By Marshall Garvey
Last year, Terry Randolph and I compiled our lists of our top 20 favorite video game characters. This piece in no way alters that original list, which, much like my top 100 movies list, I would only alter after much deliberation and a good number of “no brainer” additions that I feel would be terribly missed from the list. (Or, of course, just expand the list to a higher number to include everything.)
Now, to the update. It took me seven years after its miraculous transition from vaporware purgatory to one of the most consistently popular games available, but I’ve finally caught “Team Fortress 2” fever. The only catch: I haven’t played it…yet. As of this writing, I’m in my final weeks at UC Davis, so to say the least I’ve been a bit too busy to really immerse myself in the game. Not to mention, I was unimpressed with the graphics of the free download online (I can barely read some of the text), so my delay in jumping into the experience can also be attributed to my desire to pick up the Orange Box after graduation. But I’ve also been told the majority of upgrades and free stuff is reserved for online players, so in any event it’ll be a bit before I become inevitably addicted to “Team Fortress 2” and write a (most likely Hall of Fame) review of it.
Before I can become familiar with the game’s intricate, class-based style, I’ve nonetheless attained a great fascination with TF2 thanks to its uproarious lineup of characters. For those unfamiliar with “Team Fortress 2,” as I had substantially been for years, there are nine characters you can play as in combat-oriented missions that pit Red Team against Blue Team: Scout, Spy, Medic, Heavy Weapons, Demoman, Sniper, Pyro, Engineer, and Soldier. Each one is humorously presented in a “Meet the” video series, where their character traits, national backgrounds, and individual talents are highlighted in a manner true to the game’s cheeky Norman Rockwell/”Incredibles” aesthetic. Needless, to say, they’re all a blast to watch over and over, with some made even funnier after being “translated” into verbose old English.
While picking a favorite from the team is difficult, the one that carries the most intrigue for me is the Spy. A lanky Frenchman dressed in an immaculate suit and a mask to conceal his identity, he offers perhaps the most cunning set of skills of any character. In addition to pistol and switchblade attacks, he can also turn invisible and, most importantly, assume the identity of an enemy combatant to infiltrate their team’s base. His one-liners, delivered in a cartoonishly stuck-up French accent, are tops. (Example: “Promise not to bleed on my suit and I’ll kill you quickly.”) And of course, his “Meet” introduction video is arguably the best of them all, in which his seamless intrusion into the Blue Team’s base sets off increasingly irrational speculation as to which person is actually disguised as the red saboteur.
In reality, I could very well end up expanding my favorite gaming characters list by including every member of Team Fortress. In any event, my opinion is limited without any exposure to gameplay, but the Spy stands as perhaps the best fusion of skill and comic ethnic presentation that defines each character. And the best part of my Spy fanhood: I may just get to wear this awesome shirt of him from the Valve Store underneath my cap and gown outfit at my graduation ceremony. Hey, they said to wear something light, and it’s dashing if I do say so myself…
September 2014 update: I’ve since become an addict of TF2, to no surprise. (The online mode turned out to be the better option, although I’ll still get the Orange Box soon.) While I love to spam with reckless abandon as Pyro, Spy remains my favorite character overall. This was only furthered by the surprising new animated episode of the characters, by far the longest, most intricate, and best one that’s been produced. I’ll induct the game into the Hall of Fame for certain in the near future, perhaps as part of an Orange Box induction special, among other likely pieces. But for now, enjoy the new skit, “Expiration Date,” if you haven’t.