TF2 Arena keeps the class diversity of Team Fortress 2 while focusing goals around combat between two teams. Where other game modes lean towards a broad overall strategy for the team over a number of lives, Arena concentrates on the specific tactical choices the teams make in a single fight.

Arena features smaller maps that play out in shorter periods of time. The round ends once one team has no players left in the arena, or when the central capture point has unlocked and been captured. Rounds tend to be very fast and highly competitive, with an emphasis on your team’s class makeup and your plan to counter the opposing team’s class choices. Arena mode is great for smaller matches of three vs. three players, while still comfortably supporting huge knockdown twelve-on-twelve brawls.

Health pick-ups are limited in TF2 Arena (some levels don’t have any Health packs at all) so being careful is a good strategy for any class. As well, with so little health available, having a Medic or a Health dispenser-building Engineer on your team can be a crucial element to success. With their reconnaissance abilities, the Scout and Spy play a far more vital role in Arena than in other game modes. Knowing the location of the enemy team can often mean the difference between a win and a loss. The Soldier and Demoman will find many areas in Arena specifically designed for them to get a vertical advantage. Traditional Heavy/Medic pairings will still be highly useful as the anchor to a good Arena team. However, commit too far in this direction and the enemy can quickly overwhelm you with Snipers and Spies. In Arena, water is as scarce as Health. This makes the Pyro a much deadlier class, as any enemy player he sets on fire with his flamethrower or flare gun will be unable to put out the flames. Igniting enemies quickly, then retreating to safety, can be an effective strategy for the Pyro.

The first release of TF2 Arena comes with five playable maps. Two never-before-seen maps (Lumberyard, Ravine) have been built specifically for Arena, and a further three (Well, Granary, Badlands) have been remade with Arena’s unique play style in mind. Additionally, with the Lumberyard map, Arena takes TF2 from its familiar desert backdrop to a new Alpine-themed environment. Great care was taken to ensure the art style kept to the unique look and time period of the TF2 universe, while still feeling like a departure from the usual maps players are familiar with.

Lumberyard has an unbalanced structure, with one half of the map climbing up towards a large mountain peak, while the other dips down into a valley. A series of rooftops at the map’s center serves as the key battleground area, with lateral flanking being the key maneuver at ground level. When the capture point becomes active after 60 seconds, multiple entrances open up into the central control point, which becomes the focus of the fighting as the match nears its end. Lumberyard is one of the few Arena maps without water, and contains only a single health kit. The kit sits on a log above a deadly pit, making it a great ambush spot for Pyros, Demomen, and Soldiers to send unwary enemies to their deaths.

In contrast to Lumberyard, Ravine has a far more open ground level with emphasis on control of four key choke points. A series of canals in Ravine’s lower level provide an excellent opportunity for stealth kills and flanking maneuvers. Like all arena maps, the capture point in the middle becomes active after 60 seconds.

The middle capture point fighting area for each of these three existing maps has been extensively reworked and customized for TF2 Arena play.