After hearing that Team Fortress 2 was free to play, I thought I’d give it a go. I had seen a few funny YouTube videos using game footage, and thought it looked like fun. I researched the different character classes and jumped aboard.

I will say, especially if you haven’t been on Steam before, the waiting time will surprise you. First you have to download Steam. It’s an online game service that I mentioned once before on my Alien Swarm post (LINK TO POST). Basically they host the games and provide a sense of community. They have free to play games as well as many paid options available. After Steam downloads, expect Team Fortress 2 to take quite awhile. I think for me it took 3+ hours. It’s a big game.

TF2 is a multiplayer, team-based, first-person shooter. You pick the type of game, whether it be Capture The Flag, Defend Points, or Push The Cart. Then you pick your team. Usually the Blue team tries to complete an objective and the Red team tries to stop them. I started with a number of Push The Cart games because it said “Good for Beginning Players”. I quickly found that the folks who had been playing this game for the 4 years since it came out were MUCH better than me. They were familiar with the large maps, the strategies of each class, and the keyboard shortcuts. Obviously when you download a game, it doesn’t come with an instruction booklet outlining this. Also asking others for help will either prove fruitful or earn you a “OMG NOOB” taunt. Actually many people playing have microphones, so they can say these things to you directly instead of taking the time to type them.

After you pick a game type and team, you get to pick your class. It also lets you know what other teammates have already selected, so you can try to round out your team better while hopefully playing to your own abilities.
The first class they want you to play as is the Soldier. He’s pretty good on health, and sports a rocket launcher, shotgun, and shovel for his weapons. The rocket launcher’s great for distance attacks and its splash damage, but most folks have figured out how to take these guys down quickly. Usually by shooting until you die. I always get stuck trying to reload the rockets, or accidentally shoot too close to myself and commit suicide via the splash damage. Yes, I’m a strategic genius.

There’s a Heavy class that’s an easy favorite. He’s a behemoth on health, and sports a giant turret gun that spits bullets like there’s no tomorrow. Which makes sense, since he can die fast because everyone focuses on killing him. This guy is best when supported by a Medic or two. The Medic is limited in his own offensive ability, but more than makes up for it with his super-helpful healing abilities. He’s got a magical Heal Gun that he can focus on one comrade at a time. After he’s healed enough, he gets what’s called an Uber Charge. Now he can use this to briefly make himself and one other character invincible for a few seconds. Usually if you see someone “Uber’d”, run.
There’s a Sniper that’s fun to play but tough to really master. His rifle zooms in real close, but most players remember to dart around and make it harder to hit them. And to keep it classy, if someone gets too close the Sniper can throw a jar of liquid at them. Conceptually, the sniper has to stay in one place for a long while, and has been forced to… *ahem*… take care of #1 into a jar. Yeah, fun.
The Scout is freaking fast. This guy zips around, relying on his speed to make him harder to hit. He doesn’t do much damage, but people who are good with them are really hard to get in your crosshairs long enough to take down. Obviously he’s a natural choice for any Capture The Flag game.
The Engineer does what he should. He doesn’t have fantastic personal weapons, but can build some very helpful things. He can build a Dispenser, which heals nearby teammates and replenishes his own ‘parts’ for building more tools. He also can build a very powerful turret gun. My best score is with an engineer when I had a well-placed turret gun and defended it. The other two things the Engineer can build are teleport points, to help his teammates cross the large maps in a second instead of half a minute.
The Engineer has two natural enemies: the Demoman and the Spy. The Demoman can launch grenades from a safe distance that destroy anything the Engineer builds. The Spy is a super-sneaky bugger. He can cloak and sneak up behind his enemies. If he stabs his opponent in the back, it’s a one-hit KO. He also has sapping devices that quickly destroy any engineer constructs he puts them on. His best ability is his camoflauge. He can appear to be a member of your own team until the moment he stabs you in the back, and sometimes even then your teammates won’t notice. A well-played Spy is a force to be reckoned with.
The last class, and my personal favorite, is the Pyro. This guy runs around with a flame thrower, wreaking havoc on any opponent he sets on fire. Of course he has to come in close to do so (unless he’s got his trusty flare gun, in which case he can set you aflame from a good distance). This class is fun to play as. Just drop in the middle of 5 or 6 opponents who are trying to guard a point or push their cart, and set them all aflame. They may cut you down, but unless they get healed soon they will all fall to your flames shortly thereafter.

Obviously with all these different classes, things can get complicated. You may be all set to ambush some enemies coming around a corner, then get shot from a Sniper hanging out a few stories above you, or get stabbed in the back by the Spy. Another fun thing that can happen is when a Scout jumps and lands ON YOUR HEAD, then begins whacking you with his “baseball bat” melee weapon. Overall, even when I feel like I suck at it, this game can be quite fun.