Ok, played from 2am my time (when it activated) until 730am. I'm not operating on much sleep right now, so please forgive any slurring in my typing. :-)
I had problems launching it at first... it kept saying it was downloading updates for 1 second, then exit without launching. I got it to run by disabling auto-updates... then it launched fine, and I had no crashes for the entire 5 hours I played.
I really did miss the grenades. The cluster grenade (ie, bundle of dynamite) they showed in the long gameplay video was gone too... there is no 'grenade' key at all, for any class, except for the normal and pipe grenades the demoman uses. I don't mind this, but it did confuse me.
There is no easy way to 'escape' out of choosing what type of thing to build when you're an engineer. If you accidentally press 4 (build) instead of 3 (wrench), you can't get rid of the menu without choosing to build something. VERY annoying. I suspect the same problem exists for the spy (choosing disguises), though I didn't play it enough to see.
As far as I can see, shooting an invisible spy does not make them appear, contrary to one of the tips that scrolls by.
Other than those two gripes... GOD was it fun. The maps were wonderfully designed. Other people commented about how nice they looked, but what I noticed was how excellently they were designed to avoid confusion... I almost never got lost, despite it being the first time playing on the maps. Of course, the ones based on the old maps were easy, but even the completely new maps were a breeze to navigate. That is HARD to do, VERY hard, so my hats are off to them.
The Medic was a blast to play... running around healing everyone, trying to not die myself, and every now and then rampaging on invincibility. Woot! I also enjoyed my old favorite the demoman a lot.
The Pyro was difficult to play, but I suspect I'll get better. I was standing too far back a lot of the time... like every single flamethrower I've ever seen in a game, it's difficult to judge how far your flames are actually going. You have to be very close for them to hit at all. But if you DO get that close, enemies die VERY fast, just as fast as if I was a heavy.
All the taunts and chatter that the characters do is superb! It really brings them to life. You automatically thank a medic when he heals you, the heavy really does shout just like in the teaser video while spraying his cannon, all the characters talk smack and make quips all the time, without the player having to make them. It's a very chatty game.
The controls were crisp, and the UI excellent, but I expect that from Valve. Nothing really new there. If someone claims they don't know what's going on, I'm gonna be pretty annoyed from now on... there's no excuse anymore, they have a VIDEO for each map that explains it! And, of course, the built-in voice system works great, just like in all their other games.
It is simpler, I admit... I miss concussion grenades in particular. But the balance is wonderful, the design is dreamy, and the maps are tight.
I'm not getting much sleep this week I think.
Dreaming Demon, formerly Tikatt, formerly The Raven