The Orange Box – Team Fortress 2

TF2_20071016_0741

Played Team Fortress 2 for the first time today. No fun. A fairly boring remake of existing FPS games, with same crappy interface and broken, unbalance gameplay.

After getting the game installed and fiddling with the video config to use my full monitor (why these guys can’t seem to figure out running at 1024×768 on a 24-inch widescreen is not ideal, I’ll never know), I tried to get into a game. TF2 is an online-only game with no computer players, so finding games and other players is essential to the game. Of course, as is usual, the game makes this process very painful.

I open the server list and click ‘refresh’. Nothing. Even though there is no visual feedback that anything is going on, I wait. After way too much time passes, I close the server list window and reopen it, clicking ‘refresh’ again. I wait again. This time I have some feedback something is happening — the game freezes. For about 15 seconds, the game is frozen. I wait, sadly having been conditioned to poor software. The game pops back to life and the list is populated. Of course the list, of about 50 severs, has no players. I walk up and down the list and all servers are void of any players. I figure maybe I’m reading the stats wrong, so I jump onto the top-listed server (which says “0/24 players”). As expected, I’m dropped into a map alone. After a few seconds, the game tells me I lost the match. Oh joy.

Now, with renewed confidence in reading the server stats, I begin the journey of finding other players. I click ‘refresh server list’, manually searching the results for something the resembles an in-progress game. After a few minutes of oh-so-fun searching, I find a server with four players! With the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas, I quickly click and join that server, fearing any delay would leave me without any present.

Gameplay begins quickly. You have a choice of class/role, either offensive, defensive, or support. Sadly, these classes are extremes of their roles, so there is no general gameplay available. The roles are essentially: offense = high dps/low health, defense is average dps/high health, support is healer/etc. As is typical, dps really doesn’t matter, since almost every class can one-shot most of the offsensive classes. What really matters is how long you can survive, which means the big-fat, slow defensive tank becomes overpowered.

Of the 15 or so games I played, in which teams were often 3v3 or 4v4, every team had at least one tank, sometimes two. Considering there are nine classes, this is clearly unbalanced. The tank-healer combo turns out to be stupidly broken. Since, as I mentioned earlier, all of the offensive classes go down like a tissue, even the slow tank can take out any offensive class (a third of the classes) within one second. Pair this tank with a healer and the pair will simply go on a rampage every time. As people notice this, the game quickly dissolves into a bunch of tank-healer pairs. Fun stuff.

Most of the games appear to become spawn-point camping fests. One side gets ahead by the slightest margin and quickly runs to the spawn point, killing the spawning team members as they walk out of their spawn base. Two games I played became spawn camped by either one or two tank-healer combos.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that TF2 doesn’t bring anything new to an already broken genre of games. Super-fast cycles of spawn-shoot-shoot-die-wait-spawn become the norm for most of these games, and TF2 is no exception. Oh well, maybe UT3 will bring some fun back into a slowly dissolving game category.