Late Thursday Valve Software's Doug Lombardi confirmed that Team Fortress 2 (TF2) has indeed gone free to play. The news first surfaced days ago when references to a test version of the game (TestApp440) and a "no cost" value showed up in the registry. Now it's official and part of the "Über Update" which was also launched on Thursday, the largest content pack delivered to TF2 since its launch back in 2007.
"New players interested in experiencing what PC Gamer calls 'the most fun you can have online' will have access to training and offline practice modes, so they can hone their skills before jumping into the ever-expanding TF2 universe," Lombardi said in an email. "To celebrate the launch of the Über Update, Valve has released 'Meet the Medic,' the latest in its series of TF2 animated shorts."
According to the FAQ, anyone who has downloaded the game for free and has not made a purchase in the in-game Mann Co. store has a free account. However, premium accounts have a few extra features, including access to rare and cosmetic items through random item drops, the ability to store more items in your backpack, and more powerful trading and crafting abilities. Otherwise, the gameplay experience will be identical for both accounts.
Valve also states that the entire game can be played without making a purchase. All game modes, classes, and maps are available. Nearly every weapon is available through achievements, drops, or crafting. A credit card isn't needed to play, but in order to purchase items in the store, one of Valve's accepted payment options must be on file. Free accounts will be upgraded to premium status once players make a purchase in-store or buy the game outright.
To download and play, gamers must have Steam already installed.