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Memory Leaks: Team Fortress 2

🏰 Just the two of us building castles in the sky...

The original Team Fortress was a Quake mod that pitted two teams against each other in first-person-shooter death-matches. The gimmick was that the player would choose one of nine classes that all played wildly differently: Solder, Scout, Spy, Sniper, Pyro, Heavy, Medic, Demoman, and Engineer. It was popular enough that Valve hired the team who developed it to port it to the GoldSrc engine in 1997 as Team Fortress Classic to promote their software-development kit. In 2007, a sequel was made that preserved core gameplay but gave the game a visual overhaul. It was released as part of The Orange Box, alongside Portal and a whole bunch of games with Half-Life 2 in their name.

How I Remember It...

Before Fortnite or Overwatch, there was Team Fortress 2, an online class-based shooter in which red and blue teams would compete to capture flags or control points or... whatever. I have spent an embarrassing number of hours playing this game, although it weirdly took me a long time to get into. When the game was still relatively young, it didn't have offline or training mode. You just had to jump into a game with other players and figure it out, which made for a learning curve that wasn't steep necessarily, but definitely intimidating. Oh, and because the classes varied so much, it was more like nine intimidating difficulty curves. Although none was as intimidating as the Spy.

I played all of the classes, but I definitely favored the Engineer and Demoman. The Engineer builds ammo depots, turrets, and transporters that will help your teammates move around the map more easily. I favor support roles anyway--I think I just like to feel useful on the battlefield, and I'm less adept out just outright murdering people. I do recall one match where I had a fully upgraded turret sitting behind a blind corner in a tunnel that connected the two opposing bases. I managed to bait someone into chasing me and turned around so I could watch the poor guy get blasted to smithereens. As for the Demoman, I mean he's just pure chaotic Id. Sometimes you just want to lob explosives around.

There's a pretty decent balance between classes--they all have their strengths and vulnerabilities. They are all annoying in their own unique way. Natural synergies emerge--if you've played this game for five minutes you've seen the Heavy/Medic combo. And unlike its predecessors, this game really leans into its own cartoonishness. The character models are exaggerated and given appropriately silly voice acting and backgrounds. They released a whole series of videos going into the background of the various characters.

After a while new weapons and cosmetic upgrades were released. There are literally hundreds of achievements for it on Steam. The game eventually went free-to-play, and that's when my interest started to wane. Part of this is because I just don't care for that business model, but also, for whatever reason it was less interesting to me once it became a hat-collecting game. And it suffers from the same maladies that plague all online games--bots, server irregularities, bad match-ups, and players who don't know how to be civil when interacting with other humans. It makes for an overall experience that can be wildly uneven. Sometimes this is fun. Once I jumped onto a modded server where Pyros could fly. Sometimes it's not. Once I was in a game where one player just blasted obnoxious music the whole time.

Team Fortress 2 available for free on Steam and is by all accounts still pretty fun. Valve still regularly updates it and the community is still thriving. But, you know, maybe try it out in training mode first.

In MEMORY LEAKS, Kurt is going through his favorite video games. See more posts.


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