Review by Fudgeboy
"Community gaming at it's best"
First off, anyone here who played Tribes 1 please raise your hand. Hmm? Noone? That's a sad thing when you think about the magnitude of the task Tribes tried to perform. An on-line FPS with balanced team-play, equal emphasis on defence and offence, and a well-supported set of community features giving the feeling of REALLY being a part of a team? Check! Great graphics and an involving single-player game? Well...
But that's not what Tribes was all about. Maybe it got released at the wrong time (hype surrounding Quake 3 and Unreal Tourney was reaching fever pitch at the time), perhaps the public were just not ready for the level of involvement required of being a Tribe member. One thing is certain - it didn't get the level of recognition it deserved. Tribes' past performance is history - Tribes 2 is here and puts (nearly) everything right. There is NO other on-line FPS which gives you the same feeling of BELONGING to a team, so if you're into community spirit, practice sessions and learning a set role, then Tribes 2 represents the way forward. If you're a single-player kind of guy, or the kind of on-line player who looks after himself, period, then you'll struggle to make an impact.
Before I start with the review, I should mention that the off-line game is pretty poor. Well, non-existent is closer to the mark I suppose. It serves the purpose of some basic training, nothing more. There are bots, but they're only selectable for the simpler maps (without modifying them) and to be honest, I've got food in my fridge with more intelligence. Many a time I've had to blow them up cos they get stuck on the map. There are plenty of single-player games out there anyway, go buy one of them!
Everyone always looks towards the visuals of the game first; it's naturally the first thing that catches the eye. Tribes 1 had, erm, functional visuals at best. Tribes 2 REALLY looks the business, while still retaining that functionality. Initially, you'll be looking at the landscape rolling away under your feet as you fly towards an enemy base, marvelling at the number of players on-screen and rejoicing at the beauty of the explosions as you get blown out of the sky. Later on, you'll be too busy looking for mines, cloaked opponents and turrets to care. The carefully-balanced nature of Tribes 2 shines through in the visuals, every weapon has unique effects, giving you a means of identifying your attacker's weaponry and thus countering it correctly. By paying attention to your surroundings, you can get a 'feel' for the opponent's plan - and then do something about it!
The word 'functional' springs to mind again here. But, what do you want from a FPS? A cinematic score? What you DO get is loud explosions and repetitive thrash metal nonsense, but at least the sound helps to keep track of enemy movement (essential when they can cloak, and jam your sensor net). What else could you need???
Marvellous. There's no other word. Tribes 2 represents the pinnacle of balanced team-based warfare. There are so many things you can do to help your team. There's the obvious flag-running and general killing to be done, but you can also concentrate on defence by laying out turrets and sensor nets to pick off the opposition before they even get to your base. Do you just march into the enemy base, guns blazing? Or do you organise a cloaked strike force to take the base by stealth? Should you hit the enemy generators to stop them re-arming and turn the lights out? Or do you lead a bombing run in one of the many vehicles on offer and take out the perimeter defences? You can even co-ordinate the whole lot through the Command Console, issuing orders where needed (if your team trust your judgement enough of course...) There's a solution to every problem if you're organised enough. Sniper trouble? Equip a cloaking pack and stab him in the back. Now THAT'S better than the sad side-step shuffle sniper warfare of Counterstrike, wouldn't you say?
Great. Great, great great! I've put this as a separate category in the review because I believe the on-line aspects of the game should be singled out for some serious praise. Obviously, the on-line performance is exceptional. I've been in 50+ player matches with no lag, and I'm only using a 56k modem! I'm wetting myself just waiting for my DSL connection! But it's not just the server performance which gets my vote here, it's the community spirit the on-line tools bring as well. The game interface offers Tribe and player data, inter-player e-mail, chat rooms (in familiar IRC format), newsboards and recruitment areas. Whilst in-game, the voting engine allows each player to have a say in which direction the game should go. Vote for which map should be played next, or vote for a change in rules. Once you join a tribe, you get your own private forum to discuss meeting times, training sessions and, well, anything really. As a package, Tribes 2 offers the most complete on-line experience I've seen in an FPS, and other developers should take note. If you want your product to stick around for a long time, invest in the on-line community which surrounds it.
There is so much to do in the game-world of Tribes 2, will you ever get sick of it? Get bored of defending the base - then suit up and go take the enemy on in the field. Sick of capture the flag - try any of the other team-based or single-player games. And by the time you're through with all that, you'll probably have a whole suite of mods to play with until Tribes 3 comes along and blows you away. Probably.
The only game to go with if you're into big-time on-line thrills. The others just seem simple when compared to Tribes. There is an element of caution in that last statement though, because there is a lot to learn in the Tribes world. Good thing the on-line community support is so good then! If you're after cheap high-adrenaline thrills then go elsewhere. If you want a real sense of achievement in your on-line gaming, Tribes 2 is the answer.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/10/01, Updated 05/10/01
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