Well, the news is out. Team Fortress 2, Valve’s long-running team-based shooter, is now 100% free to play.
All you have to do is create a Steam account – again, totally free – and you’ll have full access to every class, every map and all the unlockable weapons. The news comes alongside the Uber Update, which unveils the Meet The Medic video, as well as a new set of weapons (and hats) for all classes except the Engineer.
Predictably, the reaction from the community is somewhat mixed. Some people feel cheated that a game they paid full price for is now available for free, whereas others understand that the game is now four years old, and welcome the fresh influx of noobs to slaughter. Personally, I think those who are whining are hugely overreacting – this is a game that has been supported by the developers post-release for FREE, for nearly four years. And we’re not just talking patches – Valve have occasionally dropped huge, game-changing updates on us, without charging a penny. I’ve clocked nearly 500 hours on the game since its release, so in terms of sheer hours-to-pounds, this game has provided me with more value for money than any other.
But why should you care? Why should you want to play a four-year-old game that should by all rights be far past its prime, free or otherwise? The thing is, Team Fortress 2 is different. What started as a relatively simple class-based team shooter in 2007 has evolved beyond all recognition, in ways that nobody, not even the developers themselves, could have foreseen at the time.
First, Valve shocked the community by introducing unlockable weapons, at first just for the Medic. Then, along with more unlocks, came the ability to craft items, followed eventually by the ability to trade. Along with trading came a controversial addition – the MannCo store, which allowed players to purchase in-game items for real money. Despite criticism from the community, who feared that this might provide an unfair in-game advantage to those with more money than sense, the MannCo store proved once and for all that people are more than willing to pay actual, hard-earned money for a couple of imaginary hats.
This latest shock, going free to play, actually makes a lot of sense when combined with the in-game store, which is now Valve’s only source of income from the game. The more people have access to TF2, the higher the chance that some of them will be tempted to spend a tenner on a new weapon or two. Any free player who purchases anything in the store – even the cheapest item, currently a measly 29p, becomes a ‘Premium Player’, with perks like increased storage space and the ability to receive rare item drops. Naturally, anyone who previously purchased the game is already Premium, and has been gifted a nifty helmet by way of thanks.
Oh, and for the record, it is impossible to purchase anything game-changing that cannot also be attained through other means. Weapons and other items can still drop randomly while playing, or be earned through achievements.
So if you’ve always wanted to give TF2 a go, but were put off by the possibility of paying for something you might not like, then this is your chance. Even if you’ve never heard of it before, what have you got to lose? Most multiplayer-only shooters die out within a few years, with only the hardcore fanbase sticking around. However, with this announcement, Team Fortress 2 is once again the most-played game currently on Steam. This game has evolved and adapted to its audience in a way that few games have ever attempted – surely you owe it to yourself to see what all the fuss is about? And if you feel like dropping a few quid on a shiny new gun, so much the better.
If you’re thinking of giving Team Fortress 2 a go, you can pick up your free copy here. You’ll need to install Steam and create a free account in order to play.
Once you’ve made an account, make sure to add me if you’re not already a friend!