Game of the Week: Team Fortress 2

Who wants to live forever?

In the introduction to our very first Game of the Week, I wrote this: "If there's nothing at all we can recommend that week - hey, it might happen - we'll take the opportunity to highlight something from previous weeks that you (or we) might have missed."

How about something from previous years?

It's not even like there really is nothing to recommend this week. Ms. Splosion Man definitely has its fans and would be a worthy contender, right? So why am I just not feeling it?

I suppose it's the suspicion that, as Simon wrote, this sequel has simply been "freshened by lipstick and a bow". Until I read his review, I had no idea that Ms. Pac-Man was an unauthorized rip-off made without Namco's permission by its impatient distributor Midway. Sure, she's canonised now, but it's a dangerous spirit for Twisted Pixel to invoke.

Me? I returned to Gran Turismo 5 this week, after a friend told me about the Seasonal Events: effectively new single-player playlists for the racer that dole out unbelievable quantities of experience and money. That 1967 Lamborghini Miura Concept is within reach at last!

I've been having fun, and am struck by how exciting a drive Polyphony's grand folly remains. But I'm also feeling a little uncomfortable. I just need to do 30 laps of Le Mans to get my shiny new fake possession... Maybe this recovering World of Warcraft player isn't quite ready to bring the grind back into his life.

But it made me think. Most of us games writers don't stick with games long after release, because something else comes along that requires our attention. I suspect the same is true for many of you readers, being people of taste and curiosity with an insatiable hunger for everything gaming has to offer.

But few are the games that stand still now, and even in some high-profile cases like GT5, it's only those games' communities that are keeping track. In 2011, a game doesn't have to be a subscription-funded MMO to be an entirely different proposition four years down the line.

That's why, when a reader emailed us requesting a re-review of a multiplayer shooter from 2007, I was only too happy to organise it.

Team Fortress 2

"Now Team Fortress 2 has gone free-to-play, you should do a re-review of it. I came across your old review of it from 2007 and it almost reads like a review of some older, forgotten game that inspired TF2," wrote Ollie Fox.

Rich Stanton's Team Fortress 2 re-review agreed with Ollie, booting Tom's original 9 up to a 10 and dropping some other heavy numbers: 200 updates! 29 new maps!

"There isn't one game called Team Fortress 2. There are hundreds," Rich wrote. "Its famously long development time used to see it compared to Duke Nukem Forever, but that doesn't hold water any more: Duke's finished. The development of TF2 goes on and on... It understands that persistence is as much about personality as power, and is one of the most consistently surprising and inventive games you'll ever play."

Team Fortress 2 players - and sadly, that means players of the PC (and now Mac) game, which has long left the static console versions behind - don't need us to remind us how great a multiplayer shooter it is. Some would claim that all those guys playing Halo, COD and Battlefield are, in a sense, kidding, and looking at TF2's razor-sharp dynamics and never-ending fountain of free content, you can see what they mean.

But this isn't just about quality. While all eyes were on Left 4 Dead or Portal 2, and all voices were pleading for Half-Life 3, Valve has been using TF2 to experiment with what its Steam platform can really do for a game. It's the embodiment of Gabe Newell's "entertainment as a service, not a product" maxim, an organic, evolving relationship between game and community that few outside of the MMO genre have fully exploited.

Free-to-play is part of this philosophy, but don't get hung up on the economics. It's more about the happy fact that, in this brave new world, Valve has been more focused on how to keep TF2 great than how to make more money out of the next one. Hell, it's even still making wonderful trailers for it, four years down the line.

What TF2 really stands for is not that micro-transactions are the future. It's this: Games don't have to die any more. Great games can live forever. And you'll get back what you put in.

So if there's another living, breathing online game out there that you think we should catch up with, please let us know: in the comments, through the contact form, or by emailing me directly at oli@eurogamer.net.

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