Because I am a Valve Fanboy, I preordered the Orange Box, which will contain Half Life: Episode 2 (Which is the second part of Half-Life 3, confusingly enough), Portal (An action/puzzle game involving – come on, you’ll never guess – portals), and Team Fortress 2.

Some history, briefly. When Aquarionics first started in its original form, as my website, sometime in 1998/9 far and away the most popular section of the site was called “Follow That Game”, in which I took five games I was looking forward to, wrote a small fansite about them, and invited readers to predict a release date for them, closest wins.

The four original games were Quake 3, Age of Kings, Sim City 3000, Alpha Centuri and Black & White. Interestingly, four out of five of those have since produced sequels, and the fifth only hasn’t because Sid got distracted back to Civ. Age of Kings got released, and was replaced with C&C2, and then I got distracted by Black & White and became staff member on a long since departed fansite called Garden of Eden. Shortly before I did that, however, I coded an update which never went live, adding to the list a far rumored sequel to Team Fortress.

It’s been a while, and I’m lucky I didn’t add Duke Nukem Forever at the same time.

This site is now ten years old, though not at this address – the only thing that keeps me running and hiding from that fact – and is only slightly older than TF2’s development time. My mobile phone could run the original now.

People who pre-ordered the Orange Box get to play the Team Fortress 2 beta. This means me. And this is what I have been doing:

At the time of writing I have clocked in over eight hours playing TF2 over the week it’s been available to me, which means I have basically been sleeping, waking up, going to work, coming home, playing TF2, then going to bed. I don’t actually like multiplayer FPS games. You can tell, can’t you?

Most of that time has been spent playing the Medic. In most of these type of games, the job of the medic is to wander close to the front lines, shitting health packs to keep your team alive. In some games this extends to resuscitating your corps. In TF2, your medic has a healing gun. You shoot people, and they heal, and so do you. This leads to a feedback loop with something like a heavy weapons tank, where you stay out of the line of direct fire pumping him full of good-juice, and he pumps the badguys full of lead. Being a medic is actually useful.

Second place has been playing the Engineer, who can build one each of sentry, supplies dispenser, teleport entrance and exit, and can upgrade the sentry. For this he needs metal, which can be grabbed from dispensers, spawn points or – faster – the unused weaponry of your former comrades/enemies. This puts the engineer on the front lines too, no back-room classes here.

The graphical style is also wonderful, with an early 20th century paper-cut-out feel to it which is very pretty to watch, but wouldn’t be half as fun if it wasn’t for the characterisations of the classes. If you haven’t seen them, I would recommend watching the character videos: