Kayarath’s Adventures In Hats!

Posted on Nov 22 2012

Today we’re reviewing Team Fortress 2 which is a five year old game. Among the many hats I wear, topical is not one of them. Why would I review a game that been out for so long anyway? First off, I need some way to justify the 147 hours I spent playing it and an article is perfect for that. Second off, like many online games, Team Fortress 2 continues to change and evolve. The Team Fortress 2 of 2012 is quite different from the Team Fortress 2 of 2007. Getting over 320 updates tends to do that to a game. I think some new perspective on it would be quite useful actually.

How I came to be a Team Fortress 2 player is a bit of a story in itself. Another hat I don’t wear is that of the FPS player. I’m a more analytical player, preferring JRPGs and Strategy games for the most part. The highly militaristic twitch gaming was never my cup of tea conceptually. I simply avoided the whole affair. However, like with Hetalia and Bronies, you can’t wonder into a convention or a website without running to a cosplay or parody of it. Seeing all that fandom made me wonder what all the fuss was about so I eventually had to try it if only to understand the memes it generated.

My first real exposure was not a cosplay or a comic, but instead the promotional video entitled “Meet the Spy.” It’s a video produced by Valve in order to highlight the Spy class and promote the game in general. It seems that Valve created the videos as well as various comics to expose Team Fortress 2 to different audiences. The video is about the Red Spy who infiltrates the Blue Team’s base in order to steal their intelligence. It’s a brilliant video full of visual gags, surprise twists, and fine voice acting that clocks in under three and a half minutes. The same could be said of all the Meet the Team videos; except for the time part though but that’s okay.


The first act I performed in game was to play through the tutorial. It was a very basic affair that taught you the basic things like controls, how different weapons work best at different ranges, and how the different classes operated. It also has an offline mode where you could play with bots to help get your feet wet. It’s serves its job as an introduction to the game, but it leaves a lot of details out. There’s a lot to grasp in Team Fortress 2 but it largely leaves it up the player to figure it out via trial and error, or the TF2 wiki (but even that doesn’t cover everything). If you take the time to read the descriptions and watch the little videos that explain how the maps work, you should be good enough.

Thanks to my gaming history, a lot of these things were like an old hat to me. Other things, not so much. While most people can run and gun quickly enough, if you really want to understand it, you’ll have to go to outside sources to really learn the details. Team Fortress 2 sort of assumes that anyway which can be a pain. It’s third source of help is it’s coaching system, which tries to link newer and older players together so the former can learn from the later. Never tried it. Did anyone actually try it?

Don’t be intimated by the learning curve though; this game is totally worth it. I’ll just say that the 147 hours of game time I had with it was accumulated in the span of just two months. Now that’s a mark of endorsement of there ever was one. There’s such a large variety of things to try out that you’ll be bound to find things that are suited for your gaming taste. Team Fortress 2 also makes the whole experience easy to stomach with tons of personality, charm, and humor. It’s the complete package and it’s even free to play!

This is the Medic. Every team needs a Medic

The most defining feature of Team Fortress 2 is it’s classes. Every one of them is distinct in their personality and play style. Everyone will develop their own personal favorites. For example, I find great joy in the Pyro’s close range burning of enemies or the Heavy’s constant stream of firepower. I rarely play the Scout and Sniper because I lack the speed and precision required to play those classes effectively. There really is a difference between classes, especially if you play the Medic, Spy, or Engineer. It is these three classes that differ most from the standard FPS formula. The Spy is all about deception, disguising himself as part of the other team in order to quietly eliminate key targets. The Engineer constructs buildings to support his allies and attack his enemies. The Medic’s function is obvious but uncommon in first person shooters. To spice it up, the medic also has an ubercharge ability, granting himself and an alley a short lived but powerful effect.

All of the classes have their own area of expertise. It’s all about manipulating the situation so that you have the advantage. For example, a Pyro can kill almost anything if he ambushes them in an enclosed space, but is easy pickings out in the open. A Heavy in a straight up fight is always a force to be reckoned with, but his slowness makes him vulnerable to snipers and spies. Snipers, of course, generally want to be far away sniping and not having to deal with foes up close like Scouts, who are great for running around and attacking in unexpected places. Most strategies have a counter to them, and if that wasn’t enough to worry about, all nine classes have at least a dozen different weapons to use.

Items play a huge part in the game. There are hundreds of them with all sorts of different functions. As you play the game, you’ll gain various items through various means. You can equip them in your loadouts to enjoy their various effects. The large majority of the time, they’re not strict upgrades; they’re more like specializations or different options. Items can do anything from providing buffs to weakening the enemy, provide a source of healing, specializing in certain tactics, shoring up your weaknesses, to just looking cool. It’s all about picking the right set of items to equip to match your style and the current situation. Sometimes I just marvel at my own inventory and all the wonders it holds.

If there’s a pyro in your face, you should totally pop that uber.

Items procurement is such a task that it’s practically a game within itself. As you play the game, you’ll receive random items through the item drop system. If you’re like me, you’ll quickly find yourself with five duplicates of the same thing while desperately hoping for a specific item. You have plenty of options on how to go about finding that sandwich you want so badly. Team Fortress 2 has a built in crafting system, which allows you to transform the items you don’t want into items that you do want. The downsides to crafting is that there are tons of recipes making it a chore to figure out what you can make and how best to use your materials. It is also inefficient since you can get a better return through other methods. However, the process is completely transparent and it can by done without the aid of others, allowing you to be self-sufficient and quick about it.

For the more adventurous types, you can go out and trade. Team Fortress 2 has an active economy and there’s always people wheeling and dealing their way to hatdom. What baffles me is that such an active economy can occur without a central trading area, auction houses, player stores, or currency. While refined metal, keys, and buds (I’m not even sure what buds are) have become the de facto forms of money, trading is largely a wild west where you’re on the hunt for the best deal while trying to avoid being ripped off yourself. One time a player approached me asking me for a Series #40 crate I possessed. Not thinking about it, I requested one scrap metal in exchange. Later on, when I was researching the item economy, I decided to check out how much a Series #40 crate actually was. The one site that did offer a price put it between 12 to 14 keys. If that’s true, that meant I sold it for pennies on the dollar! I haven’t felt that shocked since CENSORED TO AVOID SPOILERS died. It’s not like I was some complete noob either. Based on the research I’ve already done, I was lead to believe crates simply aren’t worth much to begin with. But there’s so little data on that specific item I really don’t know if I’ve been ripped off or not. Maybe it’s best to stick with only a close circle of friends to trade with.

If you simply must have that item, there is always the nuclear option; spend money. Yes, you are only one credit card transaction away from practically any item your heart desires. Such is the curse of the so called “free to play” game. By going free to play, Valve was able to increase revenue from Team Fortress 2 by a factor of twelve. They make so much money selling hats that they give the game away so they can sell more hats. At least the money is going towards constant development of the game, ensuring there’s always new stuff to check out. While it would be a good idea to buy something in order to upgrade your account to “premium” status, you really don’t need to spend money (beyond the one time purchase for account upgrading). In fact, for some classes the best loadouts are the default free ones. There are also many different paths to get what you want, like hats.

Hats! Hats! Glorious Hats!

Ahhh, hats. What can I say about hats? In the world of Team Fortress 2, hats are the ultimate symbol or power and prestige. To have an unusual hat upon your head is to know that you have made it and are now among the greats. All who play Team Fortress 2 have a natural desire to procure their own hats so that they too can demonstrate their natural prowess through head wear. Hats are boss and to not have one is surely a sign of poverty and shame.

With all this talk of classes and items, you would think Team Fortress 2 is an RPG or strategy game and not a first person shooter of any sort. Team Fortress 2 is not those but is a game that incorporates elements of those genres. While some people could get confused with sorting all those options out, class and item comparison and analyst comes naturally to me. Shouldn’t all games have similar mechanics? Shouldn’t all games strive to have an ongoing story with well developed characters?

It seems that not all multi-player games share this goal. I’m glad Team Fortress 2 is not one of them. All nine classes were given distinct character designs, voice lines, backgrounds and stories. The voice acting is especially hilarious. My favorites lines would have to be the Medic’s domination line of, “Want a second opinion? YOU ARE ALSO UGLY!” and the Demoman’s “THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!” which he proudly yells while wielding the Eyelander (no spelling mistake there. that is the name of the weapon). The comics, videos, descriptions, and even maps are full of surprises that will entertain and provide insight into the minds and personalities of those crazy mercenaries you play as. Even the Team Fortress 2 blog is done in universe, allowing for all sorts of character development and joke making.

You can find this hilarious letter in one of the MvM maps.

If you have been paying attention to the story, you’ll know that the current arc is based around the “heroes” battling hordes of robots. In game, this is represented through the aptly titled “Mann vs. Machine” mode where you team up with other players to battle A.I. bots. This is the mode that got me into the game since I figured it’d would be easier to fight bots then actual people. It’s fun but it can be frustrating if you pick a skill level that is too high for you. Don’t start in expert or advanced mode and you should be alright. Of course, if fighting bots endlessly isn’t your thing, there are eight or so other game modes to suit your fancy. While each mode has it’s own quirks, it all generally boils down to either attacking or defending a point. However, the various maps out there do change it up so it’s not always the same thing over and over. I find myself favoring payload mode more often then not. I’m sure you’ll find your own favorite game mode and map sooner or later. I’m sure once you start playing this game you’ll play it so much you develop your own favorites.

Because that is what happened to me. Team Fortress 2 is a highly acclaimed game and for very good reason. It has a lot to offer in game play, aesthetics, community, and personality. This game fits me like a glove am I’m willing to bet it will for you too. It’s free to play too so there’s no reason not to go out and try it.

You may have some trouble with it though. Team Fortress 2 is fairly complex so people may have trouble figuring it all out. That’s okay, it does get better. Simply by experimentation you’ll learn what works for you. Try out all the classes; try out all the game modes; try out all the items. You’ll eventually find a combination that works for you. Second, don’t be afraid to get help. There are websites like the Team Fortress 2 wiki or the game’s forums that will explain the difference between a Black Box and shoe in the face. You can also ask people in the game for advice. There are people out there who are willing to offer some good advice. Lastly, play with some friends since it’s always better to play with friends. If you don’t have any friends who play Team Fortress 2, you do now! My steam name is kayarath so feel free to send me a friend request. We can cap points, uber charge each other, or trade hats! I hope to game with you soon!

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