Team Fortress Classic
This is going to be an unusual review for me. And I’ll raise my hand from the off; I will do my best not to display bias. But this is a game I’ve spent more time playing than probably any other.
That is quite an introduction, as I’ve played my fair share of games, in the last 30 odd years.
But this game holds a special place for me. It was the first multiplayer online game I got into. And it’s a game I return to, even now. Despite the game being 17 years old, it’s still unlike any other game I’ve experienced.
If you weren’t around at the time, you may be unaware – but there was a degree of anger in the TFC community over the release of Team Fortress 2. What began as a follow up to TFC became a very different beast in its own right. And in Valve’s defence, it went on to do very well in its own rights, thank you very much. The rest, as they say, is history.
But the original version of Team Fortress 2: Brotherhood Of Arms, was very, very different to the TF2 we all know.
To be fair, it was also looking very different to Team Fortress Classic. It looked to be much more of a traditional army class-based game.
Team Fortress Classic was released as a free mod, alongside Ricochet and Half-life Death Match, as part of the original Half-life. These three mods were the originally supported mods provided by Valve. However, Valve was keeping a close eye on the mod community; a couple of developers stood out, with their development of a realistic terrorist / anti-terrorist mod that was known as Counter-Strike. Suffice to say, Valve went on to put a lot of development support behind the project, and purchase the IP – and once again, the rest is history.
Anyway, enough of a tangent, and back to Team Fortress Classic.
Against this background, it seemed – at least to the TFC community, that TFC became the somewhat unloved and undervalued older brother in this relationship. While Counter-Strike was making the headlines around the world as the most successful and popular online multiplayer game, deep in the shadows, the Team Fortress Classic community played on.
The game provided a number of game modes, including Capture The Flag, Escort and Control Point. The community went on to develop some crazy and diverse additions – from adventure maps, to mulching (1 on 1 DM), to golf, to football – you get the idea.
The basic game included the same classes as Team Fortress 2 – but that’s where the similarities end. TFC was known for being something of a spam-fest, because each character had grenades to play with. This led to explosions occurring all over the map. From the MIRV of the Demoman and Heavy Weapon Guy (a cluster grenade), to the EMP grenade of the Engineer (that caused ammo to explode – the more ammo you are carrying, the more damage it does)… it was glorious.
Except… when it wasn’t. Playing on maps with tight choke points, and up to 32 players, each spawning with between 2 and 6 grenades… that’s a lot of explosions. Friendly Fire was an option for server admin, but by default, TFC didn’t have it enabled, allowing for defence by spam. This is understood to be one of the reasons TF2 did not feature grenades.
A significant down side from removing grenades was the ending of a beautiful “glitch” that TFC enabled – ‘conc jumping’. Medics and Scouts both had Concussion Grenades – that when thrown at an enemy, caused visual disorientation effects. However, it also caused a “rebound” effect, throwing players around the map, without causing direct damage. Players soon discovered that by holding on to the concussion grenade, they could do incredible “jumps” that would otherwise be impossible. That this spawned a completely unique set of maps called “conc maps”, for the sole purpose of testing a players ability to conc jump, shows how much this glitch was embraced.
Another “glitch” of the Half-life engine allowed for a technique of movement that became known as “bunny hopping”. This allowed for players to move a much greater speed than their class was originally designed to move at. Each class had a speed limit – unsurprisingly, the large and powerful Heavy Weapon Guy moving slowest, and the weak and low-powered Scout moving fastest. However, in the hands of a skilled bunny hopper… things could get crazy.
Once again, a tangent. I apologise. I’ve spent more hours playing this game than I care to remember. The point is, however, that this is a game with massively varying skill caps. If you’re a player capable of learning how to bunny hop (A skill I’ve not successfully learned in my 17 years of playing), you are at a considerable advantage to players who can not. Imagine trying to defend a flag when the players are flying past you at 170% their normal speed. Then factor in the possibilities made available by skilled conc jumpers – and you’ll quickly understand how a newbie player would take one look at a skilled player, and simply whisper “wtf?”.
This was an age before tutorials, and hand-holding, and match-making. You were all thrown in together. Let God sort ’em out.
Some servers were established to cater to a more casual player-base – some of them are still running to this day. One of the most successful is drippys 2fort – a 24/7 2fort server. If you ever stop by, tell drippy hi, and say Shemmie sent you. It’s worth adding that they disabled bunny hopping from working on their server, so it’s one less thing for the newbie to get used to.
It’s this kind of environment I’d recommend any new players should first try. If you dip your toes into the water with the big boys, there’s a very good chance you’ll have your ass handed to you. A lot of these people have been playing this game for nearly two decades. But the important thing with TFC is the community. Yes, it’s much, much smaller now than it was in the past. But it still exists. Not many 17 year old games can say that.
And it’s still fun.
It’s still fun; and it’s unlike any other game I’ve ever played. Perhaps Overwatch is the closest to the zany crazy delights of TFC – but even then, it doesn’t come close to the feeling of achievement. The first time you successfully make off with the enemy flag, and conc jump to the capture point – that’s a feeling unequalled in modern gaming. Knowing there’s 14 heavily armed players behind you, throwing all sorts of explosive devices at you, as you’re flying through the air, flag in hand… and then you get shot in the head by a sniper. Who managed to head-shot you; this fast moving, curving, crouching fast moving skeet.
And then the flag spends 5 minutes in the water, as the enemy unloads every explosive weapon at their disposal.
There’s a reason I’ve stuck to mainly videos in this review. I don’t honestly feel screenshots do the game justice in this day and age. The netcode was so well done that it was pretty much pixel perfect, even with 100 ms of lag between a UK player and a US server. It was built to work across a 56k connection, so pretty much any internet connection in 2016 will run it. And just about any PC is capable of running it.
Is this a game for everyone, in 2016? No. No it is not.
Is it one of those games you should experience before you die? Yes, I honestly believe it is. It’s beautiful. Even the glitches served to enhance this game.
Pros: It is unlike any other FPS you have played.
- It’s insane, explosive, noisy, gibby fun.
- It’s so fast it’ll make your head spin.
- It has more maps and game modes than you can shake a stick at.
- It’s cheap as chips.
- There are no hats!
Cons: Show me the money!
- The graphics are clearly showing their age.
- There are not that mant servers left; but there is a small community at peak hours.
- Attack classes have a sharper learning curve than defense.
It’s a game that is as remarkable today as it was 17 years ago. Net code so sharp you could cut yourself with it. A game engine that positively flies on any hardware from the last 10 years. It’s £4 at full price.
And it hasn’t got hats.