reaching, in a matter of minutes, a state in which right-clicking turns yourself and your partner invulnerable for 10 seconds - as long as you maintain a line-of-sight link with to him with your medi-gun.
Using this 'übercharge', you become an unstoppable force, causing immovable objects (and the enemy team) to tremble with fear. Over the course of rounds, the ties of medi-guns create a deep and unbreakable bond between two players. Onlookers may ask "Why are you always healing VonStilton? Why don't you just marry him?" To which one might respond, "It's a Medic thing."
So that's just one example of how Team Fortress 2's classes amplify, supplement and counteract one another. The Heavy himself is a straightforward slow tank class with a huge gun. The Scout meanwhile is an extremely nimble outrunner with a nifty double-jump ability, making him difficult to shoot, impossible to chase and almost impervious to backstabbing Spies.
The Pyro has a flamethrower (and is, as far as we can tell, a bit pants), the Sniper can charge his shot by staying zoomed in, and the Demoman can lob pipe bombs over walls and protect control points with remotely detonated sticky bombs. The Soldier is the basic class, armed with a rocket launcher best aimed at the floor to inflict splash damage upon enemies. But the remaining classes are considerably more thought-out.
The Engineer is an old favourite, and returns in much the same capacity as ever. He can build a defensive sentry gun, which attacks any enemies who come within range. He can build a dispenser, which dishes out health and ammo to your teammates. And he can build a teleporter, to move slow players such as Heavies to the frontline quickly.