Team Fortress 2, Valves massive cartoon shooter, turned two years (and seven months) old on Monday. For most gamers, this would mean that TF2 can now be classed as “Old”. The only ones who are normally left playing by this point are the hardcore fanatics (clan members, forum goers, modders etc.) or people who have picked the game up cheap from a bargain basket. But Team Fortress 2 still boasts a very high player count, and this made me think. Why is it still worth playing after all this time?
Not all games die after a few years. World of Warcraft grows by the day and even the original Call of Duty’s are still played fanatically by fans on the PC. You only have to look at Halo 3 to realise even console gamers can love a game for years and let’s not even get started on Diablo 2. When a game is good, it remains good. It stands the test of time and can be played every day for years and years without getting boring. That’s the theory anyway.
What specifically makes these games worth playing then? Well where to begin? There’s three reasons that I can think of (correct me if I’m wrong, that’s what the comments section is for after all) that keep gamers coming back day after day. A lot of games are popular because of a combination of these features.
The game was damn good to start with.
Diablo 2, World of Warcaft, Call of Duty… These games nailed the perfect formula. They are gaming gold. Everyone has a book you can read over and over, a film that never grows old and a game that never gets boring all because of one simple reason. They are perfect. To a lot of people, their choice is very personal. For example my all time favourite game is probably inFamous because not only is it a damn fine game but I completed it during possibly one of the best times of my life. However, 90% of people have a favourite game that is shared by millions. Warcraft. Halo. They’re classed as “best thing ever” by a lot of people, and it’s easy to see why. Let’s face it, how many people do you know that consider Shawshank their favourite film of all time? Exactly, and it’s the same for games. When something's good, it’s good for a lot of people. Therefore, they’re still played by a huge number of people four, five years after their initial release dates for the simple reason that they’re classics.
The game keeps getting better.
WoW keeps getting expansions, Halo 3 keeps getting map packs… in a modern gaming age, DLC can be shipped out every day if a developer so wishes. Whether it’s for a price or for free, developers ensure that it’s audience physically can’t stop playing a game. Regardless of whether it’s either down to people needing achievements/trophies or simply due to the fact that the game keeps on getting better, it certainly extends the lifespan of a game because let’s face it. Gamers love new content. Especially if it’s free. Oh, and when the player count drops after a couple of months? Release a retail copy with all the updates on. SORTED! Am I right Bethesda?
The modders ensure that the game keeps getting better.
People don’t play the original maps on Half Life 2: Deathmatch. They just don’t do it. Why should they? They’re boring, outdated. The killboxes on the other hand are fun. Very fun. It’s the same on Counter Strike: Source (excluding Dust). If a modding community is passionate enough about a game, it will simply never stop being played until they physically can’t do anything more with it. Take Garry’s Mod for example. Shouldn’t that have been dead by now? I’ll be honest with you, I think it would have been years ago if it wasn’t for such a creative community. The game thrives on it. An active community distributing fresh original content ensures that a game will live on until… well until the sequel comes out.
So where does this leave Team Fortress 2? I’ll tell you where. It leaves it hanging between all three. Awkwardly.
Team Fortress 2 was a classic from the word go. A flawless formula, a gameplay style unrivalled by anything else, more depth than a… really deep PC FPS and, of course, more beauty than Finding Nemo in HD. TF2 was the shit, to put it simply, and it was no wonder that when the Orange Box was first released people flocked to the world of Red Vs. Blu in their thousands. It was the freshest thing Valve had made in years, and they’d done a damn good job of it to boot.
Then the inevitable happened. People began to leave. Admittedly, they had all enjoyed themselves more than they conventionally did on other games, but left they did for that is how FPS’s work. Some stay for the glory, some stay for the fun. The latter always leave. Valve, clearly feeling very clever, then decided to pull out what it thought was it’s ace in the hole. Regular, game changing, DLC packs.
Six updates later (seven if you include the classless update) and what has became of TF2? It’s a mixed opinion. Unlike other popular games that feature regular updates such as World of Warcraft, TF2 becomes more and more distant from it’s original formula with every new addition. New weapons, new items, new maps, new game modes and of course the inclusion of hats, badges, crafting and user created content. What was originally a relaxed, fun shooter is now a frantic, ultra competitive grind fest. When I first played TF2 I was taken back by it’s pick up and play simplicity entwined with it’s deep class based system. If I was to pick up the current version for the first time, I would be confused. Very confused. TF2 is no longer a clean shaven FPS that appeals to everyone. It’s an achievement festival for MMO players. It’s became mainstream, and it was never even casual in the first place.
But does this mean that Team Fortress 2 is no longer worth your time and effort? I know a lot of people that would say yes. All of the new content is overwhelming not only for first time players but for those who just haven’t played the game in a few months and it can be said that the perfect balance between classes that was achieved before launch has been completely tipped over onto it’s back due to the inclusion of the ridiculous new weapons alone. If you were a hardcore TF2 nut before, you’re gonna hate what’s happened to your baby. Hell, even if you just loved it for what it was back in 2007, I would keep those memories and throw away Steam. TF2 is no longer something you will enjoy experiencing again.
However, if you’re the type of gamer that just likes to kick back and enjoy yourself then you’re going to love what they’ve done to the place since you were away (and if you’re a first time gamer, welcome to the nut house). First of all, the weapons are great. They really work, and they’ve all been developed in a way that means they could have replaced the originals. They’re that good (and that stylised!). Secondly, all of the new hats and achievements are not only a laugh to collect but it feels good that TF2 finally has something to achieve rather than bragging rights. Some hats carry with them a huge amount of respect, and Valve are doing a great job of just dropping in some ridiculous headgear on a regular basis for everyone to unlock. It’s fun, and at the same time there’s an extra layer of depth that’s been placed quite snugly over the top of the original version. It’s a welcome addition, regardless of what other people say, and it improves the game tenfold.Not only that, but the community have also finally found themselves, with a massive amount of servers being dedicated to some quite frankly superb map ideas. They’re certainly better than some of the arse attempts you find on other games (Yes Deathmatch, we’re looking at you). A lot of people will disagree with me, and I would completely understand if they did, but if you look at TF2 in it’s current form as something completely different to the vanilla version, then it could well give it some major competition. Primarily in the hat department.
So there you have it. My opinion on TF2 2010. Agree with me or not, Valve certainly have taken a huge risk in introducing such drastic changes on such a regular basis. It certainly makes it feel less stale than the likes of Counter Strike, but then again, how long can this last?
Until then, people will play and play until the next big thing comes along that catches their eye. At the end of the day, all great things must come to an end. Even you Warcraft. Even you.
If you enjoyed reading this article, I would love it if you could pass the link on to your mates through some method or another. Failing that, just comment below. Comments really do make me want to write more like this, and I’m sure you prefer these lovely long articles to my usual “lol look what I found” blog posts. Amrite?