[IMGW]http://www.1up.com/flat/newsletters_v2/cover_EGM_150x200.jpg[/IMGW] By http://www.1up.com/do/my1Up?publicUserId=5759680 04/24/2007 Originally Appeared in EGM 215 This preview originally ran in Electronic Gaming Monthly Magazine's May issue. http://egm215.1up.com/
Here's the understatement of the year: Team Fortress 2 has been in development for a long time. "We first showed the military-themedincarnation way back when [at the Electronic Entertainment Expo]," says Valve Director of Marketing Doug Lombardi, recalling TF2's initial screening back at the gaming industry's annual trade show in 1999. Since then, the game has been through huge changes, ranging from fully replacing the game's innards to the implementation of various, radically different art styles. Now, nearly nine years later, Valve has taken the best features from the various iterations and is ready to release the game later this year for the PS3 and Xbox 360.
For those uninitiated with the franchise, here's a quick history lesson: Roughly a decade ago, three amateur game programmers --Robin Walker, John Cook, and Ian Caughley-- put their heads together and made what would go down as one of the mostimportant PC mods in history, TeamFortress. Built for the original http://www.1up.com/do/gameOverview?cId=2012815,TF brought class-based teamplayto the then deathmatch-dominated world of 3D shooters, letting players become snipers, medics, spies, and the like, each with a particularly specialized skill set. The game wassuccessful, and the group formed TeamFortress Software to begin work on Team Fortress 2--then intended to be a commercially available mod for http://www.1up.com/do/gameOverview?cId=2012816. Valve quickly snatched upthe young dev team and released their work as http://www.1up.com/do/gameOverview?cId=2014285, a free mod for its own http://www.1up.com/do/gameOverview?cId=2010527. The mod was once again hugely popular, and after its release, Valve announced that work on Team Fortress 2: Brotherhood of Arms was in progress.
[Click the image above to check out all Team Fortress 2's screens.]
Of course, back in 1999, the possibility of simultaneously releasing Team Fortress 2 on consoles probably seemed a rather preposterous idea-- remember, this was before the PlayStation 2 hit the market, and before the word "Xbox" had ever been publicly muttered. But now, with the increased horsepower of the next-gen systems, the game already looks absolutely stunning. Using brand-new development tricks, Valve has fused its powerful Source engine (which powers http://www.1up.com/do/gameOverview?cId=2006921) with some hyper-stylized, Pixar-inspired visuals. The result looks something like TheIncredibles... but with more guns andless family bonding.
And while TF2's new graphical approach is quite beautiful to look at, Valve also has very practical reasons for going this route. Like the original, this one's a class-based affair: character choices will include Heavy, Spy, Scout, Demolition Man (not SlyStallone), Engineer, Medic, Sniper, Soldier, and Pyro, each with its owndistinct strengths, weaknesses, and weapons. "We wanted to create a visual hierarchy for the player classes," says Lombardi. "From our experiencebuilding TF, http://www.1up.com/do/gameOverview?cId=2009189, and http://www.1up.com/do/gameOverview?cId=2009406, we knew that giving the players the ability to identify other player classes from great distances would be important. For example, it's handy for [a weak] Scout to knowwhether a [stronger] Heavy is coming toward him or just another Scout."
The developer also wanted to create a style that lent itself to both the "battle" nature of the game, as well as to the "over-the-top moments that naturally ensue when you give a bunch of players the abilities and arsenals we've made available here," as Lombardi puts it. "Everyone who's played a multiplayer action game-- especially a TF game--has experienced the moment of tension followed by mad laughter." Yeah, just hope it's laughter by you, and not by someone who capped your sorry butt.
The PS3 and 360 versions are being developed independently of one another, but Lombardi says they've been seeing similar performance across the platforms. "Given the early stage of the two powerful consoles the product is heading toward, the game should play virtually the same across all systems. The only noticeable differences between any of the versions will be in the controller and features that may be available dependent upon each platform's online service." This includes the possibility of user-created content--which, at this point, is still under consideration. But it'd be quite a shame if the feature didn't come to fruition, since customizing your own battlefield proved to be so important to the PC original.
PANDORA'S (ORANGE) BOX
EA and Valve may be offering up the gaming deal of the year when Half Life 2: The Orange Box is released this fall. Included in the package are the following: the original Half-Life 2, the narrative expansions Half-Life 2: Episode One and Episode Two, the hybrid puzzle-firstperson- shooter Portal, and, of course, Team Fortress 2. All of the Half-Life titles will be graphically enhanced for the hardware they're running on, and together will sell for the, ahem, low, low price of $60.
Team Fortress Classic was originally included with Half-Life 1, and Counter-Strike: Source was originally included with Half- Life 2, says Lombardi. Both of those decisions worked out great for Valve. Hey, you won't find us complaining.
Building a better boat
Regarding the overriding sameness that has characterized the genre, Lombardi is blunt and to the point. "From the beginning of time, every popular form of entertainment has been saddled with derivative works--if something's working, there'll be a number of schmucks looking to make a quick buck by rolling out quick knockoffs. So, I'd say the first-person- shooter genre has become wildly successful, and there are many good people trying to contribute to that success by making good FPS games, and one too many of those just trying to make a quick buck."
Lombardi also believes the genre has made plenty of contributions to one of the industry's biggest problems: titles shipping before they're ready for release. For obvious reasons, he believes his company's game will be different: "With TF2, we've iterated and playtested and overhauled the product several times to ensure we're creating a title with varying gameplay experiences and, most of all, a game that's fun to play. The primary goal for our titles isn't about pushing boundaries so much as attempting to build best-of-breed products." Lombardi continues, "Sometimes that means overhauls, and sometimes that means subtle touches of refinement." And sometimes, just sometimes, it means millions of gamers simultaneously gaining five to 10 pounds apiece as they struggle to escape their sofa for weeks on end. If all goes according to plan, we'll find out soon enough.
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