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One of the biggest titles in online gaming now has one of the smallest prices. Tribes II and its predecessor entertain 400,000 players every month, and although outgunned by perennial favourite Half-Life in the popularity league, it still provides team gamers with perhaps the most undiluted experience on offer. If you’ve yet to make the jump from Tribes to Tribes II, the latter’s recent move into budget territory means you get an additional alien species, highly detailed landscapes, a slick new interface, massively improved visuals and decent shooters for under a tenner.
Tribes II retains the features that made the first so good, including lag-free gameplay, manned vehicles, 64-player maps, three classes of armour. Maps the size of Nebraska bring buckets of atmosphere to the proceedings, as do those famously vast fortresses sulking behind a haze on the horizon. Additions of note include an integrated browser and mail client, making the organisation of clan matches a breeze, as well as single-player missions. Although bots play with a certain determination, the game was never intended to be played solo and multiplayer remains the better experience. Tribes II doesn’t make it to the class above but remains a class apart. At $9.99, it’s a steal.
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Do you want the good news or the bad news first? On a dark note, Dynamix have cancelled Tribes Extreme, which promised to add single-player training campaigns to the world of Starsiege. Thankfully, most of the work is going to be transferred to the full-on sequel, Tribes 2.
Tribes 2 is also going to look stunning, with an enhanced engine that promises new tactical obstacles such as water and dense foliage. There are also new weather effects, such as clouds and random lightning bolts that can strike you in the air and on the ground, and new vehicles including a ground version of the scout vehicle and a turreted assault vehicle. Voice support is going to be present and correct, which should add the final piece of the online jigsaw. The ability to communicate without stopping and typing should render the team-based missions unmissable. The first Tribes never enjoyed the success here that it did in the States, but hopefully cheap and free Internet access, mixed with Al-controlled bots, should make the difference for the sequel.
So far, the first-person shooter genre has proven to be the most popular multiplayer game online and it's not difficult to see why - you get to kill people without really hurting them. They might be your friends, they might be complete strangers -you can't tell - but you can riddle them with bullets, shoot them with rockets or simply take off their head with one clean shot. Fun doesn't get much messier. Well, not in this magazine, anyway.
The original Tribes was one such game and came in this country as a freebie bundled alongside Dynamic's mech-based blastfest Starseige. Back in issue 76, we cast a critical eye over the game to see whether it would earn as big a thumbs-up over here as it was getting on the other side of the Atlantic. The Americans were going loopy over it, but as the recent electoral fun and games over there has shown, they definitely aren't the most ideal bunch to ask for an informed opinion. And it has to be said, Tribes 2 is, just like its still very popular two-year-old predecessor, a very American game; very gung-ho despite the need for teamwork, the characters sport body armour more in keeping with American sports than real-world combat and with voice communication on the menu, you can be sure to hear more 'awesomes', 'dudes' and 'I'm gonna open a can of whoop-ass on you', than you will 'steady on chap' or 'tea, anyone?'.
Overall, Tribes did OK over here, but its lack of player classes meant that what was designed to be a co-operative, squad-based game descended into a run-of-the-mill deathmatch with all the players doing their own thing. Consequently, the masses failed to realise that had they made the effort to play the game as was intended, they would have had a far more rewarding experience.
We liked the fact that the playing areas were genuinely large - the sky was there to fly in and shoot from rather than just a graphic thrown in after the game was finished - but found that it was possible to wander off for miles and not see any action before suddenly blundering into the edge of the map. Server support was good, but again, the vast maps meant that unless the server was full, you'd probably get bored. Every bonus had a major downside: flying vehicles -difficult controls; jetpacks - limited fuel; weapons - not enough and too weak. With competition from the likes of Quake II and Half-Life, poor old Tribes just had too many flaws to hit the heights it was capable of.
So, allowing for the unrealised potential of its predecessor, we had mixed thoughts about what might be achieved by Tribes 2. Would the developers sort out the gripes that had bedeviled the first outing, or would we yet again see a game that could have been great, just not make the grade? Would they even care - the undiscerning American masses would probably lap it up, anyway.
A quick look at the screenshots here will show you that Tribes 2 is certainly pretty. If you've got a bitchin' PC (sorry, I've been picking up the lingo) and suitably adrenaline-charged graphics card then even in beta form, the visual improvement courtesy of its new graphics engine will make your jaw go wobbly and your eyes stand out on stalks. Sadly, the betatesting opportunity has now passed, but with some 1,000 slack-jawed, bug-eyed guinea pigs wandering around, the evidence is looking promising so far. The same sense of scale evident in Tribes 2 has struck us all in the original game, and with the power of the current crop of graphics cards, there hasn't been a need to hide everything behind an obscuring veil of fog. Sure, it's still there, but it isn't the total pain in the arse that it was before. Heaven forbid, it even seems to be sensibly used. The visual treat continues, the characters are gloriously detailed, the buildings quite magnificent if improbable in design at times, and the vehicles suitably neat, too. Weapons are better than the first game, but having been spoilt by the fantastic artillery of Quake IWs Rail Gun we reckon they're still not beefy enough. We might not need Quake III firepower, but we've seen more frightening stuff in our local newsagent.
Vehicles have in fact seen a major change. Multiplayer games at the moment are crying out for in-game toys that can actually be used, and Tribes 2 goes some distance to addressing this. There are now six vehicles, three airborne and three land based. In the air there are fast and agile fighters, bombers (with a tail gun and proper bombs no less) and a heavy transport for when you need to take the kitchen sink. The ground forces are correspondingly blessed with an anti-gravity bike affair, chunky supply truck and heavyweight tank. This is an improvement, but we're hoping that there will be more in the final release. We're greedy that way.
Beta Be Good
For a beta, Tribes 2 plays extremely well. Making big allowances for the fact that patches seemed to be released on an almost hourly basis (survivable if you have a fast connection but otherwise worthy of a Nobel Prize for patience), it was stable too. There were crashes, but with any frequently-patched beta that shouldn't come as a surprise and when the game hits the shelves the number of patch upgrades should be minimal. With Sierra at the helm, it makes sense that Tribes 2 is being designed with the third-party map enthusiast in mind. A custom-map generator is included and there are hopes that the legions of game modifiers out there will give Tribes 2 the sort of longevity that Team Fortress Classic and Counter-Strike have lent to publishing stablemate Half-Life.
With the beta-test now suspended, the game can now be sorted out. There were crashes and bugs, but the potential for a massively popular online game is definitely there. But one nagging doubt still remains -co-operation. To make Tribes 2 into the hit it should be, there needs to be a way to overcome basic human nature and the tendency of players to go and grab the most glamorous weapon before setting off to win the war single-handedly. At least the sheer size of the maps makes sniping less effective, but unless players can actually learn to work as a team, Tribes 2 could go the way of the original and become a cult game only, relying on hardcore support without ever reaching the mainstream. That would be a shame, but then it's our job to make sure that doesn't happen. So for the one-on-one Quakesters out there, don't bother, it will leave you frustrated. Counter-Strike regulars in the mood for some sci-fi action, however, would do well to take a look. We'll be going in soon.
Before we start, a quick rundown for those of you who have been living under a rock for the past two years. Back in November of 1998, Starseige: Tribes hit the online gaming scene. Big on teamplay, short on lag, it offered first-person shooter fans the chance to leap aboard vehicles, sail high above vast outdoor landscapes, and co-ordinate flag captures with their cohorts. Maps were universally huge, and consisted mainly of vast swathes of single-colour textures with massive slab-like stone bases brooding in the distance. Three classes - light, medium, heavy - enabled gamers to choose between reconnaissance duty, base defence and no-man's land deathmatching.
Although massive in the States, the original Tribes never had the same impact on the UK gaming scene and failed to gain popularity. The weapons were unsatisfying, the maps were little more than barren wastelands with humps, and the gameplay was often sluggish and disappointing. There were also a number of unresolved issues with 3D video cards, meaning many people couldn't actually get in and play it at all.
Most importantly, it was nearly impossible to wrench Quake and Half-Life players away from their screens: to do so you had to offer spine-tingling excitement, better graphics, fatter sounds and weaponry that lit up the screen and dilated your pupils every time you pulled the trigger. So it wasn't that Tribes was a bad game, it just didn't feel like a complete game. In the three years that Dynamix has been developing the follow-up. Tribes 2, they've had all these things to think about, as well as having a long hard look at archrivals Counter-Strike, Quake III and Unreal Tournament. Looking at the screenshots, you'd be right in thinking they've pulled out all the stops in order to achieve this. The graphics are light years away from those of its predecessor, as are the lighting effects and general open-air ambience. The outdoor maps now have outcrops of vegetation and woodland to distinguish one area from another, and patchy fog gives it a more menacing feel.
Looks So Fine
There are more than 40 new maps in Tribes 2, each boasting the same seamless transition between indoor and outdoor environments that has become a trademark of the series. All can be affected by real-time atmospheric conditions - rain, snow, fog and storms - and feel as though they have no boundaries. While going exploring isn't exactly the most constructive use of one's gaming time, it is quite amazing to discover just how far you can stray into the wilderness. Sure, both Unreal Tournament and Team Fortress Classic have maps, bases and alfresco fragging zones, but they lack that strange, sprawling otherworldliness of Tribes 2.
The textures are a big improvement, replacing the blocky polygon throw-rugs of its predecessor with a seamless 32-bit colour carpet. What's also noticeable is that, when you glance down at your feet, you can actually see your legs trudging up and down, a blurry shadow snapping at your heels. Look at the ground in something like Counter-Strike and you'll notice that you're all torso and no trousers. A minor point, but it all helps to pump up the realism.
As ever, terrain plays an important part in Tribes gameplay, with many geographical obstacles requiring a great deal of dexterity to negotiate with speed. Existing players will tell you that there's a lot of skill involved in making decent progress across any Tribes map, but the deep valleys and gorges in the new game are seriously tricky, as well as being rather breathtaking to look at.
There are also three totally new multi-man ground vehicles to help you get from A to B, and the existing three aerial craft have been totally redesigned to be in keeping with the rest of the game. Additionally, bases are now more fitting a game with its roots in sci-fi fantasy. They no longer appear as giant granite mausoleums and instead have become far more intricate in their construction. While the interiors aren't quite up to the techno-Gothic architecture of Quake III and its siblings, everything about them -especially the replacement of sharp comers with curved surfaces -smacks of designer modernisation.
Dynamix has listened to criticisms about the Tribes armaments cabinet and has not only updated the existing gun rack for Tribes 2, but has also added two new shooters and four grenades. The old weapons are certainly more gratifying than before, with the humble blaster now emitting macho noises from the moment you hit the fire button to when the energy projectiles splash home. And so to the new toys. The shock lance is used in close-combat situations, and is operated much like a cattle-prod. Charge it up, poke your enemy, wait for the squeal. The missile launcher is supremely rewarding, enabling medium- and heavy-class warriors to launch guided rockets at their foe - the airborne torpedoes streaking high over the land like rogue fireworks, exploding on impact with the force of an Oklahoma bomb.
Grenades are a welcome addition. The basic device is a humble pineapple, meaning you pull the pin, throw it, then coil into a foetal position and cover your ears. The concussion grenade is identical to that in Team Fortress Classic, emitting a powerful kervoomph that knocks enemy soldiers off balance.
Whiteout grenades are essentially Counter-Strike flash-bangs, temporarily blinding anyone within range, and flare grenades are small beacons of light which can decoy locked-on enemy missiles. Whether anyone will actually use them for their intended purpose is another matter, as they're rather fetching when lobbed randomly about your base.
The standard Tribes 2 display is not intrusive, yet dispenses a lot of information, including a resizable chat window, radar, health gauge and weapons status. For the more strategic minded among you, a special commander role enables players to control other units and set waypoints. Here, the first-person view switches to a top-down. Red Alert-style map. complete with icons in the right margin and highlighted troop positions. This adds an entirely new dimension to the game, and is something likely to be seen again in upcoming FPS titles including Team Fortress 2.
The original Tribes had a nearperpendicular learning curve. There was no way that freshmen could learn how to play without connecting to the Internet, hooking up to a server, and getting their backsides kicked around maps they didn't know. In short, people who'd just spent money on the game were treated badly, and in many cases never came back for more.
Tribes 2 rectifies this by including a number of solo training exercises, allowing new recruits to get to grips with numerous teamplay FPS concepts, from basic offence and defence, right through to co-ordinating with team mates and achieving team goals.
But that doesn't mean you have to fire up your dial-up. Perhaps the single most important addition to the Tribes 2 code is bots, apeing the capabilities of Unreal Tournament. You can now host your own local network game and include up to 16 computer-controlled players, each able to pick classes and take on specific duties. Bots continually keep each other updated on what they're about to do, such as fortify base defences or head out for the enemy flag.
Oh, and they fight like bastards. Dynamix has done a good job of hiding the fact that the bots are controlled by a lightning-fast computer chip, and so instead of going down the UT route of making them either (a) impossibly daft or (b) impossible to kill, they've managed to find a happy medium between the two. They actually go and do things, like ensure your base isn't infiltrated by enemy flag runners, or seek and destroy opposition units. They very rarely get in the way, so anyone used to the way Unreal hots come and put their arses in your face when you're sniping will breathe a sigh of relief. Most importantly for frag freaks, the hots are worthy opponents in battle, and a world away from the tireless killing machines of UT on a high skill setting. They jump and they weave, but you never get the feeling that you're being cheated.
Most people will, of course, head online for their Tribes 2 fix. The first game was renowned for its near-lagless gameplay, and while this latest instalment is heavy on hardware, it looks set to retain the former's glacial smoothness along a copper wire - despite the fact that you now have integrated voice communication travelling down the same line as well.
It's also much easier to make contact with other players, with predefined messages announcing your intentions and taunting enemy corpses. For those of you permanently online, the new game integrates a browser plus email, discussion forums and the obligatory chat room.
As with most titles in the genre, Tribes 2 games come in a variety of different flavours. There's Capture The Flag, as well as Capture And Hold, which awards points based on your team's ability to control certain areas of the map. Siege is great fun, allowing players to either attack a base or defend it, and is similar in gameplay to the infamous Dustbowl level in Team Fortress Classic.
Death match is exactly as you'd expect, with everyone out for themselves, and Rabbit revolves around a single flag carried by a single player, with points awarded to whoever can hold on to it the longest. The final two variations, Hunters and Team Hunters, see warriors fragging their opponents and ferrying the flags they were holding back to base.
As you can see, there's a lot to tell, and we'll tell you more once we get the final code. What is certain is that Tribes 2 has lost the "love it or loathe it" qualities of its predecessor, and instead appeals to a much broader range of gamers thanks to top-quality graphics and landscaping, absorbing gameptay and single-player bots.
When it goes on sale in the US, it looks set to sell faster than pints of Guinness on St Patrick's day, but whether it will have the same impact in Europe remains to be seen.
It's strange, but you'd think nobody in the UK played Tribes. Jump into a game of Team Fortress Classic and you'll see messages from people arranging their next Counter-Strike session. Join an Unreal Tournament server and at least two players will be arguing the case for Quake, with someone else reminiscing about the amazing port of Doom on the Atari Jaguar. But never do you hear someone say, "Stuff this hostage rescue crap, I'm off to play Tribes?.
Why is that? Let us not forget that, at the time of its launch, Tribes was a radical departure from the norm. Significantly, it was the first multiplayer arcade blaster with an emphasis on team co-ordination. The sci-fi fantasy graphics were slick and rapid, with lag nothing like the issue it is in Counter-Strike, and manned vehicles were not just part of the landscape but were there to be used, adding a whole new dimension to strategy. It was even cheaper than most ot its rivals, and had a well-stocked trophy cabinet thanks to positive reviews in the gaming press. For the answer, one can look to the new features that Oynamix has included in its much-anticipated follow-up, Tribes 2. Most obviously, there are the spesh new graphics - and don't say you didn't notice. Next to the pale colours and jagged edges of the 1998 original, the latest game is really rather arresting. Gone are the old 16-bit textures, and in their place are intricate 32-bit tapestries that give every level real depth and colour. Trees, shrubs and cacti dot the landscape and make handy resting places for your eyeballs. Previously, vast swathes of desert meant you ended up with your ocular muscles going into spasm, snow-blinded by miles and miles of the same coloured landscape.
Are We There Yet?
Thankfully, the long slog between your base and the enemy's is not as boring a journey as it once was. Hills rise grandly above you, and dales tumble away beneath you. New ground vehicles - Grav Cycle, GravTank and Forward Base (used to establish an inventory station nearer the front line) -allow you to get from A to B in the shortest time, although the latter seems to have blancmange for suspension and is difficult to control over rough terrain.
Depending on how high you have the detail levels set, all objects are chased along by soft shadows that add dollops of realism to every scene, with draw distance and fogging heightening the sense of grand scale. It should be said that previous testing of the beta product revealed that elaborate outdoor scenes really took their toll on hardware, and were prone to sloppy frame-rates. This release version is now much smoother, and with a few tweaks to the graphics settings - sliders are provided to allow near infinite combinations of special effects -a middle of the road 400MHz Pill was able to dash along without a hint of a wheeze. Mind you, you'll still need a 1GHz processor and monster video hardware to appreciate everything at full pelt. Making progress is just as before: dead easy, but an art all the same. Seasoned warriors will be glad to hear that it's still possible to ski into valleys (in the original, players learned it was possible to tap the jump button while traversing slopes, thus gliding at speed over the surface). Dynamix has now made it a feature rather than an exploit, ensuring that the weightier classes aren't able to pull the same stunt. Of course, your trusty jump pack remains integrated with your armour, allowing you to right-click yourself out of ruts and away from trouble. It's still amazing to watch even the most dewy-eyed newbie making rapid, graceful progress across the roughest terrain, and rather alarming when veteran players descend on you from a great height, plasma gun barking fizzing globs of death at the top of your head.
Belly's Gonna Get Ya
As with its predecessor, Tribes 2 offers players a choice of three armour classes: Light, Medium and Heavy. The agile Light class is best suited to flag-running and scout duty, Medium class to attacking, and Heavy class to eating pies. However, players remain free to adopt roles which suit team tactics, even though the new Command Circuit feature (see boxout) means contradictory orders arrive thick and fast For example, Heavy classes may decide to hop aboard a Transport or Grav Tank - given the larger maps, they'll need to pack a picnic and loo roll if walking - to help their team break through enemy lines, and trust that other team members are keeping the base defences in order. Each class is able to carry up to five weapons, plus six grenades and three mines, although exactly what you carry is subject to restrictions. The Light class, for example, has only three weapon slots and cannot use the Fusion Mortar, whereas the Heavy belly class has five slots but cannot carry the Laser Rifle. Knowing who has what, especially when faced with an adversary, is all part of the strategy.
Along with a menacing new faction, the Bioderm Hordes, the Shocklance and Missile Launcher make their debut in Tribes 2. The former is much like the knife in Team Fortress Classic, and when used correctly enables stealthy players to sneak up behind their foe and kill them with a single jab. The latter fires guided missiles, and is used primarily to lock on to enemy vehicles and destroy them before they get close enough to be a threat. Used in conjunction with a skilled hand and targeting laser, it's also possible to knock opposition jet-packers out of the sky. As with the original game, the colossal size of the maps combined with the way players remain airborne during combat serve to slow the tempo of the game, and adrenaline levels never peak as high as in rival shooters like Unreal. Whether this is a bad thing or not depends on your liking for a triple figure pulse rate.
Next to the graphics, the most important addition to Tribes 2 is the single-player game. Along with five training missions that give newbies a more gentle learning slope to climb, Bot Matches are games where your opponents and team-mates are computer-controlled, meaning you can now get a half-decent game in without having to dial up and cuss at the lag. However, although the Bots are some of the best we've seen, in that they carry out base maintenance, go flag running and even chat with one another, the online game is still where Tribes excels, and you'll be missing out if you stick with a local network setup. Multiplayer games come in one of eight different flavours, and as such present a lot more variation than many rival titles. Bounty is like vanilla deathmatching, although players are given the name of a player whom they must frag, and suffer a penalty if they kill the wrong guy. Capture and Mold sees teams capturing a set number of objectives, and points awarded depending on how long they can keep them. The new verbal taunts, similar to those in Quake III: Team Arena and Unreal Tournament, along with real-time voice chat, add to the frenetic nature of this particular variation.
Capture The Flag is the age-old game of stealing the enemy's flag while protecting your own, and remains as popular a variation as ever. Deathmatch is as you'd expect, with everyone out for themselves, Hunter is the bastard son of Deathmatch and Capture The Flag where dead players drop flags which must then be picked up and ferried back to base. Team Hunters is a minor variation on this, where warriors are organised into teams. In Rabbit, one player carries the flag and gets more points the longer he can hold on to it, and Siege sees one team defending a switch deep inside a fortress. Once the switch is flicked, the game ends and the teams swap places.
In summing up, Tribes 2 is a vat of undiluted fun for team players and organised clans. Add an integrated browser and email, designed to aid communication between clan members, and it's hard to see why anyone after cooperative action would go elsewhere for their fix. The only downside is that it remains a little too focused on team tactics, meaning newcomers and habitual deathmatchers will feel wholly out of sorts. You need to know that your cohorts are looking out for you, and when they leap out of bombers before reaching the target, or climb a mountain to marvel at the view, you do get a little disheartened. Lack of coordination is the bane of many an online game, and in Tribes 2 it can ruin the whole experience.
The Command Circuit
Now where did I put that grenade...?
The Command Circuit, or CC for short, is essentially a C&C-style panoramic view of the THbes 2 world, allowing teams to see at a glance where equipment, objectives and players are located. Working the screen takes a lot of practice, as its keyboard controls are somewhat different to the regular layout, but the results can be worthwhile. Commands can be generated and issued to individual team members, for example requesting that a particular man repair a Solar Panel, or perhaps move forward to a waypoint Cameras allow you to see the action, even if the player in question is piloting a vehicle. CC even allows you to switch to gunner's view on base defences, permitting you to take control of individual Anti-Aircraft guns, Electron Flux turrets, Fusion Mortars, Guided Missile stations and Plasma Cannons. In fact, you could spend entire games working the guns and leaving everyone else to get on with the fighting.
Tribes 2 was originally released in 2001 and much of what this game offered nearly 20 years ago is something that we take for granted now. This was a massive online shooter that was very demanding of PC’s back in the day, but those who could play it fell in love with it and it really paved the way for many of the shooters we have now.
What Is It?
Tribes 2 is a massive first-person shooter (and third if you prefer) where you compete in matches that are usually 30 vs 30. The game is set in the future and the battles take place on these very large maps. The size of the maps was a real game-changer back when the game was first released and their size is still pretty impressive to this day.
Fight Your Fight
A huge part of what makes Tribes 2 such a great game and so memorable for so many people is the gameplay. No two matches ever feel the same. The fact that the teams are large means that even on the large maps you are never safe for too long. While the actual running and gunning that is on offer here is great, Tribes 2 offers far more than that. You see you can also make use of vehicles as well. I love the aerial combat that the game has and if you have a few skilled players who are masters of the sky it can make a real difference to your team.
There is also a great deal of character customization on offer here. You create your character, choose their gender, class and even their voice. For a game that is the better part of 20 years old, there are a lot of choices when it comes to making a warrior you feel comfortable heading into battle with.
You may think that a game originally released in 2001 will only have Team Deathmatch and that is all. That is not the case, the real crown jewel that is on offer here in terms of game modes, in my opinion, is the capture the flag mode. This is what you would expect, but the fact there are so many players on each team and the maps are so large makes getting that flag back to your base way harder than you would think.
There is the standard Team Deathmatch which is what it always is, just kill as many of the opposing team as you possibly can and hope you guys can do it quicker than they can. This is a great mode to just jump in and figure out the basics with.
There is also a Siege mode where one team will have to defend an area and the other will try and take it. These are three fun game modes and game modes many modern gamers will be familiar with so they can jump in and have fun with us old guys too!
I think that Tribes 2 holds up very, very well. It is a fantastic shooter and for its time it was a truly ambitious and groundbreaking title. It is very well made and it is fun to play, plus the presentation has held up pretty well too. I highly recommend you try this one out, many of the shooters you play and love today would not be here if it was not for what Tribes 2 did back in the day.
- Lots of character customization
- The gameplay is fast and fun
- The game modes are all awesome
- The presentation has held up very well
- It is a truly groundbreaking game
- May seem outdated by some
- I cannot think of another issue with the game!
An explosion rocks the side of your head! Using your jet pack, you quickly launch 100 feet into the air. Another explosion rocks the limitless ground beneath you.
'Attack!'? Your squad leader barks out as he leads the charge into the enemy's fortress. 'Get the flag!'
Running through the labyrinthine tunnels you quickly dispatch two of your foes with the spinfusor. A quick check of your stats reveals that you're barely clinging to life. Activating the health pack, you feel the endorphins rush through your body as it is quickly healed. Grabbing the enemy flag, you launch out of the top window and tear across the sky back to your own fort as enemy fire dances around you.
'Cover me!'? You scream to your teammates as you take two hits. Leaping to your own area, your team's auto turrets turn on your would-be assassins and barbeque them to a deep charcoal color. Finally, as you place the enemys flag on your own, a sense of accomplishment flows through you. Just as you are patting yourself on the back, an enemy soldier 300 meters away perforates your head with the laser rifle.
Welcome to World War III. A full-blown, rock-em sock-em frag fest that is the closest thing to military service during times of war. Create a soldier, join one of four tribes, and cut a swath of death through enemy ranks or team up with your eternal enemies and take on the destructive Bioderm hordes.
Either way, the time for peace talks is over. Let's turn on the pain!
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
If you don't know what a first person shooter is, welcome back from Pluto. Tribes 2 is a first person shooter (FPS) set in the 40th century. Players select from a group of four tribes: Blood Eagles, Diamond Sword, Harbingers of Phoenix, and The Starwolf. It should be mentioned that there is also a fifth tribe called the Bioderms. The Bioderms are genetically made monsters that are looking to be the sole dominant species. They are the wildcard Tribe and look like they will kill the others permanently if they can't put their own differences aside.
Once a character is created and a tribe selected, players then throw themselves into the fray that is online gaming. During your initial startup, you will be asked to input a login name, a password and, of course, a CD key. Thereafter, each time you play Tribes 2, you will be asked for your password. Once the prerequisites are out of the way you should familiarize yourself with the 48-page manual. Even if you are a veteran of online 'team' gaming, it would prove wise to get the 'drop flag'? and 'communication'? keys bound as this reviewer found out (the hard way) that they are pretty important. Long gone are the days of logging in and playing the lone wolf. If you expect to win any of the battles then you'd better brush up on your teamwork.
Starting off, you create your character by selecting male/female and the voice you want them to use. More importantly however, you decide what level of armor you want your character to have. Armor choices will affect your level of gameplay and breakdown as follows:
- Scout armor -- Has low protection but is the fastest of the three. You can pilot all vehicles and use the laser (sniper) rifle.
- Assault armor -- Protection is improved, speed is diminished but you can carry an additional fourth weapon.
- Juggernaut armor -- Protection is awesome but you can hardly move. You're capable of carrying five weapons but cannot pilot any vehicles.
Tribes 2 boasts eight different games including 'rabbit' and 'siege.'? While I tried finding hosts playing these uncommon versions of multiplayer games, I could only locate servers for Capture the Flag and Deathmatch.
Primarily, I found that Capture the Flag dominated the modes of play. Basically, a player logs in and joins a game where two warring tribes attempt to infiltrate the other's fort, steal their flag and return it to their own base where their own flag is. Of course, if both flags are stolen at the same time then neither team will score until the flag thief is killed and the flag is returned to its home base. Players need to recognize the spirit of teamwork in this mode as they must defend their base from intruders, hunt down enemies who have stolen their flag, repair gun turrets that have been destroyed, lay down mines, and steal the enemy's flag. The group commander will issue orders, but players should recognize their roles. Obviously you wouldn't send a Juggernaut-armored player to go steal the flag and likewise you wouldn't want to have a scout as your sole flag defender. The match ends when a predetermined number of flags have been captured or the time limit expires. Points are awarded for capturing a flag, defending a flag successfully, killing an enemy who has your flag and killing enemy soldiers. Points are totaled and bragging rights are forged. Other roles in this mode might involve shuttling a team of assault armored troops towards the enemy's fort and setting up a temporary base while single pilot jet fighters lay down cover fire. The game is hardly limited to what each player can do.
While surfing servers I also jumped into a few Deathmatch (DM) games. Again, armor selection is important as it affects what weapons you can use. Players throw themselves into a DM level and the sole rule is "kill or be killed." Everyone is your enemy and the only way to win is make sure you kill the other players more times then they kill you. Scoring is reflected directly by kills/killed and the player with the highest total after a predetermined amount of time is the winner.
My only real beef with this game was my initial setup. The original copy of the game that I obtained was faulty and needed to be exchanged. In all fairness, this was probably not the developers' fault. However, Tribes 2 would not work without downloading the three patches that were required for a clean gaming experience. That, coupled with the fact that the startup menu wasn't as user friendly as I would have liked, made setup particularly troublesome. One problem in particular was the hidden menu in the 'Launch'? icon. To me, the launch button is the button used to start the game. In Tribes 2, however, it is a button that opens another menu that contains important setup material like controls, audio, video and such. It personally took me 60 minutes to get everything set the way I like it. This included having to restart my computer several times. Games of this caliber should really only require a maximum of ten minutes to set up.
Tribes 2 is a multiplayer only game and any one user can host a game and set the rules to his or her liking. The night before this review was typed, 946 games were on the Tribes 2 server and I found many games with a ping (how fast a player connects to a server) in the low 30's. I was happy to see so many options and games readily available.
As a side note, it's important to remember to be nice to other players on the server. Using profanity and poor sportsmanship will get you kicked off the server and give you a bad reputation.
Unfortunately, I was both pleased and disappointed with the graphics of Tribes 2. While some levels had cleverly built forts, great lighting effects and beautiful atmosphere, others look like they were throw together as a last-minute addition. Players look a tad blocky and move clumsily. Gunfire from the various rifles was clear and bright, as were the explosions of their ordnance. I personally experienced problems post-mortem where the screen would flicker as if it were trying to figure out which camera angle to display, but could never decide on one. The terrain was well-rendered, but some items, such as the edge of a body of water, would flicker and move intermittently.
The audio portion of the game was well done, with battles sounds being well-emulated. As in real-life combat, some commands were communicated to the whole team via headset while others were shouted out, allowing only those within earshot to hear the command. I was impressed. Explosions are now a staple in games like this and sound like every other explosion I've heard. Vehicle noises, on the other hand, were outstanding. The loud roar of the slow moving troop transport and the aerodynamic hum of the Shrike fighter were a welcome surprise.
Pentium II 300 Mhz, 64 MB RAM, 531 MB HD space, 4x CD Rom, Direct Sound compatible audio card, and a 3D supported 16 MB video card.
Reviewed on a Pentium III 500 Mhz, 394 MB Ram, and a Viper 770 Ultra 32 MB graphics card.
Additionally, it should be noted that I reviewed the game with a Logitech ifeel mouse with feedback function. I enjoyed the vibration of the mouse and its interaction with the game but ended up turning it off after several matches. Getting shot would vibrate the mouse and inadvertently throw my aim ever so slightly. There was nothing wrong with the mouse, however, I just felt like I had more control without the feedback. Being an optical mouse, I felt my movements were tracked more accurately and have since replaced my old ball-style mouse with the ifeel.
Earlier I mentioned that there was a 48-page manual. No, you don't have to read the whole thing, but you should definitely read the section on newblood FAQ and warrior setup.
If you like team warfare and love online gaming then this game was custom made for you. If you enjoy first person shooters, but only when single player (e.g. Deus Ex or Undying) then you won't have much fun. A person could eat away some serious time while playing Tribes 2. The appeal of online warfare with this attention to the extras (turrets and vehicles) makes this an awesome online gaming experience.