This week I’d like to take a break from the rants and criticisms and just take some time out to praise a series of videos. I know quite a few Satellite Show bloggers and readers are already aware that Valve can make some absolutely fantastic cutscenes for their games, courtesy of Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2. In fact, the former’s introductory movie is not only amazing from a cinematic and character study perspective, but in acting as a tutorial for what to expect in the actual game.
These cinematics, though, are different animals, and in no small part because as far as I know none of them, even the ones prior to October 2007, were released with the Orange Box the game they’re related to was sold with. I’m talking about Team Fortress 2, which because of these movies is quite possibly the most enjoyable video game that I have never, ever played.
I don’t know what it is about Valve that they feel compelled to go above and beyond simply having great gameplay by deciding to also flesh out aspects of story and character. Portal and the Left 4 Dead games, or even the Half-Life series for that matter could have easily succeeded without anything memorable about the world being portrayed, but Valve’s decision to go that extra mile really sets them above. Or marks them out as insane. Nothing is more evident of their genius, insanity, or both, than the fact they took a game that doesn’t even really have a storyline, designed only so people can jump in and kill each other in multi-player death matches, and made a bunch of hilariously awesome videos showcasing each “character class” as the dysfunctional psychopaths they are. First they did “Meet the Heavy”, which was animated based almost word-for-word on the voice acting auditions. Then when that proved popular they cranked out three more (Soldier, Engineer, Demoman) in the months just prior to the Orange Box release.
Then, every time I had about given up they were going to finish the series, they kept coming up with more. We met the Scout and the Sniper in 2008, then the Spy in 2009… after which there was a two year break before the Medic got his turn in 2011, and now, in case you’re wondering about the timing of this article, the final video, Meet the Pyro, released this year on June 27th.
Valve did it. It took them five years, four of which were after the release of the game, but the crazy bastards not only kept cranking them out, they kept the level of writing, animation, and imagination to a superlative level. In the end they even managed to make something wonderful out of the Pyro, a class that in the game never talks beyond muffled, unintelligible laughter.
I’ve talked enough. This article on the TF2 Wiki has lots of juicy details. For now, I’ll just end this by embedding each clip, in order of their release. Not that you have to watch them in order, mind you, but it’s as good a policy as any. Enjoy!