Team Fortress 2
Team Fortress 2 is a multiplayer first-person shooter game developed and published by Valve. It is the sequel to the 1996 Team Fortress mod for Quake and its 1999 remake, Team Fortress Classic. It was released in October 2007 as part of The Orange Box video game bundle for Windows and Xbox 360. A PlayStation 3 version followed in December 2007 when The Orange Box was ported to the system. Later in development, the game was released as a standalone title for Windows in April 2008, and was updated to support Mac OS X in June 2010 and Linux in February 2013. It is distributed online through Valve’s digital retailer Steam, with Electronic Arts handling all physical and console ports of the game.
Players join one of two teams and choose one of 9 character classes to battle in modes such as capture the flag and king of the hill. Development was led by John Cook and Robin Walker, the developers of the original Team Fortress mod. Team Fortress 2 was announced in 1998 under the name Team Fortress 2: Brotherhood of Arms. Initially, the game had more realistic, militaristic visuals and gameplay, but this changed over the protracted nine-year development. After Valve released no information for six years, Team Fortress 2 regularly featured in Wired News’ annual vaporware list among other ignominies. The finished Team Fortress 2 has cartoon-like visuals influenced by the art of J. C. Leyendecker, Dean Cornwell, and Norman Rockwell, and uses Valve’s Source game engine.
Team Fortress 2 received acclaim for its art direction, gameplay, humor, and use of character in a multiplayer-only game. Valve continues to release new content on a seasonal basis in the form of submissions made through the Steam Workshop. In June 2011, the game became free-to-play, supported by microtransactions for in-game cosmetics. A ‘drop system’ was also added and refined, allowing free-to-play users to periodically receive in-game equipment and items. Though the game had an unofficial competitive scene for many years, both support for official competitive play through ranked matchmaking and an overhauled casual experience were added in July 2016.
Core game modes
Team Fortress 2 contains five core game modes.
Attack/Defend, also known as A/D, is a timed game mode in which the BLU team’s goal is to capture RED control points. The amount of control points varies between maps, and the points must be captured by the BLU team in respective order. To capture a control point, a player must stand on it for a certain amount of time. This process can be sped up by more players on one team capturing a single point. Once a control point is captured by the BLU team, it cannot be re-captured by the RED team. The RED team’s job is to prevent the BLU team from capturing all the control points before the time limit ends. Once a point is captured, the time limit will extend.
Capture the Flag, also known as CTF, is a mode which revolves around the BLU and RED teams attempting to steal and capture the opposing team’s flag, represented in-game as an intelligence briefcase. At the same time, both teams must defend their own intelligence. When the intelligence is dropped by the carrier – either by dying or dropping it manually, it will stay on the ground for 1 minute before returning to its original location if it is not picked up again. A team’s intelligence can only be carried by the opposing team. The first team to capture the enemy’s intelligence three times wins.
Control Points, also known as CP, is a timed game mode where there are several control points placed around the map, with 3 or 5 control points in total depending on the map. These are referred to as “3CP” and “5CP,” respectively. The game will start off with only the middle control point being available for capture, with the other control points split equally among both teams. Once this middle control point is captured, a team can begin capturing the enemy team’s points in respective order. The time limit is extended on the capture of a control point by either team. For a team to win, they must capture all the control points within the time limit.
King of the Hill, also known as KOTH, is a timed game mode that contains a single control point at the middle of the map that can be captured by both the RED and BLU teams. Upon capturing the control point, a team-specific timer starts counting down but stops upon the point being captured by the opposing team. The first team to have their timer count down to 0 wins.
Payload is a timed game mode where the BLU team must push an explosive cart along a track, while the RED team must prevent the cart from reaching their base. To push the cart, at least one BLU player must stay within the range of the cart, which will dispense health and ammo every few seconds. The cart’s speed will increase as more BLU players attempt to push it. Payload maps have multiple “checkpoints” along the track. Once these checkpoints are captured, they may adjust the spawn locations of both teams. Capturing a checkpoint will also increase the time limit. If the cart is not pushed by the BLU team for 20 seconds, it will begin to move back to the last captured checkpoint, where it will stop. The RED team can stop the cart from being pushed by being within range of it. The RED team wins by preventing the cart from reaching the final checkpoint before time runs out.
Alternative game modes
There are several alternative game modes in Team Fortress 2. These modes consist of a small number of maps and detach from the core game modes in some way.
Arena is a special game mode in which players do not respawn upon death. A team can win either by eliminating all opposing players, or by claiming a single capture point that opens after a certain time has elapsed. This mode is currently unavailable through matchmaking, but is still accessible through community servers.
Mannpower is a mode in which players have access to a grappling hook and assorted power-ups laid around the map that grant unique abilities. While not bound to any specific mode, all current official Mannpower maps use a variation of Capture the Flag. In Mannpower’s variation of Capture the Flag, both teams have an intelligence flag, and the first team to capture the enemy’s intelligence ten times wins. The mode is heavily inspired by the Quake mod, Threewave CTF, a mod created by former Valve employee David Kirsch.
Medieval Mode is a mode in which players are restricted to using melee and support weapons, with certain exceptions for medieval-themed projectile weapons. While not bound to any specific mode, the only official Medieval Mode map uses a 3CP variation of Attack/Defend. If Medieval Mode is enabled on a map, select phrases spoken by players in the in-game text chat will be replaced with more thematic variants, such as “hello” being replaced with “well meteth”.
PASS Time is a unique timed game mode inspired by rugby, developed by Valve, Bad Robot Interactive, and Escalation Studios. Three unique goals (the Run-In, Throw-In, and Bonus Goals) are placed on each team’s side of the map. A single ball called the JACK will spawn at the center of the map, and players must pick it up and carry it to the opposing team’s side. Players can score a goal by either carrying the JACK to a Run-In Goal or by throwing the JACK through the Throw-In Goal. Three goals can be scored by throwing the JACK through the Bonus Goal, which is much more difficult to score. To win, a team must either score five goals, or have the most goals when the timer runs out.
Payload Race, like Payload, has the main objective being to push a cart to a final checkpoint. Unlike Payload, both the RED and BLU teams are fighting to push their cart to the final checkpoint. There is only one checkpoint for each track, and there is no time limit. The team to reach their checkpoint first wins.
Player Destruction is a community-made game mode in which a player’s death causes a pickup to appear. The first team to collect a set number of pickups and deliver them to a drop-off point wins the game. The players on each team with the most pickups are highlighted for everyone to see, and gain a passive healing effect for themselves and any nearby teammates.
Special Delivery is a mode similar to Capture the Flag, but there is only one neutral briefcase that can be picked up both the RED and BLU teams. Upon a team picking up the briefcase, the opposing team will be unable to pick up the briefcase until it has been dropped for 45 seconds and respawns as a neutral briefcase. A team wins by carrying the briefcase onto a loading platform, which will gradually rise until the platform reaches its peak.
Territorial Control consists of several control points spread out across a single map. Like Control Points, each point can be captured by either the RED or BLU teams. Unlike Control Points, only two points are accessible at a single time. Upon a team’s successful capture of a point, the “stage” ends and the accessible capture points change. When a team only has control of a single control point, they are blocked from capturing the opposing team’s control point and the team must wait until the time limit is up and the accessible capture points change. A team wins by capturing all the control points.
Other game modes
These modes are not categorized with the other modes, and instead have their own separate sections in the game.
Halloween Mode is a special mode that is enabled during the Halloween season, and allows the players access to more than 20 maps, Halloween-exclusive cosmetics, and challenges. For example, Halloween 2012 included an extremely difficult Mann vs. Machine mission involving destroying more than 800 enemy forces. Due to popular demand of the Halloween events, Valve later added the Full Moon event, an event that triggers around every full moon phase throughout the year, which allows players to equip Halloween-exclusive cosmetics. In 2013, Valve introduced an item called Eternaween, and upon use, allows players of a specific server to use Halloween-exclusive cosmetics for 2 hours.
Mann vs Machine, also known as MvM, is a cooperative game mode where players must defend their base from waves of robots modeled after all nine playable classes, and slow-moving tanks carrying bombs. Robots and tanks drop a currency referred to as Credits upon their death, which players can use to buy upgrades for themselves or their weapons. The players win upon successfully defending their base from the bomb until the last wave. A paid version of this game mode called “Mann Up” is also available, where players buy tickets to play “Tours of Duty”, a collection of missions with the chance to win unique cosmetics and weapon skins upon completion.
Offline Practice Mode is just like any other multiplayer match, but it only consists of the player and bots. The number of bots, their difficulty, and the map can all be adjusted to a player’s preference, though only a select amount of maps are available to play.
Training Mode exists to help new players get acquainted with basic controls, and teaches them the basics of four of the nine classes. It uses wooden dummies and bots to teach players the basic mechanics of classes and the game.
Classes and characters
From left to right: Pyro, Engineer, Spy, Heavy, Sniper, Scout, Soldier, Demoman, and Medic
Team Fortress 2 features nine playable classes, evenly split and categorized into “Offense”, “Defense”, and “Support”. Each class has strengths and weaknesses and must work with other classes to be efficient, encouraging strategy and teamwork. Each class has at least three default weapons: a primary weapon, secondary weapon, and melee weapon. Some classes have additional slots for PDAs.
The Scout (Nathan Vetterlein) is a cocky, fast-talking American baseball fan and street runner from Boston, Massachusetts who practiced running to “beat his mad dog siblings to the fray.”He is a fast, agile character, who is armed by default with a scattergun, a pistol, and an aluminum baseball bat. The Scout can double jump and counts as two people when capturing control points and pushing the Payload cart.
The Soldier (Rick May) is a jingoistic American military man hailing from the Midwest (despite the fact that he was never actually in the Army). The Soldier is armed by default with a rocket launcher, shotgun, and a folding shovel. He is both the second-slowest class in the game and the class with the second-highest health (after the Heavy Weapons Guy). The Soldier can use his rocket launcher to rocket jump to higher positions at the cost of some health.
The Pyro (Dennis Bateman) is of unknown gender or origin and wears a fire-retardant suit and a voice-muffling gas mask. By default, the Pyro is armed with a homemade flamethrower that can set players on fire, a shotgun, and a fire axe. The Pyro’s flamethrower can also produce a blast of compressed air that knocks away nearby enemies and projectiles, and extinguishes burning teammates. In the “Meet the Pyro” short it is shown that the character sees a happy fantasy world, called Pyroland in-game, where for example they feed their enemies candy and shoot rainbows at the ground to grow flowers rather than killing their enemies and setting fire to the environment with the flamethrower. Some items in the game make it so that when playing as the Pyro they are in Pyroland, displaying an alternate map on some maps and modifying other parts of visuals and audio, such as replacing screaming with laughing and replacing flamethrowers’ fire with a sparkle effect.
The Demoman (Gary Schwartz) is a black Scottish, one-eyed alcoholic from Ullapool, Scotland. Armed by default with a grenade launcher, a sticky bomb launcher, and a glass bottle of scrumpy, the Demoman can use his explosives to provide indirect fire and set traps. The Demoman, much like the Soldier with his rocket launcher, is capable of using his sticky bomb launcher to “sticky jump” at the cost of some health.
The Heavy Weapons Guy, or simply the Heavy, (Schwartz) is a large Russian from the Dzhugdzhur Mountains of the USSR, heavy in stature and accent, and obsessed with firepower. Though he is the slowest class, he can sustain and deal immense amounts of damage. His default weapons consist of an enormous minigun that he affectionately refers to as “Sasha”, a shotgun, and his fists.
The Engineer (Grant Goodeve) is an American, relaxed, and intellectual “good ol’ boy” from Bee Cave, Texas. The Engineer can build structures to support his team: a sentry gun for defending key points, a health and ammunition dispenser, and a pair of teleporter modules (one entrance and one exit). The Engineer’s default weapons are a standard shotgun, a pistol, and a wrench that he can use either as a melee weapon or to repair/upgrade buildings constructed by him or teammate Engineers. He has separate PDAs that can be used to construct and destroy his buildings.
The Medic (Robin Atkin Downes) is a German doctor from Stuttgart with little regard for the Hippocratic Oath. He has no hitscan-based weapons, but is equipped with a “Medigun” that can restore health to injured teammates and gradually build “ÜberCharge” power with repeated use. At full capacity, an ÜberCharge grants boosts that can include temporary invulnerability to the Medic and his patient or a 100% chance of critical hits for the patient’s weapons. The Medic is also equipped with an air-powered syringe gun and bonesaw for situations in which he must fight without his teammates’ protection. He keeps doves as pets, one of which is named Archimedes.
The Sniper (John Patrick Lowrie) is an eccentric New Zealand ocker-style character raised in the Australian outback, equipped by default with a laser-sighted sniper rifle to shoot enemies from afar, with the potential to cause severe damage or an instant kill depending on how he aims and fires. By default, he also carries a submachine gun and a kukri for close combat.
The Spy (Bateman) is a French covert operative whose equipment is designed for stealth and infiltration, including a cloaking device disguised as a watch, an electronic sapper used to sabotage and destroy enemy Engineers’ buildings, and a device hidden in his cigarette case that enables him to disguise himself as enemy players. He does not carry any long-range weapons, but is armed with a revolver and a butterfly knife, able to use the latter to instantly kill enemies by stabbing them in the back. He is the only character who does not wear any clothing in his team’s bright color or a patch denoting his specialty, instead preferring a balaclava, business suit, necktie, and gloves in muted team-color hues.
Other characters include the Administrator (voiced by Ellen McLain), an unseen announcer who provides information about time limits and objectives to players, and her assistant Miss Pauling (Ashly Burch). The cast has expanded with Halloween updates, including the characters of the Horseless Headless Horsemann and MONOCULUS (Schwartz). 2012 and 2013 saw the addition of Merasmus, the Bombinomicon, and Redmond, Blutarch, and Zepheniah Mann (all played by Nolan North). Previous unused voicelines recorded by North were later used for a Horseless Headless Horsemann seen in the 2019 map “Laughter” and a jack-o’-lantern resting atop the Payload cart in the 2020 map “Bloodwater”. The character Davy Jones (voiced by Calvin Kipperman) made an appearance in the 2018 map “Cursed Cove”.
In the video announcement for the “Jungle Inferno” update, Mann Co. CEO Saxton Hale is voiced by JB Blanc.
Team Fortress 2 is played competitively, through multiple leagues. The North American league, ESEA, supports a paid Team Fortress 2 league, with $42,000 in prizes for the top teams in 2017. Team Fortress 2 is played competitively in many formats, such as Highlander (nine players per team, one of each class), Prolander (7v7) and 6v6. While formalized competitive gameplay is very different from normal Team Fortress 2, it offers an environment with a much higher level of teamwork than in public servers. Most teams use voice chat to communicate, and use a combination of strategy, communication, and aiming ability to win against other teams. Community-run competitive leagues also tend to feature restrictions such as item bans and class limits. These leagues are often supported by Valve via in-game medals (which are submitted via the Steam Workshop) and announcements on the official blog.
In April 2015, Valve announced that a dedicated competitive mode would be added to Team Fortress 2, utilizing skill-based matchmaking; closed beta testing began in the following year. The competitive mode was added in the “Meet Your Match” update, released on July 7, 2016. Ranked matches are played six-vs-six, with players ranked in thirteen tiers based on win/losses and an assessment of their skills. Ranked matchmaking will balance players based on their tiers and rating. A similar matchmaking approach has been added for casual games for matches of 12-vs-12 players. In order to join competitive matchmaking, players must have associated their Steam account with the Steam Guard Mobile Authenticator, as well as having a Team Fortress 2 “premium account”, which is unlocked by either having bought the game before it went free-to-play or by having made an in-game item purchase since.