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Tribes: Vengeance Review

publisher: Vivendi Games
developer: Irrational Games
genre: Shooters

P1000, 256MB RAM, 1GB HDD, 32MB T&L/pixel shader video card
ESRB rating: T

release date: Oct 05, 04
» All About Tribes: Vengeance on ActionTrip

It's interesting how things work themselves out. If you had asked me, post E3, what I thought about the rest of the releases for 2004, I would have ticked off a list that would make just about any gamer place their hands over their mouths and tee-hee with delight like a Japanese schoolgirl. (And their wallet groan from the prospect of too many titles you want to add to your collection.) Now that we are closing in on the end of 2004, we can look back and see just how all those promised titles will find and fill a niche in each gamer's library.

Vivendi Universal and Irrational Games have unleashed Tribes: Vengeance, the third game in the Tribes universe. Unless you have been living in a cave, you know that the previous two Tribes games have been multiplayer only. This time around there is a healthy single-player component as well, along with the online action people have come to expect from a Tribes title.

While many were skeptical that a single-player version of Tribes would be hard to pull off or worse, done in a hackneyed style, most fans were happy when it was announced that Irrational Games was chosen to craft this never-before-seen side of Tribes. With their past titles like System Shock II and Freedom Force, the company certainly has an established track record for delivering engrossing games with engaging characters and compelling story lines.

As we witnessed when we played the single player beta a month ago, people need not worry about the single-player side of the game, with only a couple of exceptions. Irrational has done a very good job of introducing players to a world where Tribal factions war with each other and an Imperial ruling class. The story is presented in such a way as not to overwhelm new players, introducing controls and features of game play by weaving control techniques into missions that also set the stage for the story. The nice thing about it is that returning Tribes players don't feel like they are being spoon-fed a tutorial. Well, at least not too much.

The single-player story jumps back and forth from the past to the present as players learn about events that set the current political scene by playing the situations as characters that were/are there. I won't give too much away so as not to spoil the mystery but the two main characters you play are, in the past, an Imperial Princess that is kidnapped by Tribal warriors and, in the future, her daughter who is back and fighting under the Imperial banner.

While the story itself is good enough, one of the gamest biggest shortcomings is revealed even before the action gets started: The cut scenes. Rendered with the in game engine, the info sheet that accompanied our copy of the game describes it as an "Enhanced Unreal engine" and it does certainly look good while running, jetting and blowing the cheese whiz (Where do you get this stuff? - Ed.) out of people. However, when I first saw the characters on the Imperial cruiser as the game opened, I was afraid the game was in trouble

The bodies themselves were fluid and well animated (as we had witnessed in the multiplayer beta) but the faces and expressions were distracting. Not all were bad of course, but some looked like their faces had been set on fire, then had the flames stomped out by someone wearing golf cleats (A Phil Hendrie original). Or perhaps it was just too many Botox injections. I dunno. Also, some of the dialog is flat out laughable. In the scene following the Arena match modern day heroine Julia competes in, she confronts two members of the Tribal team she just competed against.

In what struck me as quite silly, Julia threatens the two male tribesmen by pointing the business end of her Spinfuser at them and giving a Dirty Harry style monologue about the weapons specifications and the effect of being hit by one of its plasma discs. I guess it struck me so funny because here she was, expounding on the 'deadly capability' of a weapon to two Tribals who are good enough to be on a competition grade team. This is the weapon that every single Tribesman in the entire game universe is intimate with from the time they put on a jump pack.

I understand what they were trying to accomplish with this show of bravado; the fact that Julia is tough as nails and how much she hates Tribals (even to the point of sacrificing herself to take out two of them) but the cheesy dialog coupled with the disturbing facial animations almost made me want to get out of the game.

I'm glad I didn't exit the game though because as soon as I was past that point and back into the action, I forgot about the cut scene and was able to immerse myself in the goals of infiltrating and eliminating an illegal Tribal base on one on the Empire's planets. Starting the round, I was manning the guns of one of our drop ships as they circled the area looking for a safe place to land and let our ground troops for the assault on the base. It was a fun change from the run and gun action that had so far been presented to me. Action is what the game is all about and the developers have given the already fast game play of Tribes a turbo boost by incorporating some new features and weapons. One of the new features that will make the difference between high scores and frequent respawning is skiing. When running over the crest of a hill, hold down the space bar and tiny jets in your suit's boots engage to propel you over it. Practice and proper timing of jump jets gets you a boost of speed and help you fly further than you normally would. A grappling hook can also be used to swing your way around tight areas or bring yourself up close and personal to an enemy player. (Quake 2 Lithium mode anyone? - Ed.) Also scattered around some maps are jump pads that anyone who has played Quake III will recognize. These emplacements will fling your player forward giving you a bit more range and speed as you jet your way across the map.

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8.2   Very Good

Great multiplayer action, good use of the Unreal engine for combat, single-player game is a good translation of the multiplayer experience;

Some character models and facial animations are disturbing, cheesy dialog, low number of multiplayer maps right out of the box.


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