Team Fortress 2: A How-to Guide (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, I spent quite a bit of time talking about teamwork and communication and how that is so essential to the success of any team. I hope you read that and understand it, because everything else I’m going to write is based on those concepts.


Now let’s move it to the next level, from generalities to specifics. Succeeding as a team can be boiled down into two basic, simple ideas: understanding your objective and understanding your role. Your objective is what your team all together is trying to accomplish, and is determined by the game mode you are playing. Your role is what you individually are trying to accomplish, and is determined by which class you are playing.


That having been said, it’s time for me to describe, as briefly as I can, the game of Team Fortress 2, including all the different types of modes this game has to offer, and an overview of the nine classes that you can play.




The GameRed and Blu 2


Team Fortress 2 represents the eternal conflict between the RED (Reliable Excavation Demolition) and BLU (Builders League United) teams. A complex and entertaining back-story has been created, and has been perpetuated by the many updates over the years. The story can be found in different places around the Web, like, or the official Team Fortress 2 Wiki. For purposes of this article, it’s enough to know that you are either on the RED team or the BLU team, and that whatever your objective is will be opposed by the other team. That objective is determined by one of the several different game modes.



Game Modes


There are three basic game modes in TF2, each with its own set of mechanics that determine what each team is supposed to be doing and how they are supposed to do it. These three modes are Control Point, Capture the Flag, and Payload. Each mode also has different variations that change some of the characteristics of it, but the basic mechanics of each are the same throughout all the variations.


Control PointControl Point


Control Points are circular platforms with a team-colored light and hologram in the center (points not controlled by either team are considered “Neutral” and will be gray in color). The basic objective in a Control Point map is to capture the opposing or neutral points, which is done by standing uncontested on the point for a certain amount of time.


Control Point Variations


Control Point maps come in several different flavors. There is the Symmetrical Control Point map – also known as a “Push” map – in which both teams start out with one Control Point on either end of a balanced map, and there are usually three other Neutral Points which must be captured in order. The team that captures all five points wins. There is the Domination Control Point map, where all the points begin as Neutral, and the teams fight to capture them. There is the Attack/Defend Control Point map, where the RED team starts the game in control of all the points, and the BLU team has to attack and try to capture them. There is the Territorial Control map, which involves fighting for the capture of Control Points within a certain area of a map, with the areas of the map shifting each round, until the entire map is controlled by one team. There is the King of the Hill Control Point map, where there is one neutral point in the middle, and each team must capture and hold the point for a certain amount of time in order to win. And there is the Arena map, similar to a King of the Hill map, but unique in that each round, players can only spawn once, with the goal being to simply kill all the opposing players. If both teams survive one minute of fighting, a Control Point will unlock, allowing a team to also win by capturing the point.


Each of these variations also has variations, such as Multi-stage Attack/Defend maps, or maps in which two points must be captured first before the third and final point can be captured. All of these variations will be discussed in detail elsewhere.



Capture the FlagIntelligence


This game mode is just like it sounds. Each team must try to capture the opposing team’s “flag” – called the Intelligence, it is a Briefcase stuffed full and overflowing with papers – while preventing the enemy from capturing theirs. This is as simple as running into the enemy base, picking up the Intelligence, and running it back to your own base, without being killed. The first team to reach a set number of captures within a time limit is the winner.


Capture the Flag Variations


Aside from the basic CTF mode, there are two main variations. There is the “Deliverance” variation, similar to an Attack/Defend CP map, in which only one team can pick up the Intelligence, and must “deliver” it to a Control Point, thus unlocking another Intelligence, which then must be delivered further on. The other team must prevent the Intelligence from being delivered. Then there is the “Invasion” variation, in which there is a single, neutral Intelligence, which can be picked up by either team and then taken to the enemy’s base to be captured. Once a team picks it up, the Intelligence normally can’t be picked back up by the other team until it respawns.


As with CP maps, CTF maps have other variations on the variations, which will be discussed in other places.





Payload features a minecart with a bomb strapped to it, which one team attempts to push into the other team’s base in order to blow it up. In this mode, one team pushes the cart by standing next to it, while the other team defends by keeping the enemy away from the cart. If no one is standing next to the cart, it will eventually start to move backwards, and there is a time limit in which to move the cart all the way to the end.


Payload Variations


The basic variation for the Payload map is the Payload Race, where both teams have a minecart which they will attempt to move into the opposing base, while preventing the other team from moving theirs. A similar variation to this is the Balloon Race, which involves two vehicles suspended from hot air balloons, which the teams the teams will move along a predetermined course, capturing Control Points along the way, until one team beats the other team to the end.


There are also multi-stage Payload maps and other variations, which will be discussed elsewhere.



Mann vs. MachineMvM


There is one other game mode called Mann vs. Machine, which shares many of the mechanics of a Payload map, except that all the players are on the defending side, fighting against hordes of computer-controlled robots. The robots assault the player base in wave after wave, trying to carry a bomb to the very heart of the base in order to blow it up.


One of the most interesting and unique features of this game mode is the ability of the players to temporarily upgrade their weapons and their own abilities in between waves of attackers. When the robots are killed, they will drop money, which the players can pick up and then use at the Upgrade Station inside the spawn to increase their speed or health, increase their weapon damage or rate of fire, and things like that. These upgrades – which of course expire once that game is over – turn out to be absolutely essential to the success of any MvM game, since the robots will become progressively tougher and more numerous, while the players must keep to the maximum of six at a time.


All in all, Mann vs. Machine is a fun departure from the normal human killfest, and there are multiple maps and variations within this game mode.



In addition to these basic modes, there are also Training Maps, Testing Maps, so-called Achievement Maps, Trading Maps, Idle Maps, and finally, simple, no-nonsense maps where there is no other objective but to simply kill everybody else. These are sometimes called Massacre Maps.


None of these maps/game modes really require anything like strategy or tactics. They have their function, but for the purposes of this guide, I’m not going to spend any time talking about the best way to idle, or which servers have the best trading.


Your Role


So you’re playing the game and now you’re reasonably sure what the objective of your team is. Next you simply have to figure out where you fit in. What are you, as a player, going to do to help your team accomplish the mission? Just running around and killing everything in sight won’t do the trick. In order to work together and execute a proper strategy, each player has to understand what their specific job is.


This all starts with your choice of player class. This choice will be determined by a lot of factors, not the least of which are your particular skills at playing that class, the immediate need of your team in whatever’s going on at the moment, or exactly how much fun you want to have while you’re playing today. Knowing what each class is and what its strengths and weaknesses are is an essential part of making that choice, though, so that’s where we’re going next.

 Face Shots

There are nine individual classes that you can play in Team Fortress 2: Scout, Soldier, Pyro, Demoman, Heavy, Engineer, Medic, Sniper, and Spy. You’ll notice when you are on the class selection screen in the game that the classes are all separated into what the game designers evidently assumed would be an adequately defined category for each class, i.e., Offensive, Defensive, or Support. I want to encourage you to more or less ignore this category when you’re thinking about the classes, because you will only end up limiting your view of each class until you realize that every class can be played in a multitude of different ways.


For example, the Demoman is classified as a defensive class, due to the ability he has to lay stickybombs in an area to be detonated in a sort of ambush for unsuspecting opponents trying to assault a position. However, the very same weapon makes a good Demoman the absolute go-to guy when your team is itself trying to assault positions, since a good cluster of three or four stickybombs can lay waste to sentries and turn hordes of opposing players into flying gibs.


Or consider the Medic, the ultimate Support class, with his ability to heal his fellow teammates. I have actually seen a pair of Medics who really knew what they were doing assault a point and hold off wave after wave of attacking enemies until the rest of their team arrived, using nothing but their needleguns and bonesaws.


In any case, the role of each class will depend a lot on the overall objective of the team (as determined by the game mode), as well as how good or how poorly your team or the other team are doing at any given moment. Don’t be afraid to switch around your class if you see the need for something else to happen on your team. Respawns are free; just make sure you wait until you’re in your spawn room to change your class, or your previous class will collapse and die right out there in front of everybody. Kind of embarrassing.


Anyways, while each class has an almost limitless number of variations when it comes to playing it, certain characteristics and abilities will always stay the same. The Scout is always fast, the Heavy is always slow. The Spy is always sneaky, the Pyro is always insane. Read on to find out the general specifics of each class, and how it will affect your overall gaming experience.



Meet the Team





The cocky Scout is by far the fastest and most agile of all the classes. While he does not posses significant long-range firepower, his ability to close quickly and run circles around almost any opposition, and the ability of his scattergun to do extreme damage at close range, makes the Scout a very formidable foe. He doesn’t have much health, but he more than makes up for it with mobility, and it’s not uncommon to see a Scout jumping and bouncing around every which way all over the battlefield.


With the ability to capture a point or move the minecart at twice the speed of any other class – plus, of course, sprinting faster than anyone else with the Intelligence – the Scout can always be found pressing forward and getting into the thick of things as an integral part of accomplishing any mission, while making fun of you every step of the way.





In terms of straight-up combat ability, the strait-laced Soldier is probably the most well-rounded of all the classes. His rocket launcher packs an intense punch at any distance, long-range or short, and his ability to whip out a shotgun or a rusty shovel to finish you off makes him terrifying no matter where you are. With the second-most health of any class besides the Heavy, the Soldier has the staying power to make it through any fray, and is often the last man standing on a bloody battlefield.


He doesn’t move very fast, but the Soldier can use his rocket launcher to quickly jump great distances and soar to great heights, making him one of the most mobile of all the classes. He can get to places no one else can get to, raining destruction down upon all enemies, and all of this makes the Soldier one of the best attackers, defenders, and supporters in the game. And he’s a pretty good juggler, too.





The mysterious Pyro is one of the scariest things you will face out there on the battlefield. Charging around with his flamethrower spraying hot death everywhere, only to finish you off with a chop of his axe or even a blast from his Hadouken taunt, the Pyro is adept at causing chaos wherever he may roam. He is relatively quick and agile, with a decent amount of health, giving him the ability to sneak up and ambush opponents with a gleeful, if muffled, laugh as they burn to a crisp.


The Pyro also has the capability of using his flamethrower’s airblast function to reflect enemy projectiles, blow back attacking enemies (especially ones that are Übered), and even extinguish teammates that have been set on fire by enemy Pyros. This makes the Pyro one of the best defensive classes, as he can protect friendly sentry guns from enemy attacks, blow back opponents who have picked up the Intelligence, and otherwise prevent the other team from getting where it wants to get. He can even run around the map spraying his flamethrower at random all over the place, lighting up any cloaked Spies that may be lurking about (called a Spy Check). All in all, the Pyro almost always spells trouble for the other team. Too bad no one can understand a word he says.





The boisterous Demoman is one of the most powerful classes in the game. As the only class with the ability to fire on opponents indirectly (i.e., around corners, over barriers, etc.) with his grenade launcher, as well as the ability to set stickybombs and detonate them at will, the Demoman is versatile and deadly. With good speed and a good amount of health, the Demoman can be found at the head of any charge, or can stand his ground in the rear against hordes of opponents.


While he is vulnerable at close range, due to his lack of any direct-fire, short-range weaponry, the Demoman does have access to the widest range of melee weapons of any of the classes, which can be used along with other accessories to turn this long-range bomber into a wild, sword-flailing terror. No one is ever happy to see a Demoknight charging around the battlefield on the other team, and many’s the game whose tide has been turned by the gleeful chopping of a few heads. In any case, whether raining down explosive judgment or smashing you in the face with a crazy grenade on a stick, the Demoman never fails to dominate. And of course, he enjoys every minute of it.





The simple-minded Heavy is the tank of the TF2 world. With the most amount of health, but the lowest speed of any of the classes, the Heavy Weapons Guy marches into battle slowly, methodically, and usually unstoppably. The sound of his minigun winding up to spray hot lead around the map can send a chill down the back of the most seasoned veteran. Pair the Heavy up with his own Medic, and you’ve got a force to be reckoned with.


Because of his slow speed, the Heavy is best when he doesn’t have to move much, like in a defensive situation, or when he is supported in an assault by his more mobile teammates. An attacking force with a Heavy or two at its center takes an incredible amount of firepower to stop, and once you let a Heavy and his friends into your base, you’d better just run and hide. Though not able to deal out great destruction at longer ranges, and very susceptible to both a Spy’s backstab and a Sniper’s headshot, the Heavy played right is almost always the leader of his team. Just don’t touch his gun. He doesn’t like that.





The laid-back Engineer is the ultimate support class. His various gadgets and machines are absolutely essential to the success of any team. Whether he’s building his sentry nest near the Intelligence, or pushing forward with his healing, reloading dispenser and mini-sentries towards the enemy highground, the Engy can keep his teammates safe and healthy while they pick apart their opponents at their leisure. His ability to build Teleporters to transport himself and his teammates from Point A to Point B can also mean the difference between a quick victory and a rapid defeat.


While not particularly fast or endowed with a tremendous amount of health, the Engineer more than makes up for it by staying near his contraptions. Engineers aren’t meant to run off into combat, but if you try to get near his stuff, his various shotguns and wrenches give him more than enough capability to smack you down. Give him a Pyro or a Heavy to keep Spies away, and the Engineer will create success with a set of blueprints and liberal application of elbow grease, all to the tune of his own guitar chords.





The crazy Medic may be the absolute definition of a mad scientist, but he does get results. No team can succeed at any mission without at least one Medic helping them on their way. With his medi-gun swinging this way and that, the Medic keeps his teammates healthy and strong as they deal destruction to their enemies, and when he’s healed enough to charge up his gun, he can let loose the dreaded Übercharge, which makes the Medic and one target absolutely invulnerable for eight seconds. That may not seem like much time, but it is definitely enough to lay waste to an entire team.


The Medic is not particularly strong when it comes to combat, nor does he boast a great deal of health. He does, however, have the ability to regenerate his own health, and as long as his teammates do a good job of protecting him from the wrath of the enemy, the Medic can be the deciding factor in any victory. Just try not to let him get you on an operating table, or you may end up with more than you ever bargained for.





The sharp-eyed Sniper is the long-range eyes of the team. Scoped in on his rifle, the Sniper can detect positions and movements of the enemy all the way across the map, feeding this info to his team so they can come up with a formidable plan of attack. Much more than just an informant, though, the Sniper can pick off key targets at considerable distance with a skillful headshot, thinning out the ranks of the enemy so his team can cruise in and mop them up.


The Sniper isn’t meant to engage much in close-combat, but with his submachine gun and kukri knife, he is more than able to take care of himself if push comes to shove. He can even fling jars of his own urine at his enemies, making them more vulnerable to attack while simultaneously . . . well, soaking them with his urine. As a formidable component to any successful team, the Sniper can almost always be found pissing off – and pissing on – his opponents. G’day, mate!





The treacherous Spy is one of the most feared classes in the game. With the ability to cloak into invisibility or even disguise himself as a member of the opposing team, the Spy can sneak right into the ranks of the enemy and decimate them before they even have a chance to blink. A careful swing of his knife into your back means instant death, and if the Spy is good, you won’t even know it’s coming until it happens. Not particularly strong or fast, the Spy must depend on his wits and his skill with his various weapons and gadgets to fool the enemy long enough to make his move. Smart opponents will have ways to smoke out a Spy, so the Spy must be smarter.


With the added ability to “sap” the buildings of Engineers, destroying or deconstructing them, the Spy can be an extremely useful asset in any team’s strategy. Assaulting sentries that have been deactivated is a lot easier than walking into a hail of bullets, and the careful Spy can accomplish that for his team. When capturing points or picking up the Intelligence, Spies are often one step ahead of their enemies, and many games have been won by the skillful Spy. And with a flick of his cigarette, he disappears into thin air. Until next time, mon ami.




So there you have it, the Team in Team Fortress 2, and by now you should have a good idea of which class you should choose to accomplish the objective set before you and your team. Aside from sheer strategic and tactical considerations, however, you should always consider two other factors when deciding which class to play: your own personal skill, and how much fun you want to have. Your skill, of course, will depend on how good you are in general, and how much you’ve played any particular class. Your skill will definitely improve the more you play, but just keep in mind that your goal is to help your team, not hinder it. If your team desperately needs a certain class, but you suck at that class, you could end up doing more harm than good.


As for fun, well, just remember that when it’s all said and done, this is and always will be just a game. Your choice of class to play should help your team accomplish its mission, but it should also allow you to enjoy yourself. Otherwise, not only will you probably not play your hated class very well, you’ll also probably just end up getting bored and quitting to go watch the latest season of The Walking Dead on Netflix. So don’t be afraid to play what you want to play, as long as it helps your team. It’s a good idea to have two or three classes you play well and enjoy, so that if your team already has six Snipers, you don’t add a seventh just because that’s the only class you ever play (I don’t care how much you pwn with headshots, no team ever needs seven Snipers!)



What’s next?


Now your introduction to this amazing game is complete. I’ve taken you through all the game modes and described each class, giving you simple tips and pointers in playing each mode and class. In the coming articles, I’m now going to take you even deeper, detailing each game mode extensively, along with key strategies and tactics to follow when playing in those modes. Then I’m going to take that a step further and break down each class, not only describing them in even more detail – all their characteristics and abilities, all their various weapons and items, and how to play each class up to its maximum potential – but giving you some ideas on how each class fits into the scheme of a team, which of course will change depending on which game mode you’re playing.


So stay tuned, there’s a lot more to come. And just remember that no amount of words I will ever write will take the place of actual in-game experience. If you haven’t already logged at least a few hours of play time, what are you waiting for?! Get your butt out there and start killing people! And I will see you next time!

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