Team Fortress 2 goes from fun to brilliant

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I love playing board games with friends because you all come together to sit around a table, telling jokes and plotting against each other to take over Catan’s sheep markets or what have you.

But when it comes to PC or console games, I usually play them by myself. So many just involve shooting at enemies or racing against cars, all controlled by someone else. They just feel cold to me.

But “Team Fortress 2” is different.

At first glance it appears to be a combination of a Norman Rockwell painting and a Pixar movie, except instead of wholesomeness it has an attitude of a more bloody version of Loony Toons. The environment looks like a pastiche of that desert so many Loony Toons were set in and post-World War II military installations.

The game is a first-person shooter, so there’s a lot of shooting with comically over the top weapons. But the game is much smarter; you’re not out for just yourself, you’re on a team of people.

The game is divided into a selection of “maps” that are subdivided into categories of game types, each with its own rules.

In “Payload” you need to get a cart with a ridiculously large bomb in it across a map. In “Capture the Flag” you need to capture a briefcase and bring it back to your base.

In the newest mode, “Mann vs. Machine,” you fight of a horde of robots before they blow up your base. There’s even more than that, though; you’re playing against another team of human players as you fight computer controlled robots.

This is where the game goes from fun to brilliant.

There are nine character “classes” in the game. Basically, each is a character you can play and each has its own special abilities. The Scout class, for instance, can’t do a ton of damage but can move really fast. They’re good at grabbing the briefcase or making the cart move.

But they can be killed easily by, say, a Heavy class character. Heavies have a giant Gatling gun and can do a lot of damage. But they move very slowly and are really easy to hit.

The Medic class can heal other characters on your team, and as they do they build up an “ubercharge” power that allows you to briefly make the medic and another character invincible, and this way you can make a heavy indestructible.

See the interplay? And that’s just scratching the surface.

here’s also the sneaky Spy, the turret-building Engineer, the rocket-launching Soldier, the bomb-planting Demoman, the flame-throwing Pyro, and the precise and deadly Sniper. Each one has a place on the team, each one is needed to win.

Despite all this complexity, it’s actually a pretty easy game to play. Because it’s team based you do need to work well as a unit, but if you’re not fantastic you won’t be the only reason the team loses.

Oh, and guess what? It’s totally free to play, with a few optional payments. So go get the briefcase! The enemy Spy is in the base!

Team Fortress 2 was developed by Valve Software for PC and Mac and available at www.teamfortress.com .

Walla Wallan Noah Hinz is a games aficionado. A graphic arts student at the Evergreen State College, he’s working on various projects and game designs. Email your questions and comments to noahhinz@gmail.com.

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