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Tribes 2

Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Dynamix
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 64
Genre: Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

The graphics in Tribes 2 depend a great deal on the power of your computer. The better your video card and the faster your machine, the better the game will look. On a high-end machine like The Beast, Tribes 2 looks fantastic--sprawling worlds, detailed characters, amazing explosions. On a mid-end machine, on the other hand, chances are good that you won't be very impressed with the game. To get a decent framerate, you're going to have to turn down the graphical settings--indeed, even I couldn't run it with everything at full when playing online. Once you've lowered the graphical settings in the game, chances are good that it won't look much better than, say, the original Tribes, which is a shame. That's not entirely true--it will look nicer, but it's certainly not a great improvement.

So, in a nutshell: if you have a powerhouse machine to show off the graphics in Tribes 2, they will pleasantly surprise you. If you don't, you won't be impressed.

The sound in Tribes 2 is pretty much standard fare. You've got your requisite Generic Techno that reverberates throughout the game--chances are good that you'll find yourself turning it off, so you can hear your teammates' voices. You have a large number of built-in voice clips that you can use to communicate with your teammates, which adds a touch of realism to the game--text messages are a lot harder to notice in the heat of battle. The sound effects are pretty standard--you've got booms, you've got pa-kows, you've got clangs, you've got grunts. Don't expect to be bowled over by the sound, and you'll do fine.


And, to be honest, don't expect to be bowled over by the gameplay either. It's not that it's not amazingly solid--it is, of course--but it's much more an incremental improvement on the original Tribes than a major revolution. Fans of the first one will love it, and people who never got into the series will like it too.

First things first: the game needs patches out of the box, which is a bad thing, but the patches are automagic if you try to play the Internet version of the game, which is a nice thing. Sierra/Dynamix have been working on the game constantly since its release, and there have been a large number of patches to come out for the game, tweaking gameplay and making it run more consistently.

Secondly, the single player campaign . . . isn't. It's basically a number of tutorial missions that happen to have a bare modicum of goal-based play in them--capture a tower, hold the fort, whatever. Those of you expecting a full-blown experience in the single-player arena are going to be sorely disappointed. There's not much here, to be honest, and while it's fun for those who have never played Tribes before, it's pretty much superfluous. It doesn't help that the bots are eminently dumb, often standing around doing nothing when they should be out patrolling, or protecting, or doing whatever a human would be doing at the time. It's a little frustrating, and while you may want to cut your teeth on the single-player campaigns, they're not going to hold anyone's interest for an extended period of time.

The core of the game, of course, is the multiplayer mode over the internet, and that's where Tribes 2 really starts to shine. Anyone who's ever played the original Tribes can tell you how markedly different it is from any other multiplayer action game out there. The maps are absolutely huge, tons of players cram into each of them at once, and tight team-based action is the name of the game.

Indeed, that emphasis on tight team-based action is both Tribes 2's blessing and its curse. Dynamix put in a number of non-team based game types in Tribes 2, but you'll be hard-put to find many non-CTF servers. Most of the Tribes 2 community originated with the original Tribes, and almost all of those played CTF. Because of this, a lot of the new modes aren't getting much airplay, and it's pretty much team-based or nothing.

Some of the game modes available are the ever-present Deathmatch, the well known Capture the Flag, a version of the classic Headhunters called 'Hunters', a team-based version of Hunters, and a Hot Potato-style game called 'Rabbit'. In the end, though, CTF is where you'll find almost everyone.

Not to say CTF isn't immensely fun. It is. One of the things about Tribes is that it offers infrastructure management, along with raw combative firepower. You can adjust your weapon loadouts for the position that you have--base defense, quick strike, sniping, whatever--and there are a number of deployable items that can make your team stronger. Sensor nets are amazingly useful, as they let you track your opponents properly; deployable turrets can help keep your base secure; vehicles let you tool over to the enemy base at a much quicker speed. Indeed, vehicles are a key part of gameplay: you can use them to assault the enemy bases, and a number of them support 'outside players' who are along for the ride.

There are a large number of weapons, ranging from the mundane (blasters and chainguns) to the rather unique (the energy-sapping death ray and the always-fun mortar). There are also a number of vehicles. Unfortunately, the vehicles are very hard to control, and hopping into the cockpit of some of them is an absolute pain. Ground vehicles are rather neat, but they're also irritating to drive, especially on the crazily-sloped maps that most of Tribes 2 takes place on.


This is one of those games where there's a relatively steep learning curve to really get into it. It's not that the game's hard to control, or that there are too many buttons to memorize--getting the controls down is a fairly quick process. Learning the maps and the good strategies to use for base offense and defense, on the other hand, is more of an art than a science, and it can take a while before you're comfortable with the feel of the Tribes universe. It's a little more slow paced and deliberate than most first person shooters, and it takes some serious teamwork to put up a good fight against a strong opposing force. The true difficulty of the game, of course, depends on your team's aptitude versus your opponents', or in the more simgle-player oriented ones, your skill against each of theirs. Many people have been playing Tribes for years, so don't be surprised if you're quickly left in the dust when you first start playing. Take up base defense--they can always use more defenders--and you'll slowly but surely learn the ropes of the game.

Game Mechanics:

The controls are fairly standard in Tribes 2--movement with the keys, looking with the mouse, and a bevy of other keys to use because of the inventory and other items that you can carry. It doesn't take long to learn, though, and the tutorial does a fairly good job of showing you everything that you need to know. I encountered a few strange bugs in the game, especially dealing with vehicles, but they were avoidable, if annoying. I'm sure Dynamix is hard at work on fixing all of the announced problems. Not all of the built-in features have been re-activated post-beta, as Sierra's servers have been hit harder than they expected by the excited community; there's enough stuff integrated into Tribes 2, though, to help the community.

It's more incremental than a major step, and you really need a monster system to play it at its full graphical glory, but Tribes 2 is an amazingly solid experience. Those of you with a persistent Internet connection and a lot of free time should definitely check it out: team-based Internet gaming quite simply doesn't get any better than this. Those of you who prefer one-on-one gaming, or who have slower connections, may be wise to stay further away. For the multiplayer gamer, though, Tribes 2 is an excellent experience.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:

Win9x/Me/2K/NTSP4, P2 300, 64 MB RAM, 531MB HD Space, 4x CD-ROM, Sound Card, 12MB Video Card

Test System:

Athlon 1.1GHz running Win98 SE, 512MB RAM, GeForce 2 GTS w/ 32MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live!, 8x DVD-ROM

Windows Throne of Darkness Windows Tropico

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