Monday, 1 October 2007

Team Fortress 2 - First Impressions

Team Fortress 2 Beta – First Impressions/Preview

So the Beta for Team Fortress 2 (TF2) has finally been made available to all of those who pre-order the Orange Box via Steam. Any by finally I do mean finally as for those of us in the UK at least we had to wait until the early hours of Tuesday, the day after the Beta was meant to be unlocked. However this is a Valve game and as such we should all be used to this by now, and I think the wait was worth it.

My first impressions of the TF2 Beta are that this is a very highly polished release. All the Character Classes are available, as are all the maps, map videos, taunts and everything else. The Stats system is up and working in-game and via the Steam Community pages. This certainly gives off the impression of a Beta just being used to show off the game and test on a wider range of systems rather than a Beta which feels more like an Alpha version.

The graphics and sounds are, in a word – perfect. Well they are at least on my rig. Running a P4 3.2, 1 GB RAM and an nVidea 7900GS at 1024*768 with the recommended settings gets me solid frame rates. Unlike in some other games the use of High Dynamic Range (HDR) is done with a touch of style. The graphical style is at first striking, but soon you learn to appreciate the direction Valve took with it. The contrast in graphical styles on some maps, CTF_2Fort for example is brilliant with the contrast between the Red and Blue Bases. The sounds are very good (despite the rare occurrence of the ‘stutter bug’ that plagues Source Games) with all the Characters voices sounding very unique, and some of their taunts are very humorous. My one gripe is that the sound for healing from a cabinet is the same as what is used in HL2, but this is a mere personal taste.

I must note here however that the infamous ‘Stutter Bug’ has resurfaced, while not present for everyone, I have read reports of it, and even I have started to become a victim of it. Whether or not Valve will find a fix for this issue remains to be seen.

The gameplay itself is fantastic, having never really played Team Fortress Classic I am not in a position to compare gameplay styles; however I am willing to base my views on what I have seen and done myself. The gameplay is a finely tuned, and finely balanced thing, all the Characters (or Classes, I prefer to call them Characters as they have so much of it….character that is) have roles to fill, Scouts are there to run in, get the Intelligence or cap a point quickly, the Heavy is the big mean killing machine, the Engineer sets up defence, the Medic is the healer and the Spy is a game decider in the right hands. However using a Character a role they are not designed for is likely to get you killed, and quickly. While I have seen many fans of TFC complain about the lack of grenades in any form, I find the Demoman has removed the need to have grenades in for every Character. The maps themselves are very well made, CTF_2Fort is (slightly disappointingly the only) Capture the Intelligence map, where a briefcase containing ‘Intelligence’ must be taken from the enemy base and returned to your own. The other maps are variations of the Capture to Control Point gametype. However they are done in different styles, some maps are straight head-to-heads, and others involve a switch between attack and defence.

The Stat Tracking and Achievements is a very nifty feature, though I do wonder whether Valve is just catering to the Xbox 360 gamers? I sincerely hope not and I hope to see an expanded Achievements section, hardcore TF2’ers are going to complete them all within no time. However I must say this is early days for the Stats system, and the incorporation of it into the Steam Community can only be seen as a positive sign for the future. If anything I think this is the one area which is lacking Valves’ trademark uber-high levels of quality we have come to expect from them.

Overall though this is a very good Beta for a game, and I hope Valve will take into account the fans comments and make changes as they feel are necessary. The gameplay is great and the Graphical Style has been done to perfection! The maps are great as are the Characters, and I think this will be a great game once completed and a brilliant part of the Orange Box.

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