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Note: If you're looking for Team Fortress Classic, go here.
Team Fortress 2 has exactly the kind of story elements a multiplayer-only shooter should have: interesting settings, awesome character classes, and an Excuse Plot that stays All There in the Manual. The above paragraph, quoted from the official website, is literally the extent of the official in-game story (although several special events have started to flesh out the characters, with more to undoubtedly come).
The Excuse Plot, in its entirety, is "The other side is the enemy. Shoot their asses off." It really doesn't get any more complicated than that. Each character class has a distinct personality and can be easily recognized just by their silhouette.
A sequel to a classic mod originated in the days of Quake, Team Fortress 2 is about some mercenaries. Some of them work for a heroically-evil demolition company called RED (Reliable Excavation & Demolition), founded by Redmond Mann; some work for the evilly-heroic BLU (Builders League United), a construction company founded by Redmond's twin brother, Blutarch. Both companies are, of course, fronts for two opposing intelligence organizations. Worryingly, the two organizations are supplied with weapons by a single company, Mann Co. (which the twins' father left to the Australian Hale family) and given combat intel by the same person. They fight. A lot.
It was released by Valve in October 2007 as the multiplayer component of the Orange Box, which also includes Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and Portal. It is now also available as a separate retail product on all three of its platforms. However, because it was first announced in 1998, it was regarded as Vaporware for the longest time.
Since multiplayer shooter games have a tendency to devolve into slapstick and comedy even when they're ostensibly a realistic military game, the Team Fortress 2 developers decided to cut the middleman and make their game a living cartoon. The environments and music have a sixties spy movie theme to them, and the characters look like they stepped out of a very violent Pixar movie. Both RED and BLU teams use the same models, with only Palette Swapping to show team affiliation. The characters were intentionally designed to be distinctive as possible, from visual appearance to voice acting, even giving each class its own distinctive accent. Thus, it is easy to identify another player's class, current weapon, and team affiliation in short order. Maps are likewise designed for easy navigation, with RED and BLU having different construction philosophies (BLU incorporate concrete and steel; RED with wood, brick and sheet metal) and being textured primarily in their respective colors.
Despite its Excuse Plot, the blog posts and comics included with major updates have been providing some backstory, involving two feuding brothers with color-themed names, a muscle-bound Australian weapons dealer, and a chain-smoking woman in purple who seems to be masterminding the entire conflict, all in a Thanatos Gambit by the brothers' deceased father as punishment for their imbecility.
There are six basic gameplay types: Control Point, Capture the Flag, Payload, Arena, King of the Hill, and Medieval Mode.
- The Control Point gametype works on the premise of seizing territory to shift the focus of battle. Both teams compete for control points--large immovable metal pads -- which must be captured by standing on them while no enemies are around. The team who forces their enemies into submission and captures all the points wins. In most control point maps, the points need to be captured in a linear fashion, but some allow a more open-ended approach.
- Variants include Territory Control, where the map is divided into mini-maps with two control points each, and Attack/Defense, where RED owns all the control points from the start, and wins if time runs out before the other side captures all the control points. This isn't always as simple for RED as it sounds, because they can't retake control points that BLU has managed to capture, plus BLU gets time extensions for every point they capture.
- In TF2's take on Capture the Flag, the flag is a large briefcase containing "enemy intelligence," which trails papers behind it when an opposing player carries it. Unlike many other games, one can score while their own team's intel is not in the base, and touching dropped friendly intel won't immediately send it home. Instead, it must be defended in place until a timer elapses, during which any opponent can pick it up again.
- In Payload, a mine cart with a bomb on it sits on a track. Attacking players (again, virtually always BLU) crowd around the cart to push it along the track towards the enemy's base. The more players present, the faster they can push. The cart must pass through several segments of the map for the attackers to reach the end point. If the attacking players fail to push the cart for 30 seconds, it will slowly move backwards until it is pushed again or reaches the last checkpoint passed. The defenders win if they can manage to hold back the cart for a certain length of time, though unfortunately for them, the attacking team gets a time extension for every checkpoint reached.
- Payload Race is a variation of Payload, introduced in the Sniper/Spy update, that basically is Payload times two: Both teams have a bomb, and the first team to get their bomb to the other team's base wins. Things get crazy when you factor in the little fact that each team can interfere with the other's progress. This has a tendency to stall when the two carts get to each other (they travel in opposite directions on parallel lines), especially if this happens at an easily defended bottleneck, like a tunnel with few or no alternative routes. Furthermore, unlike in standard Payload, the carts won't roll backwards regardless of how long they're unattended, unless the cart is going uphill (in which case it rolls to the bottom if not constantly pushed).
- Arena puts the two teams in a much smaller map, with little-to-no health packs or water, and no respawns. Last team standing wins. After one minute, a single control point in the center of the map activates, and the round ends when it's capped if the other team hasn't been killed yet. Fast, frantic fun.
- King of the Hill is arguably a variant of Arena, using similar small maps built around a central control point, where the teams work their way up to the middle of a map to a point that is initially locked. After a short amount of time, it becomes available and the team that captures it has to defend the point for 3 minutes. If the enemy team recaptures the point, the other's timer freezes; it counts down again if once again recaptured from that time. Unlike Arena, players can respawn.
- Medieval Mode is an alternative Control Point map set in a castle in the distant past (the Soldier angered a magician). What makes this mode special is that, like in Terminator, guns (and other weapons too futuristic for the 10th century) can't be brought back in time. Thus, all characters can only fight with melee weapons (with the exception of arrows and the like). Unlike Terminator, clothes can be brought back in time because Robin Walker wanted hats to be in the game mode. He wants hats everywhere. Currently, there is only one official map in this mode.
In any game mode, a player has a chance to score a Critical Hit on any given shot. The crit chance rises with the amount of damage dealt recently, to encourage aggressive playstyles, and some weapons have a higher chance. For instance, all the comedic melee weapons have an elevated chance to crit, giving players a legitimate reason to choose them when they are in range. Some weapons replace random crits with the ability to crit or mini-crit when certain critera are fulfilled, but usually only for a short time (for example, the Scout's soda popper, which charges up a "hype" bar while moving around and scores guaranteed mini-crits for a few seconds after the bar is filled).
So far, eight of the nine characters (In the following order: Heavy, Soldier, Engineer, Demoman, Scout, Sniper, Spy, and Medic) and one delicious food item (Sandvich, released between the Sniper and Spy videos) have been introduced in comedic, masterfully-produced "Meet the Team" videos. The final video is due to be released sometime 2012.
From April 2008 to July 2010, Valve provided themed updates for each of the classes. Each update added (along with features such as new maps and gametypes) a class-specific set of achievements and alternate weapons that can be either unlocked through set numbers of these achievements or, as of the Sniper/Spy Update, given out at random intervals according to playtime. Once the new weapons are unlocked, the player can choose between them and the original weapons in the Loadout menu. The Sniper/Spy Update also introduced Hats, which drop the same way but at a much lower rate. They used to not do anything but look cool, but with the addition of the Mann Co. Store, five new hats were added that give players bonuses when used in conjunction with other weapons. Luckily, Bribing Your Way to Victory doesn't work, as the weapons never have extreme damage bonuses and tend to have an equal number of disadvantages to advantages, thus depending on intelligent use to give major advantages (although they can change the roles of classes -- for example, the Huntsman, a bow for the Sniper, allows him to work closer to the front lines), giving balanced, but still rewarding and enjoyable, gameplay.
Valve now regularly adds unannounced user-contributed hats and variant weapons. Now if only Microsoft would allow Valve to give all that to 360 players for free. It's quite possible, however, that it will be available on PlayStation 3. On June 10, 2010, Valve released Team Fortress 2 for the Mac, completing the conversion of all of the Orange Box to be Mac-compatible. In the usual Valve style, they released an accompanying short film, a training mode for new players, and an in-game pair of earbuds.
As of June 23, 2011, the game is officially free-to-play.
There is also a Steam group made by (and populated with) Tropers, in addition to weekly matches. Additionally, there are now private US and EU Team Fortress 2 servers, just for Tropers. Feel free to drop in and join!
Now has its own drinking game.
For manageability, Team Fortress 2 has separate pages for tropes in these categories, aside from the ones on top of the page:
- Audience, for tropes about community reactions.
- Supplemental Material, for tropes found in the "Meet the Team videos", the update pages and comics, The TF2 Blog posts, and other Team Fortress 2 work Valve produces outside of the game itself.
- Items, for tropes found in the loadouts of each class.
- Shout Outs.