Team Fortress 2

Despite being released over 10 years ago, Team Fortress 2 still boasts one of the biggest player bases on Steam. Today, the number of players peaked at 54,350 - placing the game at seventh on Steam's leaderboard of most-played games. And behind the player count, there is still a significant esports community organised by a series of leagues unaffiliated with Valve. TF2 players have run a small but passionate competitive community for several years.

Over the past few weeks, however, a darker side of the community has emerged. Several competitive players and community members have reported experiencing a culture of harassment and toxicity. The community members took to social media to reveal harrowing personal stories of racism, sexism, transphobia and sexual abuse. To make matters worse, some professional TF2 players have responded to the social media posts with insults and derogatory terms aimed at the victims. Since the reports of toxicity in the competitive scene emerged, other players have come forward with their own stories, and it seems the problem is pervasive. The affected branches of the TF2 community include the TF2 workshop, Steam comments and public matches in the game itself.

Although many of the competitive leagues have responded with statements, bans and policy changes, some have remained silent on the issue. Players have also reported the toxicity goes beyond the competitive sphere to almost all parts of the Team Fortress 2 community - so the question is, should Valve do more to discourage it?

Read more…

Team Fortress 2

If you have the time and hard drive space, you can squeeze a huge amount of free entertainment out of your Steam client. With that in mind we've organised the best free and free-to-play games together into one list. The free games section consists of games that contain no microtransactions. You might be able to buy extra episodes or DLC packs, but you'll get the full core experience for your download in this category.

The free-to-play section contains games that are supported by in-game microtransactions. We've considered the fairness of the in-game stores when selecting these games, and believe you can get a lot of fun out of them before you put in credit card details. We'll update the list over time as we discover more gems hidden away in the Steam store.

FREE GAMES

Alien Swarm

Link: Steam

Up to four players fight through space stations overrun with hordes of alien bugs. Beating missions earns you weapons and equipment that let you specialise your marine. Expect almost Starship Troopers scale hordes at points, as the AI director tries to push your team to the brink of death.

Alien Swarm is a forgotten Valve experiment, but it's perfectly good fun in co-op. The complete game code and mod tools are available, but the community never produced enough to sustain the game beyond its opening months. It's still worth downloading the game with some friends and enjoying what's there though.

A Raven Monologue

Link: Steam

A beautifully drawn experimental short story about a mute raven trying to interact with his townsfolk. The project is described as an attempt "to tell stories or to communicate an experience using a constrained work of interactive art." It's quick, simple to play, and full of room for interpretation.

Cry of Fear

Link: Steam

A quality Half-Life total conversion that's full of scares. The game twists the old GoldSrc engine to give you an inventory system and a big, dark city to explore. Prepare yourself for relentless tension across eight hours of exploration and combat with 24 different weapons. The download also includes a bunch of custom campaigns and an unlockable extra campaign once you beat the main story. That's good value for a free download.

House of Abandon

Steam: Link

This experiment eventually became the excellent short story compilation Stories Untold. You can still download it to your library by heading to the page linked above and clicking 'Download PC Demo'. The first part follows someone playing a text adventure as things start to get strange, and quite scary.

Doki Doki Literature Club!

Link: Steam

It may look like a cheerful classroom drama but don't be fooled, Doki Doki Literature Club! plays with that facade. Sedate chats with classmates create a languid impression for the first act or so, but dark twists await—there's a reason the game opens with a content warning. If you end up enjoying it then you might also like Pony Island and Undertale. 

Off-Peak

Link: Steam

It's the future, you're stuck in a train station, and everything is weird. Chat with the station's odd inhabitants and explore its twisted side passages to discover surreal little anecdotes and piece together meaning from the assembled scraps. It only takes about half an hour to complete and the music is sweet, so give it a download.

FREE-TO-PLAY GAMES

Dota 2

Link: Steam

Dota 2 is one of the biggest games on Steam. Described simply, two teams of five wizards battle to knock over towers and flatten the enemy base in battles that tend to last between 30 minutes and an hour. In practice it's one of the deepest and most complicated competitive games in the world. Every year the huge International tournament draws millions of viewers, and with 110+ heroes and a consistently shifting meta, this could be the only game you ever need in your Steam library.

The free-to-play implementation is mostly good. Most microtransactions are tied to cosmetics. In addition to individual item purchases you can also buy battle passes that grant access to modes, quests that you complete by playing games, and more cosmetic items.

Warframe

Link: Steam

This third person action RPG about futuristic ninjas can be completely baffling for new players, but if you persist with it you'll find a deep and rewarding game on the verge of some of its most ambitious updates to date. At launch it was a game about repeating short missions—and that's still part of it—but there are also open world zones and plans to add co-op space combat. Warframe has been getting better and better in the last few years, and now we reckon it's one of the best free to play games on PC

You can spend real money to speed up crafting time, and to buy items and frames outright. Everything is perfectly craftable using in-game currency however, and players seem more interested in using the real-money Platinum currency to unlock new colour schemes.

Card Hunter

Link: Steam

Card Hunter is a cute squad RPG based around digital collectible cards. You battle through dungeons under the guidance of a dungeon master, levelling up your squad of heroes, building your deck and enjoying some affectionate tongue in cheek digs at D&D along the way. There's loads to play before you ever see a payment screen and there are also co-op and competitive modes. If only more free-to-play games were like this.

Team Fortress 2

Link: Steam

This team shooter has been around since 2007, but the character designs are timeless and the class design is still magnificent. Few shooters can point to a class as innovative as The Spy, who can disguise himself as an opposing team to sabotage their gadgets and stab their heavies in the back. If you prefer long-range engagements, the sniper has you covered, or you can ambush enemies up close with the Pyro. Whatever your play style, there's a class to match, and with enough play you will be switching between classes frequently to help your team push the cart or take a tricky point.

Path of Exile

Link: Steam

Path of Exile is one of the deepest action RPGs on the market, and one of the most generous for being free-to-play. The basic structure ought to be familiar: pick a class and embark on Diablo-style killing sprees to earn loot and level up. There's a huge amount of class and item customisation to dig into as you start to move past the tutorial stages. Slot different patterns of gems into your armour sets to min-max your character and take them into even tougher dungeons. You only need to pay money for cosmetics that reskin your weapons and armour

EVE Online

Link: EVE Online

This space MMO is famous for producing incredible stories of war and betrayal. Its player-driven corporations are fraught political entities that can be very inaccessible to new players. Even if you don't persist long enough to break into the grand PvP game it's still a gorgeous universe full of beautiful spaceships and nebulae. Some ships and skills are locked off in the free-to-play version, but you can spend a huge amount of time in the game before you need to look at paying for premium access.

Star Trek Online

Link: Steam

Fly ships, gather a crew, and beam down to planets with an away team in this massive free-to-play MMO. It has aged quite a bit since launch and it's riddled with microtransactions, but you can still play through the story and see every side of the game without paying. If you do get drawn in to collecting high end ships and decking out your crew with signature Star Trek livery then expect to pay for it. You can grind for items using in-game currency, but for advance items that will take longer than seems reasonable. If you're looking for a free Star Trek experience, however, it's surprisingly fun.

Realm Royale

Link: Realm Royale

If you like the idea of Fortnite but can't stand building, then Realm Royale might be your next battle royale game. It's still in Early Access, but there are enough features to separate it from Fortnite (which isn't on Steam), and paid-for battle royale games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Realm Royale has a fantasy element with five classes and different spells and abilities for each. Hunters can leave proximity mines, while mages can heal themselves with ice magic. It's perfectly playable at this stage in Early Access, but expect it to evolve a lot in the coming months.

Battlerite

Link: Steam

An arena-based top-down brawler with shooting, spells and a colourful art style. As we've observed before, it's basically a smartly designed clutch teamfight generator. If you're tired of the long lanes of Dota 2 or League of Legends then you might enjoy Battlerite's punchy, fast-paced encounters, and while it's competitive, it has a cleaner learning curve than the major lane-pushing games. A separate paid-for Battlerite Royale mode is heading to Early Access in September, which has annoyed the community, but you can still find a battle in the original 2v2 and 3v3 modes.

Team Fortress 2 - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Matt Cox)

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Team Fortress 2 jumping. It’s a lot like normal TF2, only rather the shooting people the goal is to propel yourself skywards using explosively powered movement techniques on custom designed maps. Yeah, it’s nothing like normal TF2.

Jumpers have tournaments too though. They’ve spent the past month hopping through three separate events in the Beginnings 5 competition. With the competition now over, they’ve settled down again – and left us with some impressive aerial highlights. I’ve gathered the victors’ videos below, and got a couple of the jumpers to sit still long enough to tell me about why they do what they do.

(more…)

Team Fortress 2
An update to Team Fortress 2 has been released. The update will be applied automatically when you restart Team Fortress 2. The major changes include:
  • Added UGC Highlander Season 24, Highlander Season 25, 6v6 Season 26, 6v6 Season 27, 4v4 Season 13, and 4v4 Season 14 tournament medals
  • Added TFCL 6v6 Season 4, Ultiduo Season 5, and Highlander Season 2 tournament medals
  • Added TF2Maps 72hr TF2Jam Summer Participant 2018 community medal
  • Added Insomnia 63 tournament medals
  • Added Essentials.TF monthly tournament medals
  • Updated the localization files
Team Fortress 2 - Valve
An update to Team Fortress 2 has been released. The update will be applied automatically when you restart Team Fortress 2. The major changes include:

  • Added UGC Highlander Season 24, Highlander Season 25, 6v6 Season 26, 6v6 Season 27, 4v4 Season 13, and 4v4 Season 14 tournament medals
  • Added TFCL 6v6 Season 4, Ultiduo Season 5, and Highlander Season 2 tournament medals
  • Added TF2Maps 72hr TF2Jam Summer Participant 2018 community medal
  • Added Insomnia 63 tournament medals
  • Added Essentials.TF monthly tournament medals
  • Updated the localization files
Half-Life 2 - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (RPS)

Then the bus EXPLODED. Hello, this is the RPS podcast, the Electronic Wireless Show, and we are here to talk about the best game openings and intros. Whether they are cold opens or slow burns, we love a good first impression. (more…)

Team Fortress 2

Deep down, I think we've all wanted to burn down a house.

Not out of vengeance, or a half-baked insurance scam, or to send a message to a crosstown mob boss. To me, pyromania is simply the most relatable form of gleeful mass destruction. Who isn't a little bit entranced by a towering inferno? Of course, in real life you can't work out your emotional baggage through incendiary therapy without getting the cops called on you, but videogames fill the void.

If we're being honest, games have only recently really helped us get in touch with our latent pyromaniac instincts. It was difficult to program inspiring flames on a Commodore 64, and the less said about Doom's pepperoni pizza take on lava the better. But that started to change in 2008, with the release of Far Cry 2 and its unprecedented wildfire mechanics.

"To me [Ubisoft] really nailed how fire should feel and I loved how it would burn the grass and environment, such a wonderful touch," says Bill Munk, creative director of Killing Floor 2, which itself is a game with an incredibly satisfying flamethrower. He's right. Open world sandboxes weren't exactly a rarity in the late-aughties, but Far Cry 2 was one of the first times our machines packed the processing power to handle the physics estimations necessary to set those open-worlds on fire. We haven't looked back since.

"I really think flame weapons are so fun because of the extreme destruction they cause to NPCs and to the environment," continues Munk, when I ask him why he thinks players enjoy a healthy bit of incineration every now and then. "It's such a fun power trip, not to mention fire-based weapons are generally more forgiving on how accurate you need to be with your aim." 

Today, we're seeing games that play with fire on a more granular, mechanical level, rather than the engine-porn stagecraft it's been used for in the past. The best example I can think of is probably Larian Studios' Divinity series, which has persistently injected an immersive suite of environmental effects into the relative solemnity of a turn-based RPG.

I've always found this screenshot, where a rustic wooden platform is scorched to the depths of hell, to be an effective shorthand for why people who don't necessarily play a ton of strategy games still fall in love with the absurdity of Original Sin's magic systems.

"We tried to tweak duration, area and availability of fire skills so that the player is frequently put into position where their battle plan is spinning out of control and they need to improvise and take risks," says Nick Pechenin, systems designer of Divinity Original Sin 2, when I ask him how fire has been a useful tool in Larian's game design. "It was also important to us that although the ways in which surfaces are created and interact with each other have almost no randomness, smallest deviations in how the player targets their skills and positions their characters lead to wildly divergent outcomes, essentially generating fresh combat experiences every time."

It was fun to hear someone speak so intelligently about the mechanical theories behind cauterizing your enemies. For me, fire effects in videogames aren't about all clever design. Fire taps into my baseline, brain-bypassing id—the caveman wants and needs of my idiot gamer brain. But I suppose that's how it should be. A good blaze should be emotionally and aesthetically resonant, and when done right, it serves a distinct gameplay functionality buried deep below our perception. To borrow a J-school aphorism; it is showing, not telling, to the highest degree. With that, here are some PC games that excel in the art of pyromania. 

Return to Castle Wolfenstein

The urtext of video game flamethrowers; a lot of people's first quintessential next-gen experience back in 2001 was torching bunkers in that gorgeous, liquid-orange id Tech 3 goodness. I remember this thing being a little bit overpowered, mostly because of its ridiculous range, but frankly any good flamethrower should be. The only good Nazis are the ones conflagerating to death at your feet. 

For bonus Nazis-on-fire action, check out this trailer for the 2009 Wolfenstein's Flammenwerfer.

Far Cry (series)

We talked about Far Cry 2 above, which will always and forever be the crown prince of video game fire effects. But we also must give a nod to the other games in the series, specifically Far Cry 3, which had its finger on the pulse of the nation when it included a level where your shit-for-brains protagonist burns down a marijuana growing operation while a Skrillex/Damian Marley collaboration blasts off in the background. (It was 2012, what did you expect?) Truly a magnificent moment in the history of gaming that will only continue to get more hilarious as time goes on. 

Terraria

Terraria does such a great job with its physics for a 2D platformer, and one of my favorite ways that manifests is when you're digging through the sediment and throwing down an endless bread crumb of torches to guide your way back to the surface. It can be a pain to farm gel and wood to make sure you never run out light, but there's something kinda dramatic about zooming out and seeing the vast network of dimly-lit mineshafts you've inadvertently created. Especially for someone like me, who's always been bad at the aesthetic parts of crafting games. 

Alien Isolation

Alien Isolation is a game about being completely screwed, but one of the very, very few times you feel like you have a chance in that awful, no-good, godforsaken spaceship is when you've got the flamethrower on your side. One big angry ball of flame is all it takes to put the xenomorph on its bony heels, and that respite can be downright euphoric. The flamethrower as the odds-evener, as it should be. 

Diablo (series)

Blizzard prefers a heavy touch when it comes to their aesthetic design, so it's no surprise that their darkest franchise lays it on pretty darn thick whenever we make a journey to the underworld. Diablo's hell is absolutely unreasonable; a giddy orgy of blood, lava, blackened gothic chapels, and belching geysers of flame. Personally, I'm partial to Azmodan Lord of Sin, best known for lobbing infernal orbs of molten rock at your hapless barbarian (a mechanic that was later beautifully integrated into Heroes of the Storm). Good on you, Blizzard. We can only hope that Diablo 4 brings an even heavier dose of hellishness. 

Shovel Knight

This is PC Gamer, which means we can't mention Super Mario 64, or Banjo Kazooie, or Sonic The Hedgehog on this list. That's a shame, because the mascot platformer is forever betrothed to lava levels—nothing quite ups the ante like the chance to singe the overalls right off of Mario's nubile body. Thankfully Yacht Club, who has dedicated its existence to bringing picture perfect 8-bit-esque adventures to Steam, picked up the slack. Of course Shovel Knight has a lava level, and of course it learns from the masters by bringing a candyflipped Bowser's Castle that's challenging, dramatic, and thoroughly retro. If we could bottle and administer the feeling you get when you use that indestructible shovel to traverse the lakes of Hell, everyone on earth would realize that videogames are a force for good. 

World of Warcraft

It's been a long, long time since I played a Fire Mage in World of Warcraft, but one of the most satisfying feelings that MMO ever produced was the Presence of Mind/Pyroblast combo back in vanilla. I'll break it down for you: Pyroblast was this ridiculous, deep talent-tree spell that let you hurl a massive fireball at an enemy after a six second casting time. That made it kinda useless, because the downtime was so heavy. That is, unless, you also specced into Arcane to pick up Presence of Mind, which, when activated, would make your next spell cast instantly. You see where I'm going now, right?

Presence of Mind/Pyro quickly became my favorite thing to do to people in Warsong Gulch. I'd reckon to guess that it led to more Alt-F4s than anything else in Warcraft's early years. Well, that's not true. Remember when Rogues could stunlock you for, like, half a minute? Man, maybe World of Warcraft Classic is a bad idea.

Team Fortress 2

It's pretty hard to balance a flamethrower in a multiplayer game. Usually they're either totally weak and watered-down, or an ultra-scarce pickup that you see once every 20 games. So hats off to Valve for not only building out the Pyro as a crucial part of the Team Fortress fabric, but also making him fun to play! Torching a crowded control point feels great, but every good Pyro knows the value of the secondary shotgun when you get locked down in a dual with a Scout or a Soldier or something. The variation between the loadout makes you feel useful and multi-dimensional, rather than the kid hogging the cool weapons and sandbagging the team.

BioShock (series)

I love the way Jack's hand looks when he's got the Incinerate plasmid equipped. All of the biological upgrades in Rapture are horrifying in their own visceral ways—I never ever need to see that Insect Swarm cutscene ever again—but something about walking around BioShock's dead corridors with a left hand that's smoldering from the inside out is awesome, and troubling, and could probably serve as a tentpole for some half-baked fan theory. In this Randian dystopia, the Left is on fire! I also think BioShock does perhaps the best job of letting us live our deepest, truest arson fantasies. Just snap your fingers and set anything on fire. Easy as that. Great for clearing out crazy people in a fallen kingdom, and also probably great for party tricks. 

Dark Souls

You have to think that From Software knew their take on pyromancy was awesome, considering how it's, by far, the easiest school of magic to use in a game that's famous for its abstruseness. No degenerate attunement system, no gatekeeping stat requirements, just throw on your fire glove and start roasting skeletons. Everyone who's spent some time in Lordran knows exactly where they were the first time you were invaded by some refined griefer who rained ungodly hellfire on your poor, PvE-tuned knight. We all rushed back, retrieved our souls, and vowed to get our revenge in New Game Plus. And probably started learning pyromancy.

Team Fortress 2


If fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must fight! Sun Tzu said that and these players sure as hell believe it! Essentials.TF are bringing monthly tournaments to TF2 in both the EU and NA regions for August, sponsored by Marketplace.tf.


There's only a few days left to sign up for the EU monthly and not much longer than that for NA. You can sign up to play in EU here and to play in NA here. There's plenty of prize pool to play for and medals to be earned just for playing, so join us for some weekend combat.


If you're just looking for some good games to watch, you can watch it live on the Essentials.TF Twitch channel. Want to know more? Take a look at our announcement articles for the EU Monthly and the NA Monthly on Essentials.TF.


Team Fortress 2

Valve veteran Jay Pinkerton has returned to the developer a year after he left the company.

Pinkerton left last June, following other high profile departures from Erik Wolpaw, Chet Faliszek, and DOTA 2 writer Marc Laidlaw.

Now, thanks to eagle-eyed Redditor OWLverlord (via PC Gamer), it seems Pinkerton is back on Valve's staff page, listed under the "Other Experts" category.

Read more…

Team Fortress 2


The Blapature Co. Charity Bash, a 24-hour Team Fortress 2 charity livestream, kicks off this weekend! Starting on Saturday, July 28th, at 7pm CEST, join a host of personalities from the Team Fortress 2 community as they raise money for Child's Play Charity. Everyone who donates at least $5 will receive a special in-game medal. There are additional medal styles available for larger donations! During the stream we'll cover a large variety of gameplay types and content, including competitive TF2, custom community servers, TF2 trading and more!


The stream will be broadcast live on the Essentials.TF Twitch Channel. To donate cash, visit the event donation page. You can also donate in-game TF2 items through Scrap.TF. Donating at least $5 worth of items will still earn you a medal!


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