Valve's free-to-play class shooter Team Fortress 2 (TF2) has been through some rough times recently. Over the course of the last several months, the game has faced a serious hacker problem (a recent update has helped fix it significantly). On top of this, the game also hasn't received a single major update since 2017's Jungle Inferno patch, leaving many to wonder whether TF2 will ever get significant pieces of new content at all.
As someone who has been playing this game since 2010, watching TF2 go this a rough patch is a huge bummer. That being said, I'm still coming back to the game frequently despite its 14-year-old age — and according to the official Steam Charts, so are over 100,000 players on a consistent basis. Here's why.
The gameplay has incredible depth
The primary thing that keeps me and so many other players hooked on TF2 is its incredible gameplay depth. The game's nine classes (Scout, Soldier, Pyro, Demoman, Heavy, Engineer, Medic, Sniper, and Spy) each have defined strengths and weaknesses, and the skill ceiling of learning how to maximize the former while minimizing the latter with movement, aim, and gamesense is near-infinite. Soldier players can learn how to perform skillful rocket jumps that allow them to stay mobile and make the most of their splash damage; Engineers need to read the battlefield and decide where to construct their buildings and when to retreat from an enemy push; Spies have to figure out how to move behind enemy lines safely and then strike with a backstab or two when the time is right. On top of these core principles, there are also tons of well-balanced weapon unlocks for each class that allow players to create loadouts that suit their personal playstyle.
TF2's gameplay also heavily emphasizes teamwork (it's in the name, after all), arguably more so than other class-based shooters. On top of minimizing your weaknesses with your own skills, you and your teammates can also rely on each other to do so. For example, the Pyro's flamethrower is perfect for finding invisible Spies that are about to take down a friendly Engineer too focused on his buildings to watch his back. Frontline classes like Heavy, Soldier, and Demoman help protect the Medic so that he can heal the team and build up an invincibility UberCharge that can be used for effective pushes or stalwart defenses. Sniper can pick off high-value targets like other Snipers, Medics, and Heavies so that some pressure is taken off the team.
Ultimately, there's a ton of individual and team-wide gameplay depth to sink your teeth into in TF2, and what I've discussed above is only the tip of the iceberg. Even after playing the game for 11 years, I'm still having a blast learning new strategies, trying out new loadouts, and cooperating with my teammates.
The game oozes charm
Another big reason why I love returning to TF2 is that the game is full of charm. Each of the classes have unique personalities supported by dozens of immaculately voiced lines of dialogue, and each one of them is hilarious. Other class-based shooters usually have some characters that I like, but I haven't played one where I've fallen in love with the entire cast like I did with TF2 yet.
The game's stylistic art direction has also aged like a fine wine, which isn't something you can say often about games released in 2007. There are plenty of cosmetic items like taunts, skins, hats, and accessories you can obtain as well, allowing for deep character customization. Some of the cosmetics do contrast with the game's artistic style, but overall, the amount of customization options players have in TF2 is awesome.
TF2's community is stellar
Lastly, I love the community that has formed around TF2, and I always enjoy coming back to it. There are tons of community-run servers available that do an awesome job of dealing with hackers and griefers, and in my experience, most players are friendly and welcoming towards new and veteran players alike. The community also has a popular subreddit that has lots of friendly discussion and plenty of memes. It's simply fun to be a part of the game's playerbase, and after experiencing how unpleasant many other gaming communities can be, I've grown to appreciate that a lot.
The TF2 community is also filled with incredibly talented individuals. Fans have been creating awesome new cosmetic items for the game (with official Valve approval and implementation!) for years, and people have also created some sweet custom gamemodes too. For example, Freak Fortress pits an entire server against a single player controlling a superpowered boss, while Dodgeball spawns critical heat-seeking rockets that players have to airblast at each other with the Pyro class. These types of custom game modes offer a great alternative experience if you want to take a break from normal TF2, and I can't recommend trying them out enough.
At the end of the day, I still return to TF2 despite its update drought and hacker issues because of the excellence of its gameplay, the charm of its characters and style, and the game's awesome community. Have you played TF2? If not, are you planning to give it a shot? Let me know. It's easily one of the best PC games available despite its age, so don't overlook it. Also, if you want to try a similar game that has more frequent official support from developers, check out Overwatch.
The best class-based shooter available
Old but gold
Team Fortress 2's amazing gameplay, charm, and community make it one of the best games ever made, even after 14 years.
A modern alternative
The cavalry's here!
Overwatch is a competitive team-based shooter set in a futuristic world. It's heavily inspired by TF2, and is a great alternative if you want something with more frequent developer support.
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