Team Fortress 2 - hands-on

In fact, dying throws up the first of many beautiful touches in Team Fortress 2. The action freezes as the camera cuts to your killer, giving you his name as if to nudge you and say, "Oooh, don't you just hate this guy? He got you again." Conversely, a cheerful box in the corner of the screen pats you on the back, claiming: "On the bright side: You've caused more damage as a Scout in this round than ever before."

Of course, these achievements become less frequent the more you play, until the sight of one becomes cause for celebration, as Robin Walker points out. When somebody in the Valve office breaks their damage record, or kills more enemy players, or stays alive for longer than ever before, or indeed any number of stats the game keeps track of, everybody knows about it.

The Scout, meanwhile, was not the class for us. Walker assured us that in the right hands the Scout could nimbly avoid foes while making daring dashes to the enemy flag room. Personally, we found that his increased speed and ability to double-jump only helped us run into danger faster than with any of the other eight classes. A change of class to the Soldier, and a change of map to another old favorite, Dustbowl, and we were ready to go again.

While waiting for the gates between the opposing areas of the map to open, a congregation of Soldiers and Heavies had begun damaging themselves in a corner by firing rockets at their feet. A few patient Medics looked on. Noticing our puzzlement, Walker began to explain what was happening. Medics have the ability to heal teammates to above their normal number of hit points, as well as regenerate their own health gradually. They heal using a beam that remains attached to the teammate as long as they stay within range and sight of one another. The Medic earns a charge by healing players, and when that charge reaches 100%, the Medic and his team-mate can become invulnerable for ten whole seconds.

What this means, besides the start of the round featuring the kind of self-harm usually reserved for the bathroom at a My Chemical Romance concert, is that an experienced Medic can be the most effective player on the team if paired with an equally skilled Heavy. While the Heavy dishes out massive damage with his Gatling gun, the Medic stays close and provides temporary invincibility. For ten seconds, they're an unassailable target, and all anybody else can do is simply take cover and hopefully pick off the Medic when he becomes vulnerable.

Steve Hogarty

Steve Hogarty is a London-based freelance journalist covering games and technology. His bylines have appeared in publications including GamesRadar, The Independent, Yahoo, VICE, Eurogamer, and more. He is also the co-host of the pocast, Regular Features.