With all the flash of Quake 3 and more, while retaining the classic Tribes style, but does Sierra's sequel make the cut?
For those of you who have never played Tribes, it was a game by Sierra released in later 1998. It broke new grounds by throwing out the tired deathmatch and bringing in teamplay and tactics. Also new to the first person shooter was the inclusion of being able to choose from three armor classes and the ability to customize your layout, not to mention pilotable vehicles. Sierra's aim with Tribes 2 was to buff up the sound and graphics, bring in larger, better levels and create a more in depth on-line community and single player.
The graphics are nothing short of mindblowing, fully rendered, flowing 3D landscapes with brilliant popup distances. The movements of your enemies, and yourself, are fluid, and you even have the option of seeing your legs and even your own (and others) shadow(s). The sound was incredibly realistic (well, as realistic as could be possible) and the option to run mp3 music in the background, either your own or ones supplied by Sierra, is a welcome bonus. The in-built microphone program is also a welcome addition.
The multiplayer is utterly brilliant. Sierra opted for the full package and brought meaning to on-line community. Within the game itself Tribes 2 contains a chat client, powered by IRC, an email client called T-Mail, a browser for browsing tribe and player pages and a forum and news client. This is nothing short of amazing. All this allows easy managing of tribes, setting up of meetings etc. It is also far easier to locate "buddies" in Tribes 2 than in the original, which is a great relief. The levels themselves are huge and beautifully rendered, and cope quite well with high levels of players, making for an amazing on-line experience.
Gameplay is even more diverse in Tribes 2 with all the classic game types, Capture the Flag, Deathmatch, Capture and Hold and Defend and Destroy, but now players have access to Siege, Hunters, Team hunters and Rabbit. Siege is a version of Capture and Hold; one team starts with the objective and the other team must capture it. Play then goes to halftime and teams switch. The defending team is now on offense and must capture the objective back in less time than the original team.
Hunters is a variant on deathmatch, where no points are scored/lossed for a kill/death, however when players die they drop flags. When a player returns flags to the nexus they score points, each flag scoring cumalitive points. Team Hunters is simply in teams rather than a deathmatch.
Finally, Rabbit can be likened to Kill the dill with the Pill. One player grabs the flag and scores points for the time they hold it while all other players attempt to kill the flag holder in order to capture it themselves.
The singleplayer is vastly improved, despite the fact there are only six training missions, there is an extensive LAN section which allows a host to include up to sixteen bots, hence if one hosts a game with x number of bots one can play against the bots by themselves. This is incredibly useful for begginners, and even pros, for training purposes, or just for when you can't get on the net. Unfortuneately, the bots are a bit on the easy side and incredibly dull at times, for example, they cannot pilot vehicles, however there are patches which can be found to remedy this.
Tribes 2 also introduces new weapons, packs and vehicles. Armor classes have been simply renamed, now entitled Scout, Assault and Juggernaut armor. New weapons include the Rocket Launcher and Shocklance and new packs include the cloaking pack. Three new ground vehicles have been included, the Wildcat, an incredibly fast one manned cycle, the Jericho, a deployable base, and a Tank. The Light Transport has been dropped in favour of a Bomber and the Scout now fires lasers. The bomber and transport also include positions for tailgunners.
Despite all this, Tribes 2 really doesn't make the cut. Its system requirements, despite what Sierra will tell you, are incredibly high to run it at any standard (by today's standards) detail level or resolution. A P4 1.5 GHZ with 256 MB of RDRAM, 32 MB Geforce II MX and a 7200 RPM 40 GB HDD will struggle to get over 50 FPS running the game at 1280x1040x32 with details on full. In order to run this comfortably, realisticly, one is looking at an upgrade to 512 MB RDRAM and a 64MB Geforce II MX 400 at least. In this reviewers opinion, this is ridiculously high system requirements, yet it should not detract from the game as lower details and resolutions should suffice.
Unfortuneatly, it does, because the game was poorly made, and unfinished when it was released. Even at lower details and resolutions the game yields horrid framerates, even on high-end systems. Some hardware configurations caused conflicts, being unable to run, or causing the framerate to drop to below 10 FPS after an hour or so, while others could not run the game at any higher resolution than WIN 640x480. If one was lucky enough to have a correct hardware configuration, by the time you had reduced the resolution and details to a comfortable frame rate it looked like Tribes.
Apart from graphics, the game itself was buggy from release. The chat did not function properly to begin with, the T-Mail mis-delievered or didn't deliver at all, and the game constantly popped up with "Fatal Exception" at utterly random times. This caused frustration and irritation, and the public forum was soon filled with inflamed posts by angry customers, causing Sierra to close the forum.
Overall, Tribes 2 was a "could have been". If Sierra hadn't rushed the production and put more forethought into it, no doubt Tribes 2 would have been a brilliant game. If you can put up with constant irritations then Tribes 2 is a great game - if you have a high end system to see all the benefits. Unfortuneately, I cannot reccommend this game as it causes extreme frustration. FOR THE INCREDIBLY PATIENT ONLY!