A shooter game that proves it's not all about the graphics. And it's free.

User Rating: 9.5 | Team Fortress 2 PC
Team Fortress 2 took nine years to fully develop, and after being out for over five years is now free to play. Despite its age, the game still continues to expand in number of users and still receives updates with bug fixes, new weapons and cosmetic items even today.

The class-based multiplayer shooter features nine distinct character classes: Scout, Soldier, Pyro, Demoman, Heavy, Engineer, Medic, Sniper and Spy. Each class has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, as well as weapon loadouts, which over the years of updates have grown from 1-2 unlockable achievement items to an entire marketplace full of diverse weapons for each class. In recent years Valve has added an in-game market where players can spend real money on weapons and hats for their characters. The pricing system is a bit ridiculous (Some hats sell for as much as $13.99- More than the game cost before free-to-play!) But you can't really blame them for wanting to make money. And item you could get in this market can also be earned in several other ways including trading with other players, random "drops" which pop up at random during gameplay, and crafting, which uses unwanted items to craft a new weapon or decorative item.

There are many gamemodes available, but they all share the same general concept of two teams: RED vs. BLU. Among the gamemodes are Capture the Flag, Attack/Defend, Payload, Control Points, and (more recently) Mann vs. Machine, a one-team endurance game centered around fending off waves of AI-controlled "robot" players. Note the lack of the "Team deathmatch" gamemode which is usually a given for multiplayer shooters. This is because TF2 is about working as a team to accomplish goals, not just running around killing each other. In each mode, players can select their class and modify their loadout from among the items they have earned before spawning.

There's something to be said for stability and solid programming when you have a game that's been out for 5+ years and still receiving updates. The game delivers a very consistent framerate and glitches or exploits are near nonexistent, especially on maps like Dustbowl which have been around since the game's launch in 2007.

The major point of criticism I hear about Team Fortress 2 is its graphics. Intended to be more humorous, 3D cartoon-like, the graphics depict players killed by explosives simply "falling apart" into distinctive body parts with poorly simulated blood. Sound effects are far from realistic. You must understand one thing: TF2 is all about the gameplay. The graphics are not supposed to look real. If you're one of those guys who will buy any game just because the graphics are good, you'll be disappointed with this game. The graphics are low-res, and intended to look slightly cartoonish. It's a very unique style of art not seen in any other game. That being said, the amount of space the game takes up is a bit shocking- 11.4 GB on my system. That's going to take a long time to download.

Many of the weapons in the game are far from realistic as well. Among these are the rocket launchers, which somehow manage to hold 4 rockets in a clip. On top of that, the operator can "rocket-jump" by detonating a rocket at their feet to launch them into the air at the cost of about 1/4 of their health. I wouldn't reccomend that in any other game. Other examples of this include Heavy Weapons Guy's 150-kilogram (330 lb) portable minigun which he carries and fires with relative ease, a sci-fi medigun that heals players' wounds using a team-colored beam of energy, and the Engineer's ability to repair electronic devices such as sentry guns by simply whacking them a couple times with a monkey wrench. Again, realism is not the goal of Team Fortress 2.

Where this game really shines is the well-balanced, addictive gameplay. With nine classes, there's sure to be one that fits your style of play, and after playing for a while and gathering unlockable weapons you can customize your loadouts even further. Each class has its strengths and weaknesses that effectively give it a "role" in each game mode. Teams will have to collaborate to make sure their teammates are playing the right mix of classes for the game mode they're in; some classes are near useless on certain game modes, such as Scouts on a team playing defense in Attack/Defend. TF2 rewards teamwork. If you stick with a group and coordinate attacks and pushes into the enemy's base, you're ten times as likely to emerge victorious than if each player goes about his or her own business.

Team Fortress 2 rewards players for working together and communicating. It's this that stands it out from other shooters like Halo and Call of Duty. The leaderboard system in TF2 gives you points for just about everything: Kills (of course), assists, building destructions, capturing objectives, healing teammates, defending objectives, and more. The Domination system has one player listed as "Dominating" another if they kill the same person repeatedly. The dominated player can then get extra points for killing the player dominating them- a Revenge kill. There are no rewards given to players for kill-streaks or score-streaks. This prompts players to focus on their team and the objective rather than their place on the scoreboard.

In other words, download this game. It's free. You have nothing to lose. You have the option of spending money to get weapons, or just trade with others or wait to get them yourself through drops or achievements. I can't say the game is worth the money, but it's definitely worth the hard drive space and the several-hours download time. You'll definitely learn to be a better team player after spending a few hours with this game.

9.5/10, and that's really because I just don't give 10's unless I honestly can't think of one negative thing to say about the game.