I keep meaning to make a post about Team Fortress 2. Unfortunately, ever since it was
released made available for beta testing to people who pre-ordered the Orange Box, i haven't stopped playing it long enough to make a post about it. I haven't been playing it a scary amount, but given the choice of using my spare time to blog about TF2 or actually play TF2... the blog kept getting put off.
Sufficed to say this game is immensely fun. And i don't mean it is well done and engrossing and realistic...i mean it is FUN. Goofy, laugh-out-loud fun. Don't get me wrong, it is also engrossing and immersive and all of those good things that games should be. But most importantly it is the one thing that so many games aren't these days - a real pleasure to play. This game isn't about realism. It is about chaos, ridiculous situations, rocket-jumping, bunny hopping, and all those other things that made old-school deathmatch gaming so fun - but with great team dynamic and balanced gameplay like i've never seen outside of Day of Defeat. Over and over again while playing this game, i find my self laughing outloud - usually when i've just been blown away. That tends to happen when the 'death cam' shows you the person that just killed you looking like the screenshot on the right. Any player can instantly put their character into a 'taunt' at any time. It's great fun to hit that button right after you kill someone so you know they are being forced to watch you dance. There are also many times when the game will also helpfully identify the parts of you that are laying at your enemy's feet (see image at the left). These shots also show off another cool aspect of getting killed - the game always gives you updates on what you've done well. The game is a statistician's dream and tracks the amount of damage you do, kills you get, kill assist you get, healing you perform, captures made, buildings made, buildings destroyed, etc, etc. After you are killed it told you what was particularly good about that last round, for you. You may be like me and stink at the game, but hey, you got closer to your record for damage in a round as a soldier that time than you've been in a while. Playing this game and being killed manages to be a constantly rewarding and reaffirming experience, without being condescending.
One of the other things that is really nice is the concept of the kill assist. The most obvious version of this is when a Medic is healing a Heavy or some other player and that player kills someone. The Medic clearly made it possible, so they get partial credit for the kill and receive points. The other, really nice kill-assist is when you've done a large portion of damage to an opposing player and one of your teammates comes along to help and finishes them off. Well, you may have done 250 points in damage to that Heavy (who has 300 hit points) but in most games your teammate that did the final 50 points damage would have gotten sole credit for the kill. In TF2, you both get credit. Your name gets flashed along with your teammate's.
Another fun/competitive element thrown into the game is the concept of a "nemesis". If someone kills you 5 times without you killing them, they are said to be "dominating" you and they are now your "nemesis". They will now have a special icon above their head (only for you) and you'll get double points if you can manage to kill them (a "revenge kill"). I've had the pleasure of being on the giving and receiving end of these multiple times and it just adds another layer of fun to the game.
My one request/complaint is that they took away the nifty muzzle flash effects we saw in the trailers. This whole game as a very cartoonist, straight-outta-Pixar look to it (but is surprisingly easy on the system requirements). In all the trailers - right up to a few weeks ago - all the muzzle flashes were very cartoonist as well. However, in the 'beta' version we've all been playing, they decided to covert the muzzle flashes to use the same nifty particle effects technique they developed for the Pyro's flame thrower.
There are dozens of other awesome things i'd love to say about this game. It has a great commentary track from the makers of the game, cool intro videos you can watch to help you understand the basics of each map before loading them, a really nice achievement system...and don't get me started on the intricacies of playing the engineer. But...i'm gonna go play more now.
If you want to track my personal game stats, you can always see them here.