Team Fortress 2 - Launch Review

Team Fortress 2 sets a brilliant stage for its signature brand of class-based multiplayer mayhem.

As one of the first shooters to pioneer team- and class-based gameplay, the first Team Fortress quickly became a favorite among the online community, inspiring devotion and spawning innumerable user-created modifications that many still play today. Team Fortress 2 was announced almost a decade ago as a sequel to the original mod, and went through many transformations and design iterations before its release last October as part of The Orange Box. At heart, TF2 remains true to its roots, pitting two teams against each other in objective-based competition. Players on both teams select one of nine character classes, each with their own unique abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. TF2's cartoon aesthetic and stripped-down classes belie its complexity, and the dynamic interplay of abilities and strategies is nuanced, hectic, and challenging. The result is a fantastic multiplayer experience that proves itself a worthy successor to its seminal ancestor.

As a purely multiplayer game, Team Fortress 2 has no need for a storyline. Instead, it has characters. Each class is a uniquely styled character with his own amusing personality (some of whom have been featured in hilarious "Meet The..." video features that are readily available online). These classes come equipped with three weapons, generally classifiable as a primary gun, a secondary weapon, and a melee weapon. For example, the soldier class comes armed with a rocket launcher, a shotgun secondary weapon, and a shovel for close quarters combat. Classes are grouped into offense, defense, and support, though their actual roles in combat are far more fluid.

If you think the heavy and medic won't join the soldier on offense, you got another thing comin'.

The offensive group includes the scout, the pyro, and the soldier. The scout is lean, fast, and nimble (he can double-jump), but light on health. He can capture points twice as fast as other classes and can quickly gun down less robust classes, but his relatively low health makes him highly susceptible to sentry guns and the Heavy’s minigun. The pyro wears a black flame-retardant suit to protect himself from his flamethrower, which can light opponents on fire. While deadly at close range and in enclosed spaces, the pyro is much less effective in open areas. The soldier wields a powerful rocket launcher that is effective at any range, though its small clip and slow reload rate can be a hindrance.

In the defensive group you'll find the demoman, the heavy, and the engineer. Demomen have grenade launchers that can ricochet shots around corners, and remote-detonated sticky bombs that are great for setting traps. Heavies have the most health, but are also the slowest since they carry a giant minigun that can shred nearby opponents in seconds. Engineers have the unique ability to build structures, like sentry guns, ammo/health dispensers, and teleporters. Though they are armed with shotguns as well, their primary concern is building and maintaining their machines in strategic locations.

Just as being part of a fluid, coordinated team is truly excellent, so too is being part of a fractured, dysfunctional team truly frustrating.

Though different classes clearly lend themselves to different roles on the battlefield, the strategies each can employ are far from limited, and it can be difficult at first to decide which class to play. While certain classes seem more straightforward than others, they all have their nuances that can only be learned over time. Fortunately, you have the option to switch classes every time you respawn, or any time you run back into the spawn point. This gives both teams the flexibility to change strategies on the fly, and it's one of the key elements that make Team Fortress 2 so dynamic.

This flexibility can also cause problems, especially for teams that aren't communicating properly. If half the team decides to switch it up while the other half decides to stay the course, the resulting disarray can scuttle your chances of victory. There are useful hotkeys that allow you to send quick messages, and many players use voice chat to stay on point. Still, many a team has fallen to defeat due to dissonant strategy, and as such Team Fortress 2's biggest strength is also its biggest liability. Your success is tied to your team's success and, in part, so is your enjoyment of the game. Just as being part of a fluid, coordinated team is truly excellent, so too is being part of a fractured, dysfunctional team truly frustrating. These are two extremes, to be sure, but such is the inconsistent nature of a game experience that depends so wholly on other players.

Without that ammo dispenser, that heavy will run dry in no time. Thanks, engie!

Fortunately, most of the TF2 experience falls somewhere between those two extremes. Every game mode demands a cooperative strategy (there are no Deathmatch modes), but the basics aren't hard to grasp. In the Capture the Flag mode, players must grab a briefcase of intelligence from the opposing team's base and return it to their own. In the Control Point mode, teams fight to capture all the control points on the map. The Attack/Defend mode challenges one team to capture the control points while the other team defends, and teams switch roles between rounds. Each of the maps is designed for one or two specific game modes, and all are meticulously designed to create numerous strategic approaches for both teams.

Since the game's release last October, Valve has released a few new maps and game modes, slowly expanding the somewhat sparse catalog. They have also recently released three new weapons for the medic that you unlock by completing achievements. These weapons feature slight stat tweaks and new abilities that add a new element of customization to the class, and no doubt herald future weapon deployments for the other classes. While this did cause a (hopefully) temporary imbalance in the number of people playing as medics and a rise in overtly self-interested tactics, it offers new challenges and goals for players. This new content helps extend the replay value of TF2, which makes the high price point a little easier to swallow.

Valve has done a fantastic job creating and balancing the maps, classes, and other game elements that are within their control. Still, Team Fortress 2 is a purely multiplayer game and, as such, lives and dies by the team. Most of the time you'll find yourself well matched, but the inherent uncertainty of the game can make for some vexing sessions. Your best move is to seek out friends and servers that are least likely to yield such sessions, and then enjoy the fertile battlegrounds that Team Fortress 2 so expertly cultivates. You'd be remiss not to reap this harvest.

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The Good
Unique, well-balanced classes and maps
Team dynamic can yield immensely satisfying moments
Appealing visual aesthetic
The Bad
Heavy reliance on other players can make or break the experience
Strategic depth can be daunting
Price pushes boundaries of reasonability
About GameSpot's Reviews
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About the Author

With his Apple IIGS as the spark and his neighbor's NES the fuel, Chris Watters' passion for gaming caught fire early. Years later, you can find him aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent while desperately avoiding sunburns.

This game was fun untill they made it free. They stole all items from paying customers and made them pay or play to get them back.

When it became free it became absolutely impossible to find a good server as all servers have been over 50% full with new players ever since. Without skilled players and teamplay this is just unbearable.

Before that I may have said the same thing as the guy below me. Best online fps ever created. Maybe except for Wolf: ET which too heavily relied on teamwork.


Simply the best online fps ever created.


good game fun to play and really worth's your time and if you play it with some friends doubles the fun!and it's been 5 years since its release date and it's still living on!getting updates patches and all that...also playing around with the editor is fun making animations and weird stuff i enjoyed that!


I downloaded it once it became free to play, and it was a good choice. I have to admit though, it got boring after a while, maybe it would have been better if I had tryed to play it strategically, rather than a traditional FPS.


Unlike those of you ardent fans of Team Fortress 2 who think that the game can do no wrong and had done no wrong, I hereby oppose to a re-review.


If you are going to argue that the game is now far more than what it was as described in this review, then the converse is also true: the game was once far lesser than what it is now. Nothing is going to change this.


More importantly, there must be articles that tell of what it once was, not just what it is now. Otherwise, that would just be essentially the covering up of the past of this game.


Just another way to tell that PC games are treated like crap compared to console related games. This game was rated the same as MW3, the worst game that was ever released by activision. Developers spent 7 years on Team Fortress 2, and IW and Co. spent 2 on their horrible game. Plus the team mate thing, yeah it may be bad on Team Fortress, but if you compare the teammates on there compared to another FPS like MW3, TF2 is god-like. If you're looking for real games, get TF2, Battlefield 3, and Counter Strike Source/ CS:GO. I'd rate this game a 9.3 and MW3 a 6 for a decent campaign. The reason why I'm picking on MW3 so much is because the hype they made for it was too damn high. Just another way to tell you're either being paid to make this look bad or just a really critical person is the strategy statement in the con. Please.


What's the problem guys? I think he did a fine job of reviewing the game. At the time of this review, the price might have been a little high for the given content. And even though it is "Team Fortress", one of the problems of the game is (even still these days) sometimes your teammates are  complete assclowns, and that IS REALLY FRUSTRATING. Chris's frustration is perfectly justified. Have you been on a team that doesn't communicate? Annoying as shit. 6 spies on your team? Annoying as shit. TF2 is by far the best shooter I've ever played, but it's not without it's frustrations. 

P.S. An 8.5 is a good score as far as I'm concerned.


What a terrible review. You give the best game ever made to date an 8.5? You give is bad praise because it was retailed at cost? They packaged it as a bundle in Orange Box, and then further went to make it free to play. You complain about reliance on your teammates. It's called TEAM fortress you moron. This reviewer is a low life loser and should be fired immediately. This review is a disgrace and it makes this whole site look bad.


[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]


 @Gelugon_baat What's wrong with telling what it is now? Unless you have some weird obsession with playing past patches of games, reviews should definitely be as up-to-date as possible. I don't see the logic here, and I'm not even an "ardent fan" of tf2. The game is flawed, and so is this review, due to age. Re-reviewing is not a bad idea at all. 


I said some pretty rude stuff. I should respect people, but sometimes I let it all pour out at the cost of my dignity. I can understand that there can be ups and downs at launch, but none of those are a problem with other reviews on this site, like Diablo III for example.


I am not convinced that the team oriented element of the game is a particularly bad thing, especially not worth deducting points. Don't like a team oriented game? Don't review games that have "Team" in their name perhaps?


The game is artistically, and technically beautiful. The source engine has provided high scores for Half Life 2 which is one of the highest rated games in history. Yet this game only warrented a score of 8.5 from GameSpot? This really makes me depressed. An 8.5 drags the overall score down to a 92, which is a reasonable score, but it could have been better with a bit more support from this site.


Team Fortress 2 is still one of the most played FPS games today, and it gets free updates on a weekly basis. I urge GameSpot to redo this article now that the game is Free to Play!


 @SKaREO It was also sold as a standalone game. This review is for the standalone game.


Also, the review was made according to the state of the game at release, not the state that it is now.


That said, the reliance on team-mates is both a strength and weakness of the game. Nothing will ever change this, and neither will it change the fact that some matches can be terrible experiences due to lack of teamwork on one's team.


No one's being a moron and a disgrace, I say. All I see is just a fan who can't take a different opinion without thinking ill of others.


 @xHallelujah Of course, it's not a bad idea - but it's not a legal obligation for GameSpot, or any game site for that matter.


@Gelugon_baat @SKaREO Team Fortress 2 is a truly amazing game, and even if it cost as much money as it was before, it would still be worth it due to many updated features and very good balance of characters that can lead to lots of satisfaction. Unfortunately, the reviewer is right: the game does push you into relying on noobs to face off some hardcore players which will really piss people off. However, the game is still completely worth it, even if the cost may have been pricy, I still would've bought it then.

Team Fortress 2 More Info

  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • Unix/Linux
    This squad-based shooter, which features nine distinct character classes and a unique art style, is the successor to the original Team Fortress.
    Average Rating6319 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Valve Software
    Published by:
    Valve Software, Electronic Arts, CyberFront, EA Games
    Shooter, Free-to-Play, First-Person, Action, 3D, Team-Based
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence