Backlog Slog – Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2 came out in 2007 as part of the compilation title from Valve, The Orange Box. Users also received Half Life 2, Half Life 2: Episode’s One and Two and Portal. It soon absolutely changed the online FPS landscape in multiple ways. Some, in retrospect, could be considered a little questionable like micro transactions and drops for cosmetics, although others would consider that all part of the fun.

I played it for a while at release, right up until drops started becoming regular. It was still pay to play, hats were new and exciting and there were still a bunch of the CG animations yet to be released. Then I stopped. I thought I’d played it to the point where it had nothing new to offer me, and I wasn’t patient enough for all the drops.

Yet, without me, the game evolved into something else entirely. I’d keep tabs on it and occasionally check to see if Steam’s new trading system meant I could sell some of my old weapons and items for cash, but that was about it.

Recently, I decided to boot it up again to play with friends and see what had changed. I spent ten minutes on the title screen because the layout was different and I couldn’t find a few things. It had, indeed, been a while and perhaps the first indication that I was the only one that had stopped and then started playing again. The entire game feels like it’s only set up for those people who had been with it for longer.

Sure, there was a tutorial mode, but entering into games was entering into a realm of people who are now either very good, or surrounded with enough cheat bots in a land where no one cares to ban, that it doesn’t matter. There were also more maps than I recalled, with most of them being custom servers for idling to farm weapons and achievements. I didn’t think the latter mattered so much until I saw there were now over 500 of them. Just what had been happening to this game?

More than I’ve seen yet, that’s for sure. The game has even included new  competitive and casual play systems with their own rankings to move up in. There’s something called Mann vs. Machine in which players fight against AI. There’s way more hats and also lootboxes apparently? I really haven’t played this for ages.

And yet, despite all the  cosmetic changes, it’s still the same game at heart. The same game I can just pick up and play immediately. Even if, as I said, everyone else has had the time to master the metagame while I’m trying to remember how to rocket jump.

But I think that’s what makes TF2 so successful in the first place, and still an absolute joy to play now. I can pick up any class, have an immediate understanding of their role, and play them in fast paced situations that allow for easy switching and tactics. There are still all the old classic modes, too.

Just like I did in 2007, I can sit in 2Fort and appreciate the nostalgia of the game as I manage that sweet, sweet sniper kill. Although, during this, I’ll occasionally pick up new weapons or hats or something when I die. Which I can apparently turn into scrap metal and make new things with? Seriously, I have no idea about a lot of the newer things.

And the best part is, it’s okay. I don’t have to get it, because the game still works as a core piece without all the extra bits and bobs. Sure, they help the latest metagame and whatnot, but skill is still an important part of the game.

And bots. Because people still don’t seem to get banned.

But, at the end of the day, there are few things more satisfying than finding that sneaky Spy or sniping a Heavy who was just about to receive an uber charge. It’s comfy, like eating your favourite meal when you were younger. A classic for the ages.

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