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Orange Box Thoughts
  Posted by: AceBHound on Nov 3rd, 2007 2:36 PM
I picked up the Orange Box early last month, mainly for Team Fortress 2 -- what fun! I haven't bought a computer game since Quake 3 because nothing has really appealed to me. When I saw how Team Fortress 2 was going back to the fun and almost comical style reminiscent of Quakeworld Team Fortress I was excited for a computer game, for the first time in 5 years. So I took a chance, knowing my computer (Pentium D with 2gb RAM & on-board Radeon X300 video) might not run the game. Fortunately, I'm able to play without too many hiccups by knocking the resolution and details back a bunch.

The real sleeper hit for me though was Portal. I expected it to be a neat concept, but it turned out to be a very enjoyable and challenging game. I'm surprised to say that I ended up playing Portal over Team Fortress 2 in my first 24 hours with the Orange Box. Portal had all the right ingredients for a game that could keep my attention without the levels getting monotonous.

Now, onto Team Fortress 2 -- I remember early concept character drawings and even game screenshots as they were working on it a few years ago. Back then, it looked like Counter-Strike. Don't get me wrong, Counter-Strike was enjoyable in its own-right, but anyone who played Quakeworld Team Fortress back in the day remembers how enjoyable it was to not look anything like Quake1. Quake1 levels were dark, scary-looking and here comes this mod with bright colors -- sunny outdoor levels, bright blue water, fun character classes, an assortment of fun weapons. It was an entirely different feel than Quake.

Where QuakeWorld Team Fortress, Team Fortress Classic, Quake3 Team Fortress and just about any other Fortress mod has suffered is making the classes feel balanced. Nail grenades, concussion grenades, napalm grenades -- often annoyed many players.

In Team Fortress 2, there are no grenades and classes definitely feel more balanced. Unfortunately, in making classes more balanced, they axed some things that I thought made the game enjoyable. Grenades are missed -- no more grenade jumps or easily taking out a sentry gun by priming a nail grenade and having it hover mid-air spitting out nails. It was also nice to have an alternate grenade weapon with some classes that lacked a powerful gun like an Engineer.

As an engineer, what I sorely miss is freedom of placing a sentry gun anywhere I want that has a ledge. Or building a sentry gun on top of another sentry gun or ammo dispenser. You are limited to building a sentry on flat surfaces and can't have it hanging off the edge. It's like a pool player that can only shoot from 8 pre-determined angles around the table versus any angle he wants. It was always fun to find the sweet-spot of angles that allowed your gun to shoot people while making it more difficult for someone to take it out.

Soldiers also feel much different in Half-Life based games than they have in Team Fortress on Quake. Slow, clunky.. something doesn't feel right. Maybe I just haven't played enough as a Soldier to get used to it, but I feel much more exposed to snipers and rocket jumps seem much clunkier than in the Quake realm.

Overall I think Team Fortress 2 is very fun and am glad they decided on a cartoony look to the game. I expect to waste many hours over the winter playing TF2. For anyone that has never played Quakeworld Team Fortress, you'll absolutely love Team Fortress 2 -- but for anyone who has had a taste of what the original Team Fortress was like, there's always going to be something missing. Unfortunately, with these types of multiplayer games you're forced to play whatever is popular enough to have people filling servers. If there were thousands of people still playing QuakeWorld Team Fortress, you can bet I'd still be playing that version over any other TF mod.

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