So we have the classes and we have game objectives. But what’s it actually like playing TF2? For starters, for anyone used to playing PvP in MMOs, it’s pretty familiar. It’s fast; it needs quick reactions, and it needs knowledge of class movement, skills and weapons. When you first start, you need to be prepared to die many, many times. In one of my first games I died 22 times in 20 minutes.
It also needs teamwork.
The classes are designed to work together and to counter each other. What one lacks in one aspect, another makes up for. The team that plays best together and communicates, tends to be the team that wins even if individual members are less experienced or good. To look at a very basic scenario;
A point is to be defended. The Engineer puts up a Sentry gun. He has put up a teleporter to get the team from spawn to the point as quickly as possible. He has a dispenser nearby to keep the team topped up with health and ammo as they defend. Whilst the engineer builds, he is vulnerable to an enemy Spy; Spies can cloak themselves and become invisible, sneak up on Engineers, backstab them and sap their buildings. They can also disguise themselves as friendly team members and do the same thing. However, pyro flames light up spies. So while the defensive Engineer builds, the Pyro can spy check. In the meantime the friendly Spy is trying to do the same to any offensive Engineers. He may also be trying to take out key targets, the enemy Medic perhaps. The Demoman has his stickies…basically small round mines that the Demoman can detonate. He can perhaps place these on the point; he can detonate them if any of the enemy reach it. Or perhaps he can place them where he knows the enemy will pass through. He also has his explosive grenades…these give him a bit of range, he can shoot through upper windows or bounce them round corners. The Demoman can also use either his stickies or grenades to destroy Engineer buildings.
Meanwhile the Scout is out and about. The Scout is basically an irritant. He flanks the enemy, moving in and out fast, taking them down before they have a chance to react. He can also double-jump, a technique that allows him to access high and out-of-the way areas. The Soldier is on the front-line, largely being offensive. He can jump, propelled by his rockets, to give him height and allow him to fire from unexpected directions. His rockets carry over a fair distance allowing him to kill at range. The Heavy is slow but with his minigun can deliver much damage that very little can survive. The Medic is healing. Often the Medic will be healing the Heavy, both pushing the defensive line forwards in an offense with the Soldier and the Demoman, dropping back to the Dispenser for ammo. A Medic/Heavy pair is a strong combination to take down. This can be the job of the Sniper. One headshot can finish one or the other.
And at any stage, an enemy Pyro, deciding to have a rest from spychecking can flank the team and set them on fire, to be countered by the friendly Pyro extinguishing the flames. Oh and throughout, everyone needs to protect the Medic.
So, while all this is going on, communication should be constant. There is often a Caller who will let the team know the location of various enemy classes. There are automatic calls which alert everyone to spies and enemy pushes. A Pyro distracts an enemy Engineer while a spy attacks from the back, and a Demoman fires grenades into an upper floor window allowing a Medic and Heavy to advance, safe from the enemy Sniper upstairs. And the Medic? Well he doesn’t ‘just’ heal. He builds ubercharge by healing. When his charge bar reaches 100% he discharges it making him and his ‘patient’ invulnerable for 8 seconds if he is using his medigun or cause his patient to shoot 100% critical hits for 8 seconds if he is using his kritzrieg. So often an entire push is based upon a Medic’s ubercharge.
And it’s happening fast, fast, fast. I’ve been killed through a moment’s inattention scratching my nose; you really need to get someone to do it for you. Like I said, at the start, it all seems to be a confusing whirl, there is so much to get used to especially to someone new to the genre like me, but gradually it does start to make sense as you listen and observe. And then as you learn, it just gets better and better.