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So, it's time for Gav's Fortress Forever (FF) versus Team Fortress 2 (TF2) showdown post.

First, a bit of background. Before Counter-Strike became the most popular PC team-based online shooter on the planet, that crown was held by Team Fortress Classic, a Half-Life mod which was itself a remake of an old Quake Mod named Team Fortress. TF/TFC is class-based, each class having strengths and weaknesses (the Heavy Weapons Guy is slow but well armoured with a big gun; the Scout is fast, but lacks armour and firepower). The pace of TFC is slower than deathmatch games, and therefore less "twitch"-reflex based, with a bit more emphasis on being cunning.

Back in the day, I played TFC a lot, and only gave up when the online community withered to the point where it was almost impossible to find a fun game. So I'm definitely in the market for a follow-up (well, I was, because I've now bought/downloaded both of the main contenders).

cut for the sanity of those not interested in online multiplayer shooter games )

To summarise the two games: FF is effectively TFC with the annoyances fixed. TF2 is a much more radical overhaul of the whole Team Fortress concept.

If you're an old TFC hand, appalled at what Valve have done with TF2 (no grenades!? teleporters?! minimal CTF!?) then go check out FF. Ditto if you're an old-school FPS player who finds TF2 too slow-paced.

If you're generally intimidated by online multiplayer shooters because the twitch-reflex gamers hand you your ass on a plate 2 seconds after you spawn, try TF2. It's a slower pace, and most classes reward tactical cunning more than twitch reflexes

If you're new to this whole Team Fortress lark, then I recommend you try both. While there are many similarities, they're rather different games, and different people will prefer different flavours.

My preference is for TF2. This is mostly due to the "fun" factor, but I think it's also down to the TF2 developers evolving the game in pretty much the direction I wanted it to go.

I really feel for the FF developers. They've worked hard for the last couple of years producing a really high quality multiplayer mod, which makes numerous improvements to the TFC game style yet keeps the overall feel, only to release it right in front of the oncoming TF2 juggernaut. I hope they don't get squished, it's a damn good mod.

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As some of you may remember, I was a big fan of Team Fortress Classic, back in the day, but gave up playing a few years ago. Well, us Team Fortress fans are being spoiled rotten this week. The official Team Fortress 2 goes into public beta in a few days, but just beating that out of the gate last Thursday was the first release of Fortress Forever (if you don't want to wrestle with the horrors of game site download arrangements like FilePlanet, there are official torrent links here[1])

I've not had time to form a detailed opinion yet (I only found out about the release yesterday afternoon, due to heavy-weapons-lurgy leaving me completely incapable for most of Thursday) but here are some first impressions:

  • As mods go, it's pretty slickly put together; masses of generally high-quality new models, textures and sounds, even a proper windows installer, to avoid all that yucky messing about with zip files
  • They've made a solid effort to put hints and tips in place, to help newbies figure out the complexities of TF
  • Based on a quick runaround, where they've remade TFC maps, most of the changes from the original seem to fix annoyances (for example, the centre bridge area of Crossover2, always a horrendous choke point, has been completely redesigned to avoid it being a total grenade-filled traffic jam like it used to be). In some cases, they've made apparently-subtle geometry changes that I suspect will actually have a radical effect on the gameplay dynamics of the map; I won't know for certain until I've played more of them.
  • They fixed the Pyro flamethrower to the point where it's actually useful again. hehe.
  • They appear to have crippled the Heavy, with an overly-onerous "overheating gun-barrels" thing[2], but there's stuff in the forums from the developers saying that's going to get changed pretty drastically in the near future.
  • The pace is generally a little faster than TFC
  • They've added a primary scoring system, always visible in the HUD, which includes lots of points for non-frag-related activities - so medics get points for healing team-mates, engies get points for fixing SGs that aren't theirs, and such things. Not sure of all the details yet, but it seems good.
  • initial gameplay impressions are really good - my first game was on "hunted", an old favourite of mine that became pretty unplayable in the latter days of TFC due to lack of players; it played really well.

I'm still a little worried that it may have suffered from some degree of Grognard Capture (Excessive nerfing of the HWG; I think the speed increase will favour the leet-of-reflex more than the sharp-of-mind; TFC's reversing of that balance, compared to most FPS games, was a large part of the appeal, for me at least) but only time and gameplay will tell on that front, and first impressions are good.

Overall, it looks pretty good. Much kudos to the FF team on a very solid first release.

[1] It boggles me that more games, both amateur and pro, don't make torrents available; this goes double for demos of pro games; the demo of a highly anticipated game will have masses of people wanting to download it in a short space of time, and probably be pretty big (1GB+ is not that unusual). So why do they persist in restricting distribution to blecherous download "services" like FilePlanet, rather than using torrents, which are designed to handle this precise situation?

[2] Rough timing: 2 seconds of continuous fire (a large chunk of which is restricted by the wind-up time) followed by 1 second of forced cool-down; combined with the slightly increased rate-of-fire of the soldier's RPG, this seriously re-jigs things against the HWG. I agreed with the veteran's consensus towards the end of the TFC era that the HWG needed to be weakened a little, but this is way too much. Have to wait and see what the developers' promised revamp does...

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