RPS Advent Game-o-Calendar: December 10th

It’s probably futile linking to a Fairtrade advent calendar now there’s only 15 days until Christmas. (15 DAYS! Oh God, no.) But hey, it’s only polite. So today, we’re opening another door. Don’t try and stop us.

This door costs $400,000 to open.

Thanks, Fairtrade. The delicious choco-treat hidden there briefly distracted me from panicking about not having bought a single present yet. Better give something to the readers too though, eh?

Tada! It’s Team Fortress 2!

I’ll admit I’ve not played Team Fortress 2 much lately. Too many other distractions, of business and pleasure. I don’t feel bad about that, and I still love TF2 dearly. In fact, it’s my (as opposed to Hivebrain RPS ‘Our’) game of the year. I don’t need it right now, but I know it’s there, and I know I can go back to it whenever I need to. And I will.

That’s its greatest accomplishment. It’s the great leveller. For almost any other online FPS I’ve left behind in its earlier stages (as is my wont, either from boredom or the necessity to go play other games so I can afford to eat), going back in months or years down the line has generally meant high suffering – punishment at the hands of unsmiling elites, thoroughly practiced at the game and now in it purely to grind others beneath their polygonal heels. By contrast, while I’ll hardly be topping the scoreboard, hopping onto a TF2 server after a few months off, and now that the game’s players are thoroughly accustomed to it, won’t see me felled by twelve instantaneous headshots. It won’t matter too much if my aim’s a little rusty, or I haven’t yet picked up on all the intricate strategies that have developed since September. I’ll still be useful. I’ll still be a part of the team. That’s why my Heavy’s boots will never be hung up for good.

TF2’s a reset button for online shooters. It realises that fun is far more important than total mastery – and I rather imagine that’s why Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, released so hot on its heels, was so dwarfed by it. It wasn’t because it was a lesser game, or because there were too many team shooters released at once – it was because anyone could play TF2. ETQW was aimed strictly at those who already knew how to be good at it. It prides ability over entertainment. Nothing wrong with that, nothing at all. But I want to party, not to show off.

TF2’s approachable face has a large part to play in this, of course. It’s not just that we can solemnly admire the references to 1920s advertising artwork and guffaw at the deranged cast – also it doesn’t look like a boy’s game, a stereotypical militaristic shooter, in the way the muddy colours of ETQW or Call of Duty or Counter-Strike do, for all their respective delights. Yes, TF2 is funny, but more importantly it’s welcoming. This is a playground, not a warzone. Come play in it.

The other leveller is the strictness of the classes, (sadly perhaps the major turn-off for those who prefer a little more Classic in their Team Fortress). A TF2 class isn’t just a guy with a different type of gun to the next guy – it’s absolutely a role. You’re a character with specific abilities and a clear place in the team. If you’re not comfortable with that place, you find another one. Something will fit, will offer that nebulous sense of Right. For me, it was almost immediately the Heavy, and remains so. I’ll always start Scout, then I’ll always go Medic after the initial rush, but there’s no avoiding it. Before too long, I’m going Heavy, no matter how many promises I make to myself that I won’t. And it always feels good. Hahahahahaha. Cry some more. I know the Heavy’s detractors label him something of a newbie’s choice, but the sense of click, of appropriateness I find in playing him is something I’ve never felt in any other shooter. Yes. This is exactly how I want to play this game.

Like any other class, he’s incredibly limited, of course – on his own he’s not much of anything, and so he’s entirely dependent on other members of the team. It’s an incredibly obvious thing to say about any game with ‘Team’ in its title, but the total specialisation of each class means this one genuinely lives up to its titular promise. Whenever I drop into a public server, I quickly get to know the other guys on my side – he’s our Sniper, he’s our Medic, he’s going to rush the enemy fort with me, he’s going to guard our Intelligence. Silent (or not-so-silent) kinship brews – I need these guys, I appreciate these guys. Sometimes I even love them. Without them I’m nothing. I just don’t get that in Battlefield 2. The pay-off, the celebrations of victory and the mourning of loss, are all the more affective for it. Yeah. We won.

Team Fortress 2 is about the only game in the RPS Advent Game-o-Calendar of which I won’t inevitably launch into some “but I didn’t like this. And that bit annoyed me. But I’m never replaying it” whine once I’ve got my initial cheer out of the way. There’s something scarily close to perfect about it, both as a realisation of an idea and of firmly establishing that game art is inestimably more important than game technology. I’m not playing it now because if I did, I’d be playing it all the time – as World of Warcraft was for far too much of my life, it’s quite simply a place I enjoy being in. I’ve smiled, I’ve laughed, I’ve taunted, I’ve cursed more in Team Fortress 2 than in any game this year. Well done, Valve. An infinite pile of money’s good for something after all.

55 Comments

  1. Will Tomas says:

    Absolute work of genius, and I love how easy it is to pick up and play, and how satisfying it is to notice that you’ve got better at it.

    Always the Spy for me, unless defending, then the Engineer takes over. How many other games let you play both ways like that?! TFC was my favourite multiplayer game ever, and this was better.

    TF2, I salute you.

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    It may even be “my” game of the year too, Alec.

    KG

  3. Chris R says:

    Definitely my game of the year…. along with playing predator in Crysis.

  4. King Awesome says:

    After all the smoke of big releases has cleared, this is the game I always come back to. Its the game I’ve had the most fun in on the PC, probably ever. Even when I’m almost sure I’m fed up with it somehow a few hours later I’m thinking of a new strategy for a class and I want to play again.

    I thought that multiplayer FPS games weren’t for me anymore, old and time deficient as I am, my youthful twitch reflexes gone or out of practice. Turns out, I was just waiting for TF2 to show how fun it could all be again.

    My game of the year on any platform, so far (Rock Band hasn’t arrived yet).

  5. King Awesome says:

    Also, if this is half of RPS’s personal ‘Game of the Year’ someone must have hated it to pull it all the way down to fifteenth (Assuming the days from Christmas amount to any sort of ranking). Unless this is some crazy group think where you all individually really love TF2 but somehow when inebrieated in a group decided that actually you preferred something else.

  6. CrashT says:

    TF2… The game that got me playing against real people again.

  7. Cradok says:

    I had been wondering if you were going to do The Orange Box as one entry or three. Three it is! A bit unfair on all the other games though. :-p

  8. Freelancepolice says:

    Agree with King Awesome completely (apart from the bit about being finished on FPSs online :P)

    From the first time I sat down deep in eastern germany at leipzig to play, to my delightful time with my own rig at home in rainy oxfordshire, it’s always an absolute joy to play.

    The best bit is that I know it’s still so much in its infancy. The haters are starting to stop hating and with new maps just around the corner it’s constantly burning brightly in my “maybe just a couple of rounds” zone.

    In fact I might just play now

  9. Kieron Gillen says:

    King Awesome: Read the first post in this particular endeavour. In short: They’re not in order, except when they are.

    KG

  10. Sn1peTr1f says:

    Fantastic choice again. Rockpapershotgun is doing some fantastic reviews and choices with this Advent Calender. Nicely written. Keep em coming.

  11. Nuyan says:

    Best multiplayer shooter in years. At least for me. :-)

  12. Freelancepolice says:

    Danke herr docktor!

  13. Ging says:

    Erm, I think now is probably a good time to own up to the fact that I’ve played TF2 once. Though in my defense, I tend to zone out when I hear “team fortress” in a conversation and have done since I played the original mod.

    I might give it another go at some point… maybe.

  14. grey_painter says:

    Apart from the thrice damned scouts that shoot my demo man this came is always enjoyable. Especially when you have a good crowd around you to play with. I often choose the side with all the voice chatters in the PCG server despite how poorly we may be doing as a team, because at least we are sharing the hilarities of defeat as a team. Never played an online shooter properly before this because they were always so intimidating and I tended to die a lot without really knowing why. But TF2 is so warm and loving how could I not feel welcomed.

    …well apart from the sodding scouts…

    and we all know Peggle is the game of the year.

  15. Chris says:

    Fun, accessible, amazingly well balanced, and the only class-shooter where I’ve enjoyed playing just about every single class. Even those I initially thought I’d dislike have been a great surprise.

    For instance, I avoided playing as a soldier for a while, thinking it was just point-and-shoot drudgery. But once I tried it, I quickly found that it’s more about estimating the space your enemy will be in at a particular moment, and making sure a rocket is occupying the same space at the same time. Which is damn fun!

    Heavy, too, seemed boring, until I experienced the thrill of taking down half the enemy team (thanks in large part to a skilled medic) and watching the other half flee as I (well, we) went uber. Awesome.

    I do fall back on my favorites (demo & engie), but if there are already several on my team, I’m just as happy to go soldier, or medic, or spy, or pyro, or sniper… the only thing I haven’t played much is the Scout, and I’m sure I’ll quickly get addicted to that class too.

    What a great game.

  16. malkav11 says:

    This is the only multiplayer shooter that’s actually enticed me into playing online. Largely on account of the art, initially, but the play balance really does make it possible for a newbie with a distinct lack of skillz to a) contribute and b) have fun. In reasonable amounts of time. And that’s all I really need from these things.

  17. James Lyon says:

    What, no “om nom nom nom” running gag? I’m disappointed.

  18. savage says:

    And once again the modding community have done themselves proud with TF2. They’ve really embraced the “Bloody hell, this is fun!” ethos of the game and come up with fantastic concepts for maps, some riffing on the improbable proximity of two bases (Wolf, Floodzone, Turbine, Grand Canyon), some revelling in the abstract (Killbox, Hall of Death, Duel2) and some that branch off in entirely new directions (Toyfort, Castle, Snow Bridge, Horus). I’ve barely played the same map twice all week! It’s a credit to the game and the modders that TF2 has inspired such an outburst of creativity.

    Perhaps there is an article to be had in rounding up some of the best of the user created maps currently on offer? (Hint, nudge.)

  19. Arathain says:

    I knew I’d hit something special when I started giggling incessantly while playing. I remember the first time I mowed down a whole bunch of people in quick succession as a Heavy- he was laughing and shouting, I was laughing and shouting… pure distilled fun.

    I still get a fit of the giggles when I pull off something impressive.

  20. Mickiscoole says:

    I always go pyro. Its just so much fun running around the base ‘disinfecting’ your teammates in order to find a spy. Plus an ubered Pyro is a force to be reckoned with.

    I’m a little disappointed this came now, because it means that the orange box, as a singular product, can’t be the absolute game of the year.

  21. No Picnic says:

    Thank you, Alec! You’ve done a bang-up job at capturing the essence of the game! I can see why RPS hasn’t fired you yet!

    By the way, I played TF2 yesterday, and Sasha says she misses you.

  22. Seniath says:

    Well, since I fell into playing EVE, TF2 has fallen by the wayside. But I know that, when I get bored of my space-faring adventures, it’ll be there, waiting for me as always. So, as you say, welcoming. Inviting, almost.

  23. Jim Rossignol says:

    It is worth pointing out that this list isn’t in any particular order, except, as Kieron points out, when it is.

  24. AbyssUK says:

    TF2 is fun and all but its not game of the year material, not this year anyway. The cake is a lie people we all know it.

  25. Nick says:

    Needs more official maps.

    Other than that, (MP ¬_¬) game of the year!

  26. Mouj says:

    Christmas ? Presents ? oopsie…

  27. Philip says:

    I suck at FPS’s. Completely. Utterly. Useless.

    Counterstrike, Source or Original, just sees me being used as cannon fodder. I’m a great fan of those random, unseen-sniper headshots that signal being a spectator for the next five minutes, waiting whilst a load of pre-pubescent idiots question each other’s sexuality and camp around corners.

    Then comes TF2, and suddenly I’m actually reasonably good. I’m not coming last, I’m useful. People chat in full sentences, and don’t sound like morons on helium on the voicechat. The Nemesis feature gives you a reason to get angry, but in a directed way, and never vindictively, as it shows you how they did it. I can play happily for hours as a medic, appreciated by others simply as someone who forgoes the pleasures of the larger weapons for a pair of rubber gloves and a dodgy German accent.

    As you say, I’m part of the team, I’m wanted.

    And therefore TF2 is one of the few online multiplayer games that’ll drag me away from RACE 07 and LFS. I’m a player from an entirely different genre (nearly entirely racing games), but I’m happy in TF2, and that’s a big achievement in my book.

  28. Rodafowa says:

    Amen, Philip. Amen.

    Something that really appeals about TF2 is the degree to which it provides the opportunity for those of us without the twitch reflexes of a pit viper on coke to still be helpful to the team. The Medic’s the most obvious example of course, as well as being a brilliant way to learn your way around the maps. But Engineer, Demoman, Pyro – all of these are tailor-made to help age and guile defeat youth and skill.

    I hadn’t played an online shooter since Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, largely because I’m useless at them and had no real incentive to invest several miserable hours in getting slightly less useless. TF2 had me making a contribution to my team’s success right from the word go. It’s the online FPS for people who don’t like online FPS’s.

  29. Brian Black says:

    Alec,

    I’m starting to think that Heavy’s also my favorite, but most people don’t give it enough credit. One of the best, and most surprising maneuvers you can pull with any of the classes involves using the minigun to scare an enemy around a corner, then break out the shotgun to close the distance much faster than they were expecting. I’ve killed tons of people that way just because they weren’t expecting the burst of mobility. ‘Course I’ve also died doing that by getting around the corner to see five people instead of the one that I was chasing.

  30. drunkymonkey says:

    Hmm, that point of World of Warcraft makes me wonder if Burning Crusade is gonna get a mention.

    From the short time I played of TF2, I enjoyed it. It was certainly funny, and certainly welcoming. I didn’t even bemoan the lack of “proper” guns.

  31. SeldomDavid says:

    This is the first online game I’ve ever liked. (Well, except for Urban Dead, but part of me feels that shouldn’t count.) My Counter-Strike efforts were plain laughable, and I ran scared of playing FPSs against others for a while. I think it was the excellent character videos that convinced me to try TF2, and months later I’m still enjoying it thoroughly. I love that there isn’t a class that’s universally unpopular; for every person that writes off a class as rubbish there’ll be another staunch supporter standing up for it.

    Man, it’s great. If TF2 was a girl I’d fancy her.

  32. Morte says:

    Yep, it’s certainly my game of the year. This is coming from someone who completely wrote it off as I hated TFC and even my first dabblings into the world of TF2 produced just a ‘Meh’. However a brief ‘let’s give it another go’ playing a medic interested me a bit more and then I found the love of my life, the pear shaped, bondage freak the pyro, oh how I love him. I think Valve should patch the game so the Pyro’s rubber suit squeaks as he moves.

  33. Mr Pink says:

    My favourite thing about TF2 is that at some point every class has been my favourite. Every single one. Yes, even the sniper. And I hate sniping in every other game.

  34. Garth says:

    Team Fortress 2 was such a bizarre event for me. I was (and in many ways, still am) a hardcore FPS player. I started with Quake DM, then QBall, then CTF, thenTeam Fortress (not bullshit TFC, but Quake Team Fortress) on Mplayer, where I learned crazy things like a mouse being better than the arrow keys for aiming, and scripting (to use the grenades). Then I went on to games like Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, Natural Selection, etc.

    The thing was, no-matter how many games I played, I never had as much fun with them as I did with QTF. Then Team fortress 2 rolls around, and suddenly I’m having a goddamn blast. Every single FPS playing style is represented: if you AWP’d in CS, you’re a sniper; if you charged the DD’s with an AK, you’re a Scout; ;f you defended the bombsites religiously, you’re a ‘neer; if you waited for the team to pass and then opened up in the middle of them, you’re a Pyro, and so on.

    When I compare Team Fortress 2 and Quake Wars, they are perfect examples of how/not to make a great FPS: Team Fortress is all about having each class with a very specific role, Quake Wars is about having general pluses and minuses. Team Fortress focuses on balanced maps, Quake Wars focuses on.. well, I’m not sure how to describe them, but ‘bad’ comes to mind. Team Fortress makes death hilarious, Quake Wars makes it infuriating (dying, for the sixth time in a row, inside your spawn to artillery). In Team Fortress, every strategy has a very obvious counter (kill the medic first, rocket the HW off the ground when he’s ubered, use Soldiers to remove Sentries, etc), in Quake Wars, nothing counters calling down artillery on the enemy MCP when it’s out of the tunnel.

    I have a few (well, maybe 2) minor beefs with Team Fortress, such as crit rockets being (literally) 75% of my deaths, but I can immediately get back into the game.

    Really, when my girlfriend, with almost no FPS experience, can come in and at least participate in a game with me (hardcore FPS), and my friends (hardcore RTS, hardcore RPG, casual FPS, etc) you know you’ve got a hit game.

  35. Spacegirl says:

    Multiplayer GOTY 2 B sure!

    I’d also like to sincerely point out, as a gamer and huge fan of TF2, that anyone who plays the game check out http://www.teamfortress2fort.com. This is not some gay plug, it’s a sweet forum and site, and they run 2 servers. Hands down best servers I’ve played on. Anywaaay….

    It really is an astonishing game. It’s the first online PC FPS I’ve played (aside from off and on CS dabbling) since back in my CoD1 days, and sort of reminds me of that game in how quick and simple it is.

    Nevertheless, it does have a few issues. Chiefly, The Pyro is undoubtably the worst class. He is all but useless in anything less than 10v10, and is only marginally useful in that scenario due to the fact that any roughly organized team will have medics near any offensive push, completely negating the possible pre-death flamery of multiple dudes. It just sort of seems that the game is balanced completely around that class. Nevertheless, it’s a testament to the game that the cruddiest class is still really fun and can be somewhat successful.

    The map designs are largely sublime. Well and Gravelpit are flawless, and 2fort is Pure Classic CTF (For better or worse :P) The other three maps have a few slight issues though. Dustbowl is a bit too long for its own good, especially since most servers run a 30min rotation. Hydro is cool, but a few of the permutations are FAR too choke-pointy with the standard 12v12. And finally granary was hurt pretty bad by the changes, and it is nearly impossible to come back from losing the middle and being pushed back to yr second point. However, all of these maps are still really, really, really fun!

    So, give me some more maps Valve, including some sort of “gravelpit2” and an asymmetrical CTF map and I’ll be happy!!

    Space, Out!

  36. Smee says:

    That means you’re playing the Pyro wrong. If you do manage to score lots of direct kills, then good for you, but that’s not what you should be aiming for. The Pyro is designed for confusion and fear, not direct action. He’s like an offensive support – gets in there and makes a glorious mess of things. The flames spread panic and generally force the enemy to retreat, if only for a few seconds, which all counts. Aim for assists while working with your team, not lone-wolf kills.

    Plus he’s got the best damn taunts in the game.

  37. King Awesome says:

    Also, he’s the best corridor corner lurker hands down. On some maps (dustbowl springs to mind. A group of pyro’s can completely lock down the tunnels with fire.

  38. Radiant says:

    Garth what clan did you play for in QWTF?

  39. Nick says:

    There are no bad classes, only bad players.

  40. Nick says:

    I should qualify that by saying “bad at the class in question”.

  41. SightseeMC says:

    Pyro useless?

    Smee has it right, except for one other note: flame the medic. It’s amazing how easy you can frighten a doc right off his man by waving the flaming canister around. And once the doc turns and runs, you own that patch of ground all by yourself.

    Now if I could just get the looping sound crash to stop…

  42. Arathain says:

    I’ve had enormous fun defending the Dustbowl linking tunnels as a Pyro. One of Dustbowl’s best features is the way it rewards an aggressive defense. I was surprised to discover how well the Scout does in the tunnels, but being able to easily close to point blank for the scattergun and some very quick kills compensates for the lack of room to dodge.

  43. Nobby says:

    Seeing as we’re worshiping at the shrine of TF2 again, thought I’d share this. I nearly laughed until I bled internally: Saving Private Ryan meets TF2.

  44. SeldomDavid says:

    Pyro is my most-played class. I think it is harder to kill as him, but I think he’s also best at sowing confusion in the other team, and making them retreat. I know I instinctively backpedal when I see a pyro flaming towards me…

    I just had a look at my stats – it turns out I’ve never had a medic uber me when I was a heavy. Something to try tonight, then…

    (I feel a weight of responsibility on my shoulders when I go heavy. They’re so visible and noisy that teams seem to see them as the backbone of any assault, and fall in behind them. I always feel a bit self-concious at this, and mess up terribly. Then I go medic, because a bit harder to make a fool of yourself as one of them.)

  45. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    Seeing as we’re worshiping at the shrine of TF2 again, thought I’d share this. I nearly laughed until I bled internally: Saving Private Ryan meets TF2.

    Heh, nicely done that. Cheers for the link.

  46. Garth says:

    “Garth what clan did you play for in QWTF?”

    I was in a clan called The Smiley Guys, later I made my own named the Red Army, and I was in the Pyro guild.

    I played on Mplayer, less-so on QW, so you may not have seen me. Also, my in-game name was Asmodeus, which wasn’t exactly original, heh.

    As someone who has played a Pyro in every iteration of the series, I thought I’d chime in on the is-the-pyro-weak-or-not query.

    I’m going to say yes. It’s not a bad class, it just (and this is something that they said they were doing their damndest to avoid in making the game) has absolutely no benefit, in any situation, over another class.

    Think about it, where is a pyro better than ? Holding a tunnel/corridor? Try a Heavy, or a Sniper, or a Neer, etc etc. Sowing confusion? Have you EVER seen a Spy get in amongst 8 people? Easily four backstabs. As a pyro I’m lucky if I can kill a single person, and the Spy can sap anything mechanical.

    The problems with the pyro also stem from it being falsely called an ‘offensive’ based class. It isn’t. If it is, it’s the only offensive class in the game that cannot destroy a turret. I don’t think I’ve been any other class and been so completely blocked by a sentry.

    I think the best change they could make to the pyro would be to take the shotgun away, and give him Molotov Cocktails. They’d work (in terms of arc) like a Demo grenade, only they’d explode on contact and do the whole burn-em alive thing. You could even make it so enemies that had been Molotov’d took extra damage from the ‘thrower.

    I love the Pyro in TF2, and it’s my most played class, but I’ve never been in a situation as another class where I said “Man, I wish I was a pyro…”

  47. Mr Pink says:

    Garth: What about spy hunting? I admit it’s a niche job, but there’s no-one like the pyro to do it. If I’m an engineer, the best thing I can see is an attentive pyro near my machines.

    Also, I’m not sure I buy the argument that a spy is just as effective at sowing confusion. As a pyro you can set a whole group on fire nearly instantly. Getting a series of backstabs isn’t equivalent, and requires more skill imho (I’m a terrible spy, half my backstab attempts seem to miss.) You also have to be behind them first, whereas with a pyro you can jump out from round a corner.

    As for the sentry issue, call in a demoman. Surely it’s team fortress for a reason?

  48. Radiant says:

    Ah Garth you must be American.

    I was in EarthQuakers for years as a Sniper.
    Us and The Spice Girls beat everything clear across Europe [only Valashera or VvV gave us any gyp].

    Why in the world would you play a pyro even back then??

  49. Radiant says:

    And where Garth is coming from is that back then every class was a monster [bar imo the pyro and the spy].

    It’s only recently that games have started to be ‘team’ orientated in the sense that the class of player you choose is retarded in some way.

    QWCTF was same unit vs same unit and no one ever claimed it wasn’t a team game.

    It’s like people want to pass the time gently instead of learning a skill set to compete [I call this the Ninja Gaiden theory].
    Or they’d rather use the game as an advanced msn for some conversation.

    Guys like us… old guys; We just want to win.

    I hated Wolf:ET, I hated BF, I hate ET:QW and I hated the mother of them all TRIBES.

    Give me AQ2 and Urban Terror.

  50. Radiant says:

    It’s actually quite ironic that I make casual games now…