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Violent Yet Cartoony Presentation Adds Flavor
Published on October 12, 2007 By iTZKooPA In Gaming
The Orange Box has finally released as most of you probably already know. I, like many others, bought the title a few weeks ago so I could start playing the Team Fortress 2 beta and get my skills back. I was a fan of the original Team Fortress back in my Quake days although I was never an exclusive player of it. I tended to play the standard deathmatch or rocketwars but I did enjoy getting shot to hell by a sentry gun now and then. After Valve bought out the rights to the mod I never played it again even though I heard that Team Fortress Classic was a lot of fun. I guess I was just busy with other stuff.


Seeing as The Orange Box is actually three separate games (more depending on how you count episodic content) I am going to review them as such. I will also be counting them as more than three separate titles because I think it makes sense to review the episodes outside the main game to see if they would be worth buying. Lucky for me I am one of the people who is getting the absolute most bang for the buck out of The Orange Box. You see back when Half-Life 2 came out I was a bit strapped for cash and made the decision to only get Doom III instead of grabbing both FPSs. What a bad choice...anyways after sitting on my thumbs for awhile I grabbed Day of Defeat Source shortly after its release because I loved the original (as in before it went retail). The thing is I hated Steam so much back then that I refused to buy anything else on it until all its problems (I had crashing issues, login issues, the promised friends system was no where to be found, etc.) were fixed. Well just weeks before The Orange Box was set to drop Valve decided to finally admit defeat to me and fix EVERYTHING I asked for, so I figured I owed them the money. Onto the reviews...






Team Fortress 2




Overview


As I stated a few ramblings above I have been playing Team Fortress 2 for almost as long as its been offered, and seeing as its a multiplayer game and I have been at the top few players of most servers, even after only play ~20hours, I feel this qualifies me to write a review. First off I would suggest that anyone who plans on playing the game should head over to Destrcutoid's 10-Part Team Fortress 2 article series. The articles go over each class individually, there are nine, and then wrap-ups with a general tips article, which is the one I linked to. Each class-based article gives an in-depth view to the class and points out strengths, weaknesses and even good strategies on how to beat them. Even after playing for a few weeks I manged to pick-up a few things from the article or the corresponding comments section although I was amazed that the article failed to mentioned the chance for an 'early-uber' on maps with 'setup time' in the Medic section ORIGINALLY (its be added post-publishing). To the review!





Some of my decent scores for Team Fortress 2







Visuals


The game's visual design is certainly not what I remembered from the original Quake-based mod but of course back then everyone was trying desperately to be REAL. Valve decided that that didn't really matter anymore and instead switched gears to the more cartoony cel-shaded approach. Oddly enough this decision has gone off with no flak. I guess we can thank The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for soaking up all the criticism for cel-shaded games in 'unusual genres.' I certainly know that Jet Grind Radio didn't take any flak for its use of the art sytle, but I that could be written off to it being the first game of its kind, oh and they didn't show us a gorgeous normal 3D approach only to change it later, but I digress. The cel-shaded choice certainly seems to be put to good use. Not only does it give the title a bit of a lighthearted feel, in direct contrast to its heavily violent aspect, complete with gibbing, but Valve uses the style for the same reason Nintendo selected it for Wind Waker, to show facial expressions and emotions. Get lit on fire, you're avatar will change to a screaming face, kill a whole lot of people with the Heavy Weapons avatar? He will get a big scary grin on his face and with each additional kill the smile becomes wider, more menacing and more Joker like. Some very nice, subtle touches if I do say so myself.






Game Balance


Of course the visual are just visual, eye candy and all. What really makes a difference in a multiplayer game like this is the class balance & level design. Seeing as the game just went live I feel that the class balance is superb especially with the classes being so vastly different. Certainly there are classes that you don't want to mess with alone, or need to adapt certain strategies for, but they are all killable with any class. I just wouldn't try taking on a Heavy Weapons man with a Scout unless you are fairly decent with bunny hopping and shooting. There are two minor problems I see with the balance as of right now. First off, I don't feel that the Sniper's scope ability makes any sense or is fair. After you scope in you have to wait a few seconds to get the most powerful shot that you can deliver, that being 100%. Why should you have to wait to get the full effect of your bullet? Wouldn't it make more sense if once scoped it was 100% and it would increase to say 120% after a few seconds? The gun would still suck un-scoped but at least you can do some real damage as soon as you scope in. Secondly is the range of the Pyro's flamethrower. From what I read (one of the few things I learned in the Destrcutoid's articles) the flamethrower's range is lowered by the player moving forward. How does that make any sense? Why would it shorten due to forward momentum? Is the wind or force of the air shortening it because you are moving? It makes chasing certain classes almost pointless, since as soon as you begin to move at them your range shrinks, possibly putting them OUT of your very limited range. Someone is probably reading this and going “learn to shotgun, newb," but whatever.





Rolling as my favorite and currently best class, the Soldier







Level Design


The next big thing would be level design. I have already played a slue of custom maps and holy mother of all that is unjust in the world do a lot of those maps blow chunks. The one good thing about that is the crappy custom maps really make you appreciate the solid first-party maps. The only complaints I have heard are against 2fort which I think is largely because it is your standard mirror map with confusing pathways and corridors until you memorize them. All the other maps are far more interesting and have distinct sections so its very hard to get lost in. And on top of that some of the other maps have progression points, so once you capture one area the teams will be repositioned so now the objective is completely different, one team will try to reclaim the lost ground, while the other continues to advance to the goal. For the maps without the progression points and aren't mirror images Valve just has the teams switch objectives (and thus sides of the map) so no one can complain about one side having some sort of unfair advantage.


Overall each level seems to be laid out so each class has an obvious role, in 2fort snipers can cover the bridge area while pyros can cover the sewers, engineers can place their weaponry behind any blind corner as scout make a break for the intelligence. Valve really did manage to build the levels with each class in mind, although I do feel that Snipers get the short end of the stick in many maps. Despite that one beef, which affects what is generally my favorite class, the level design overall is above excellent and I hope it continues in future map releases, and possibly even some solid custom maps.





A well placed Sentry/Dispenser combo behind two blind corners.







Wrap-Up



Put simply if you enjoy squad based gameplay this is where you should be. The only thing that could be holding you back is if you go for the more realistic approach of Counter-Strike or one of the many Tom Clancy properties. If you do prefer them I would at least give this title a shot, its just so well polished and balanced at this point in time that it can only get better and better as people come up with more interesting maps and scenarios. If you are a mutliplayer gamer then this would certainly be worth buying stand-alone if you don't already have The Orange Box, the class differentiation puts it far and above Enemy Territory Quake Wars and is why I decided against buying ETQW.







This just got to damned long so I am splitting the review into two pieces for everyone's sake. Here is the promised review of Portal!

Comments
on Oct 12, 2007
Good Review, My only problem is that my gaming box is in storage with all of my other household goods. I don't think that this laptop can hang with the orange box.
on Oct 12, 2007
Sounds like you need to get your priorities straight, store the food, you can always order in
on Oct 12, 2007
Thanks for the review.

My only comment is about your comment on the flamethrower. To be honest, the reduced range makes complete physical sense. Technically, any weapon has slightly reduced range when moving forward. The slower the medium in question (bullet or chemical flame) travels, the more noticeable it is.

If you think about it, and you get a decent grasp of physics, it'll make sense: you move forward at, say 0.5m/s, and the flame travels 3 meters at 2m/s (1.5 seconds). If you were to tap the flamethrower while walking forward, the little burst of flame would travel 2 meters from the point of origin, but only 1.5m from your location, after 1 second. After 2 seconds (the flame may still be visible, but due to air resistance it's no longer moving forwards), the flame has moved 3 meters from your original location, but only 2 from your current one.

Had you stood still, the flame would be 3 meters away from your current location. Had you gone backwards for 2 seconds, the flame would be 4 meters away.

Sorry, I like physics, it's easy to distract me.
on Oct 12, 2007
Awesome review. I played TFC for seven years and still occassionally fire it up for good Dustbowl match. I haven't bought anything from Valve since steam came along and haven't planned to, but TFC2 is awfully tempting. My TFC addiction support group would probably not approve   .
on Oct 12, 2007
Rasori,
I can't say that I like physics too much although I am a bit of a math man, I know thats weird. To me this seems like it should be simple vector addition, if you are moving at 2m/s and the bullet say moves at 10 m/s (I know its faster but just for ease of numbers) the bullet will really travel at 12 m/s so that why I figured they tried to blame the shortening of the flamethrower range on wind/air friction.

Glad you enjoyed the review nonetheless, the rating by numbers game that sites do really annoys me.
on Oct 13, 2007
It seems like vector addition, however the case here is that the flamethrower can only go so far, indeed, due to air resistance. If there were no air resistance (ignoring the fact that there'd be no air and no flame), it could continue much further. However, throwing a gas into a gas isn't very effective, and that's about the easiest way to describe it here. Its maximum range is still limited by air resistance, and air resistance, if all other factors are equal, increases as velocity increases. The main thing is taking the frame of reference into account. I'm pretty sure that the flamethrower's range would be equal in both cases (walking and standing still), if you were to freeze-frame at exactly the point the weapon is fired: the flame would travel three meters ahead in both cases (perhaps slightly further in the case of vector addition, yes, but also keep in mind we're talking about very slow velocities here). In action, however, you continue moving forward, therefore you get closer to the maximum point of effect, making the illusion of decreased range in this frame of reference.

Okay, I have to stop talking before someone who really knows his stuff gets on here and proves me totally wrong--I admit this is my understanding of the matter and not necessarily the proper understanding.
on Oct 13, 2007
Who says you can't learn stuff from videogames?
on Oct 13, 2007
Can't just store the food, all my furniture, pots and pans and motorcycle got packed up when I left Texas last week. I need to settle back down and get my gaming box back.
on Oct 14, 2007
I feel you pain, I just moved myself and most of my stuff is still in boxes as well but my roomate has a decent enough computer which I have been using.
on Jun 23, 2008
Dude you must be a fuckin lil kid if you think Team Fortress is better than Quake Wars. Same with all those who agrees with him. Team Fortress is just a game where you run around and kill people, where quake wars you run around killing people while doing certain objectives while cooperating with your team. Plus Quake Wars has way better graphics and better game play. And since you said the classes were way better in this game.... well your wrong. Quake wars has many varieties of classes to choose from, and each has their own weapons. Each class is used to do certain objectives. So your a FUCKING MORON IF YOU THINK THIS GAME CAN BEAT QUAKE WARS!
on Jun 23, 2008
Dude you do fight for objective in TF2 have you ever played it. Plus better graphics don't mean shit
on Jun 24, 2008
Yes i have played it.... and its still shit to me. ET:QW has alot more to offer. TF2 is nothing but as i said... running around and killing people. You may do objectives then and there but not many people intend to do that.
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