t may be necessary for me to preface this review with a simple fact: I am not a PC gamer. Despite all the time I've spent over the years with console shooters like Halo, Red Faction and Timesplitters, my moments with PC frag-fests have been fleeting. For me, keyboard and mouse control schemes feel as foreign as Kanji or Braille – I've grown used to the sluggishness and imprecision of dual stick controls, and the slower pace of console shooters seems only natural. Having said this, my first game of Team Fortress 2 was about as relaxing as wrestling a man on PHP. Thrilling, yes, but equally jarring for one used to console shooters which seem to run in slow motion by comparison.
It's clear from the moment one fires up TF2 on the 360 that it's inherited a lot from its PC counterpart. This is a hardcore shooter through-and-through, as unforgiving to the newcomer as it is rewarding for anyone with a little bit of patience. At its core is a deep class system that governs what each player brings with them to the battlefield. Coupled with finely tuned levels that are highly intuitive (provided you think the same way as the game's talented pool of developers), one quickly recognizes TF2 for what it is – one of the most carefully engineered team shooters to come around since the Quake III era.
The engineer, though weak
on offense, is one of TF2's
most potent defenders.Choosing a character class in TF2 is an important decision indeed. Since the different classes feature such divergent skill sets, it's necessary to pick one that complements your own play style as well as the makeup of your team – as tempting as it might be to have three scouts in your group, all it takes is a single enemy engineer and one of their deployable turrets to ruin your whole team's day. There are a total of 9 classes which are broken up into three groupings: offense, defense, and support. Some classes, such as the sniper, soldier or heavy seem pretty generic; others like the spy or engineer are completely different and uniquely Team Fortress. Classes seem pretty well balanced so far, though I'll be the first to admit that it's hard to judge this early in the game's life cycle. For instance, are scouts impossible to hit because they're too fast or because I suck? I really can't tell. I'd say it's probably the result of my sucking, considering I can't hit the broadside of a barn when I play as one either.
Since we're talking about the scout anyway, now is as good a time as any to address the game's controls. As I mentioned earlier, although TF2 is running well on the 360, it's still firmly rooted in the world of PC shooters. Though the controls are relatively precise once you've adapted to them, the Halo crowd will probably be suffering from vertigo for their first few matches. This game is fast, and its characters move as such. Throughout the many hours I spent playing, I never quite adapted to the sensitivity of TF2's targeting. I'm sure some tweaking of the game's sensitivity settings would have helped immensely in this regard, but it's a fair criticism – Valve didn't do nearly as much as another developer might have as they adapted this property to consoles.
There's no death match to speak of in TF2. Each of the game's six maps are dedicated to a particular game type, all of which are objective based (be that controlling a territory for a given length of time or capturing the flag). Though some are bound to criticize the decision to not allow any game type on any map, I actually commend it. Since the developers only had to take into account one set of circumstances when designing TF2's environments, we're left with balanced maps that reward efficiency more than luck or raw firepower. The game types themselves are a lot of fun – the land grab varieties are a blast, and capture the flag is just as entertaining here as it was in the neighborhood games we played growing up. Perhaps my only criticism is that there's only a single capture the flag map – I wager we'll see a few more come the first batch of downloadable content.
It's hard to find fault with
TF2's art direction.My final observation may seem a bit subjective, but it's something that weighs heavily in my recommending a game's online experience. By its very nature, TF2 seems to attract a more mature audience – probably not the austere number crunchers of the Chromehounds set, but everyone I played against was civil and seemed to be there for the fun of the game. It's all too rare these days to commend a stranger in a game's lobby and have your words returned in kind – this happened plenty for me throughout the course of play.
Though it may be a bit thin on content and take a while to adjust to, TF2 earns its place as one of the most hardcore shooters to grace the modern consoles. It's a game that rewards teamwork and well-laid plans over power plays – a breath of fresh air following those marathon matches I'm sure most of you have been having on Halo 3. Congratulations to Valve on an incredibly well designed product. Not only was it worth the wait – now we can't wait for more.