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With so many good single-player 3D action games being released either without a multiplayer option, or with one that doesn’t work, Tribes delivers more than enough to make up for their absence. With already more than enough servers out there, some supporting up to 64 players (the box says 32), you can rest assured that finding someone to play with won’t be an issue. Even the veteran combat medic, spy, and heavy weapons guys of the original Quake mod and Team Fortress haven’t ever played a game like Tribes. Its originality comes from many areas, and perhaps its single greatest achievement is playground. Everything about the world you play in is so incredible the only way to fittingly describe it is to have you see it in person, and since that isn’t possible while you’re reading this review I’ve done the next best thing and provided you with this wide-angle shot from the game.
These landscapes, as you can see, are enormous. The seamless transition from indoor strongholds to the vast and undulating terrain is as good as it has ever been. I must also make particular mention of each level’s size. As a native Texan and one who appreciates the larger things in life, I am quite at home running around the wide open spaces in Tribes. The terrain includes multiple surface types from luscious green grass to snow-capped mountains and everything in between. Weather effects are present as well, and are visually similar to those found in the add-on for Spec Ops, Ranger Team Bravo. These landscapes are breathtaking to behold, especially from 1000 feet in the air. You see, each warrior in this game wears battle armor, and each type is outfitted with a jetpack that, depending on its type, can launch players extremely high into the air.
Right behind the landscapes, which are a key element to Tribes, is the gameplay. As I said earlier there is nothing like Tribes. Up to four teams can play at once, with multiple types of games available, including capture the flag, deathmatch, last tribe standing, and defend and destroy towers — and all games are playable via a multi-team option as well. Rather than describe the details and logistics of gameplay, which again is best experienced firsthand, I’ll point out a few specifics that hopefully give you a good idea of the gameplay. Rather than the standard “run around and pick up weapons and armor” type of game, the design team here spent quality time insuring that Tribes could be much more than mindless deathmatch, although it can be played that way if that’s your thing. For most, however, the added strategic and planning elements of Tribes will be the most welcome addition to this genre since the advent of the Internet. Teams are allotted money, which can be limited or unlimited, and players are given the option of outfitting their character each time they play. There are three types of armor to choose from: light, medium, and heavy. They have the advantages you’d expect: the light armor is fast and flies well, but holds limited weaponry and backpacks, whereas the heavy armor is powerful and carries a large payload, but is slow and has poor maneuverability.
The weapons and backpacks I mentioned are also fantastically implemented. Most of the weapons themselves are nothing special, but each has a scope (zoom) feature that can be magnified two, five, ten, and twenty times. No other game on the market does as good a job as Tribes at visualizing enemies and structures from long distances. The backpacks and other items are things players can purchase to enhance the team’s ability to succeed. Cameras, portable turrets, repair packs, and radar scrambling devices are just some of the toys teams have at their disposal. It’s a good thing they’ve been added, too: caught up with all the outdoor splendor of the game, I didn’t mention that each team also has a very well fortified base, armed with radar towers and high-powered turrets that will make mince meat out of an army of tribal commandos.
This presents just one more thing that sets this game apart from all the rest. If played as intended, whereas teamwork is utilized, Tribes is one of the greatest games of all time. I’ve never played a computer game where I’ve felt kinship to the people I’m playing with. We’ve put together a makeshift tribe here at the Adrenaline Vault and while we’re not anything too dangerous yet, we are a spirited bunch that works together. This title offers a great opportunity for those that have not played online to start. Its wonderful Internet optimization makes it user-friendly to even analog modem users, and Dynamix has done a respectable job in curtailing the most negative aspect of a multiplayer game — the high number of people whose only goal is to wreck the experience for everyone else. More on that later. The bottom line is that Tribes is one of the best games of the year, and in my opinion, the best multiplayer game I’ve ever played.
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