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Tribes: Vengeance Preview
publisher: Vivendi Games
developer: Irrational Games
P1000, 256MB RAM, 1GB HDD, 32MB T&L/pixel shader video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Oct 05, 04 (released)
|» All About Tribes: Vengeance on ActionTrip|
About five years ago, (actually just a bit longer than that), Sierra Online released a team-based shooter that was supposed to steal some of the thunder from the other online FPS that were all the rage at the time. That game was Tribes, it brought with it a variety of new features: the choice of light, medium and heavy armors, the ability to deploy equipment that improved your bases' defenses and a long range sniper rifle that was a dream come true to some players and a nightmare to others. Depending on which armor you chose to outfit yourself with determined which weapons and deployable equipment you could wield. Also, each suit of armor came equipped with a jet pack that allowed players to flit from one part of the map to another in short time. Also, as the jet packs recharged themselves when not in use, players were soon mastering the art of leading a target in midair in order to take your enemies out.
To say it brought a completely new dimension to FPS combat is an understatement. Missions were either Capture the Flag or Assault and in another change from the then current norm, Tribes passed on the claustrophobic confines of a space station or dungeon setting opting instead for maps that were a mix of building interiors that made up your team's base that opened onto sprawling fields, hills and mountains. It was a real rush to infiltrate the enemy base, grab the flag and then flee at breakneck speed over the terrain running, jumping and gliding around like a flying squirrel on crack as you dodged enemy gunfire.
A couple of years passed and Tribes 2 was released boasting more than sixty players per game, new game modes and ground and air vehicles to augment the small air force from the first game. Again, the game was geared towards the online crowd. We did try playing it at work once but we found that the sheer size of the maps made playing with only six guys unfulfilling. Tribes 2 also tried to allow for a single player experience by offering bots that could be competed with and against in the same Capture the Flag or Assault games everyone was so fond of. The AI was at best, so-so and for anyone who had played online with other human players, it was a pale shadow of frenetic and addictive gameplay that kept me logging online for more.
Tribes and Tribes 2 hold a special place in my heart so I was thrilled when we received word last week that the Tribes: Vengeance multiplayer beta was starting up and we were being given an account. While I was disappointed when I realized I would not be seeing the single player content yet, I quickly recovered when I thought of a return to the fast paced aerial combat I loved years ago was a short 600 Meg download away.
After getting the beta client files and patching things up, I connected to one of the four test servers that are currently running to get into a game. I was not expecting to be blown away because, after all, this IS a beta. The warning that came with invitation email cautioned us that we could see possible crashes and some features not fully implemented. When the game world drew itself around my player I was amazed at the updated graphics. It is almost a pity that world looks as good as it does, because so much time is spent cruising by it at scene blurring speeds thanks to your jet pack.
It was time to see what else had changed. The game engine is not the only thing that got a facelift: the inventory stations that are used to switch equipment and armor are much more futuristic and ergonomic looking. Also, the armor, vehicles and weapons your player wields are more detailed and somehow more militaristic looking from their earlier versions in the other two games. You will also notice how jets on vehicles and your backpacks are made of articulated parts that change direction as they thrust in different direction to move you to your destination. Weapons are also more detailed and have nice animated touches as they are fired. The chain gun has a heat sink on the side of the barrel that changes from a flat black to a cherry red if you fire it for too long. It's a little thing but it's a nice detail nonetheless.
After I had a few minutes to get familiar with the controls and to try to adjust to the physics again, I was ready to try my hand at a real game (the server I was on had one other player and he was apparently away from his keyboard). I joined another server and jumped into the action. My team was down one when I got into the fray. I saw that we needed more defenses around our flag so I started hitting the equipment stations for mines and sentry gun drones. Another nice change is that the defensive items like drones and mines have their own terminals that just by looking at them; you can tell if all of the items available for defenses are already taken: If the dispenser is empty, no more are available. It's a logical solution to a frustrating and time wasting problem from the other two games.
After setting up some basic defenses, I jumped into a Flight Pod (at this stage of the beta I have no idea what these devices actually are called, so I am sticking with Flight Pod for the time being) and began jetting my way across the map to the enemy base. No sooner had I started on my way when a narrow, pencil thin beam of ruby light came stabbing out of the distance. Snipers were a huge thorn on my side in the first game mainly because I was no good with a sniper rifle and took many a dirt nap thanks to that ruby red beam. I adjusted my course and before long I saw sniper beating a hasty retreat back to his base. I soon found out the Flight Pod was equipped with rockets and I was soon pounding the crap out of the Lee Harvey Oswald wannabe.
After he had been dispatched, I continued on towards the buildings he was running for. I could see the enemy flag in a tower off to the right! I was looking for a place to put my Flight Pod down when suddenly my craft was shook by a hail of gunfire. Whipping the Pod around, I saw a red enemy outfitted in heavy armor was spitting lead at me from his chain gun. As I directed my rockets towards him, he switched to something much larger and nastier as my Flight Pod disintegrated and I found myself falling to earth. Kicking on my jet pack I glided to ground and began alternating my attention between the heavily armored enemy who had just taken out my rental car and the flag that was close by. I shot off a spinfusor disc in his general direction hoping to distract him and left into the air to try to grab the flag. As I close in on the flag platform I began taking damage from sentry drone guns and just before I landed I noticed, too late that the flag had been mined. I made a rookie mistake. It had been a long time since I last played any Tribes game and it showed.
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