Yes, nothing else matters, only Team Fortress 2! Now we're gonna go through my favorite maps on this game and why I think they're awesome. I've changed my mind quite a bit over time so I'll try to take in consideration everything I've lived from the first time I played until now.
Runner Up. Doomsday
I had a hard time fitting so many cool maps in a top 10. I certainly could name a few I'm extremely fond of, like the ctf_well for example, which I adore playing on. Egypt and Hightower come to mind as well. But one map I was insanely satisfied with when it first came out and still is pretty awesome despite the fact it's not as played as back then is Doomsday.
For those of you who don't know this map came along with highly anticipated "Meet the Pyro" mini movie. I quickly became the most played map for a few weeks before its fame fade out. Another interesting aspect is that it introduces a new game mode, when you have to deliver something called Australium on a rocket in order to make it launch. To actually deliver it and win the round the player must stand on an elevating platform for a period of time. If the Australium is dropped and no one is holding it while standing on the platform it will come back down.
What makes this map so awesome is that both teams spawns have corridors connecting the spawn area directly to the rocket, making the rocket area the most insane place to be among all maps. The rest of the level gets unused when the Australium is being fought over in the main area, so spies can traverse is pretty conveniently at will, as well as snipers trying to pick targets at a distance going almost unnoticed.
As happens with this kind of map these days the fun could be doubled if not for one tiny mistake, and it's not even the map's fault. Mini-sentries. Using mini-sentries in this level is cheap and takes away all the fun we could be having by using stock weapons. Your own team's area is pretty safe if you take in consideration that a life restorer restores your whole life just behind a giant rock (safe from incoming rockets or pipes from above).
Basically an engineer's "strategy" for this map using mini-sentries would be spawn, drop a mini-sentry on the elevated terrain, wait, and repeat the process sometimes changing location just not be so obvious. Also, the bullets go through the giant rocket, hard to spot someone when there's something in the way, but no problem at all for the automated perfect-aim sentry. Easy built and regenerating.
Depending on the server you occasionally or regularly play on you notice some patterns. Like, one server goes Goldrush/Dustbowl until God decides we're unworthy of being here and strikes his fury upon mankind ending the human race. Others prefer playing on Egypt until the end of time, no need for any other map anyway. Others will choose the star couple 2fort/Turbine for their daily gameplay. Nothing fancy, two overplayed capture the flag maps that every one simply looooves! Sure thing. But the bastard child of these two seems to be Doublecross.
Opposed to 2fort/Turbine which seem to have a slight balance problem, especially 2fort, Doublecross is one of the best optimized ctf maps around. Lots of hallways, good space, a pit which is always nice and fun. More than one exit out for flag hunters. It seems pretty safe to say this is one of the best maps competitively wise for pubs.
This is a great stage to play. Again, if everything is balanced the middle point should become mayhem in no time. The simple architecture pleases while still maintaining pretty useful complexity for veteran players. This stage is one of those that suffers with the added mini-sentries to the game and even though it has since lost a lot of its former charm especially for playing with scout who should excel in maps like this one where capturing the point is top priority, now the winner gets chosen based on who has the most engineers spamming mini-sentries.
Infamous 2fort gets a place on my list. Sure, it has its problems, it has balancing issues, spam issues, tiny corridors, basically one way out of intel area (the other leads directly to spawn, even though both do lead to spawn) and the only alternate way to the other team's base is the sewer. Now tell me you don't traverse the sewers constantly thinking "Gee, who would have thought about using the sewers right? It's so sneaky, so OBVIOUS!". Yes, if you're a spy7 disguised and see someone coming the other way through the sewers you best step back because there's room for only one.
Sure, it does have its problems, maybe a lot of them, but you what? It's fun. Its a fun little level. You'd think the most obvious choice for balance would be perfect. Mirrored bases one in front of the other. It shouldn't matter how bad they're designed, they're the same. Whatever problems you may be having on your end the other team should have the same. Well, things don't work like that, unfortunately.
This maps transforms Team Fortress into basically a deathmatch. Snipers should have a good time on top of the battlements unless some inconvenient Soldier or Demoman comes up to screw up. The middle part should be hell by now, offensive classes will have a lot of space to spam, especially because to cross the maps you have to go through the bridge, which holds two people side by side. This levels seems to be made to make people bump into each other constantly because there's absolutely no large enough room to make things a little more interesting. The ones available are too deep inside the base to be any fair.
Of course spies can use the ultra mighty sneaky sewers (who would have thought about the sewers anyway right?). Medics will have plenty to heal, the Ubers most of the time won't have a real purpose but who cares? This is all about anarchy, not balance, not competitiveness. This level is about choosing sniper and stay on the battlements aiming frontward until another sniper offers his head on the other side. This is about simple cross swaps through the bridge trying to pick as many targets as possible as spy. This is about building your sentry somewhere around your base and feel useful.
This gets boring after a while, soon enough you'll prefer more balanced stages like Gravel Pit, but believe me, eventually and occasionally you'll come back to feel that feeling most of us had when we first started playing. 2fort was for most of us the real introduction to Team Fortress 2, it doesn't matter if you're doing it wrong, there's no right here, just fun. There's no complaining about teleports because frankly, where should they lead? Whatever the case is, any good location would be an easy victim for the other team. Medics wasting ubercharges? In detriment of what? You have to cross the spawn area and even if you do, most of the time people will notice you.
See? I still think this stage has a purpose on Team Fortress 2 and I completely understand why this is one of the most played maps up to this day. This maps kinda reminds me of a simpler time on Team Fortress 2, and that can't be bad.
It's debatable which maps represents Team Fortress 2 the best. Some will say good old 2fort, while others tend to say Dustbowl. For me I'd have to choose between 2fort, Well and Dustbowl. Whatever the case may be, there's no denying that Goldrush plays a major role in it. This is one of the most played maps on the game and for good reason: it's very balanced and involving. The maps is divided in three sections. The first, and weakest of all is resourceful enough. The second gets more interesting and the final part is the best.
This was the first payload maps ever created and certainly carries countless fans around. I enjoy it, but for me, since this probably is the most played map in the game, sometimes it gets old easily. I guess I feel is happening a lot less with over-played maps like Dustbowl a lot less because it's payload and the team needs to be quite cohesive and varied in a purpose manner, something that doesn't always happens in pubs, either for defending or attacking. It's easy to notice you're the only one actually trying to achieve the objective, and even when you're not one of those trying hard, at least you're not one of the 4 snipers and 5 spies.
This stage has grown on me and I can say that right now it's my favorite map to play on. It has good length and pace, lots of small areas for different strategies and all. This might also depend a lot on your team's quality but we can't argue against that in a game called Team Fortress I guess. So this might be home of shameful stacks due to its large variety, or a vary even match, for the same reasons.
I like the way the final spot has 3 main entrances and people still neglect one of them and still can't find out why they're not being able to infiltrate. Defending is no less blood-pumping, with so many sneaky spots -- real sneaky spots, I'm looking at you 2fort -- it's easy to have spies roaming around obsoleting your precious sentry guns. I've had plenty of memorable matches on this map. I've also had many complete and miserable failures. I guess we could call that a success for Barnblitz.
Maybe this is one of the most overlooked stages on the game. It's not underplayed in any way, on the contrary, but I still feel like this should be a lot more popular than it is now. Maybe the lack of attention to detail hampered its rise, its not a pretty as most of the more popular maps around, but the sheers core-ness of it impresses.
There's not much to it, both teams are pushing their own cart, whoever reaches the destination first gets the prize. The prize for the first two parts is simply an advantage on the next course, which is not in any way an advantage, so the last one will finally decide who's the winner. A double slope for pushing always facing the threat of you getting killed and letting all your hard work go to waste. All 3 phases of the map are insane, especially in 32 people servers. Definitely gives you the full Team Fortress experience of total wackiness mixed up with distinctive addition of team work.
Another such classic map it's almost useless to say anything. Divided in 3 glorious parts, the first is the weakest but the other two are absolutely amazing. That last corner of the final part is one of the most insane places in the entire game along with the shuttle area in Doomsday. This maps is overdone but strangely I can play it for hours straight without ever noticing but I can't do that with Goldrush for example.
This stage is great for massive offensive classes like Demoman and Heavy. I especially like to defend as Heavy for insane results. Actually I started to enjoy and really get the hang of playing as Heavy on the map. As any big map good engineering is essential for winning, and I also enjoy very much playing engineer, which only adds to the sheer awesomeness of this classic map.
Furthermore, it was one of the first, if not the very first map I've ever played on the 360 when I got the Orange Box. I didn't play online or anything, I just tried it out and attempted some achievements for some easy gamer points. I remember building as engineer without really understanding what was going on. Capturing points without having any idea of what the map was like. Good old memories.
3. Mann Manor
Yes, I know this stage is a redesign of Mountain Lab, but the Halloween version is so stylish, so fitting and so full of good memories that it's impossible not to include this glorious version. I was playing this map that I had my first Halloween experiences. It was on this that I captured my first gift--still remember, it was at that defender sniper tower from the manor on the second point, after getting tired of playing scout I changed to Pyro and managed to get it after the soldier who was in front of me chose to delve the inner part of the mansion, more precisely that big living room leading to the last point.
Everything about this level is awesome, even the extreme complexity of the original is not present here, with the more gloomy atmosphere there are much less details so people can focus on playing. The pumpkins also turn this into a very fun game that, once you get the hang of locations, will help a lot. It shines completely during Halloween, but I can't see why people don't play this stage much more often. Even when I see server running Mountain Lab I always think this version would be much more suitable.
It was hunting Halloween gifts that I finally learned how to play Scout. Now I love playing with the Scout, but up to that point I had barely played with that class at all. So Halloween is not completely useless or only good to inflate the price of keys after all.
2. Gravel Pit
This maps has a special meaning for me. It was the first map I played on the PC. I remember dominating as engineer and thinking "yeah this is pretty easy". I shouldn't even have to note that never again I could do what I did at that time without my sentry getting destroyed easily--sentry on second floor of building with last point, dispenser on last floor, going up and down when sentry needed repair, simply jumping down, then going back up; 2x kills with that.
It still is a great map, certainly I don't play it as much as I always wanted in the old days, but I still enjoy playing it when people finally decide that the goldrush/dustbowl or 2fort/turbine loop is getting boring. That doesn't happen often though. I've seen competitive matches being held on this map so on a competitive level it must be balanced as well, I know playing this in pubs is good fun.
Yes, Turbine is my number one. Lame right? Sure. Bear with me, this level is all about fun, nothing more. It's simple and treacherous, lots of places to play cheap yes, I admit, but also good places where a medic or a good player can do wonders. Building your sentry on the intel room and feeling useful is always good when you're starting. The middle section is too huge to feel cheap, though I would like to have an upper left exit as well, right in front of the stair, maybe the best place would be beside it. I've seen a pro version that has a side corridor as well that goes from the upper platform before the intel room to the center of the stage, both sides. Good thing.
People seem to love this map, and they sure as heck have reasons to do it. It has cheap little places like the duct, which is basically 2fort taken to the extreme, and immense open areas like the middle section. Every class here has a place that it excels. Probably building teleporters is the only pain in the back, which could be easily solved if the red/blue cargo wagons were traversable, hollow. Even so this level is great fun and one of the maps I've played the most during my play-time with Team Fortress 2.
2. Gravel Pit
3. Mann Manor
Runner Up. Doomsday