Developer: Irrational Games
Release Date: October 5, 2004
Buy 'TRIBES: Vengeance': PC
It’s rather hard to review a mainly multiplayer-based title’s single player aspect, when you know that the real meat and potatoes of the game are undoubtedly the multiplayer component. Tribes: Vengeance may be the first Tribes title to feature a single player campaign that wasn’t just multiplayer-ish maps with bots, but offline players had best not get their hopes up. Even the multiplayer seems a bit lackluster due to the removal of some of the features that made the original title so addictive and appealing.
One of Tribes: Vengeance’s advertised features is the brand new single player campaign, which is an absolute blast marred by significantly large flaws. Starting off you play as Victoria, a hot-headed Imperial princess who ends up donning powered armor and fighting for her life after a Tribesman attack. The second playable character is Julie, who is a champion-grade warrior in the arena, a place where combatants fight each other in various types of rounds. The plot is consistently solid throughout the Victoria parts, but the introduction of Julie and who she is comes so abruptly that you feel that you somehow skipped about 10 minutes of plotline, leaving a massive inexplicable hole as to what exactly is going on. Plot itself doesn’t make or break a game, but balance issues definitely do.
The AI in Tribes: Vengeance acts incredible artificial and lacks much of an intelligence whatsoever. AI fighters always take the same paths in a level, lob mortar rounds with consistently pinpoint accuracy literally across an entire level, and often just strafe between two points as quickly as you can while you gun them down. The AI will almost always target the player, leaving everything else alone, which deepens the feeling that you are playing against nothing more than bots rather that at least a sub-par human player.
Comparing Tribes 1 to Tribes: Vengeance is a bitter comparison to make, as it really seems that Tribes: Vengeance is a mere shadow of what fun the original was. For starters, there is no command area of the base where a player could view a command map al la Tribes 1 to view radar, use sensors and cameras, or coordinate friendly forces, which was a nice feature to utilize in the original (a force led by a good leader is more likely to win than a mere group of freelancing players). Bases still have generators and inventory stations to power the base turrets and stations and equip players respectively, but seem much smaller than bases in previous Tribes games.
Vehicles still make a large presence on the playing field but respawn and can be taken from their specific pads, unlike past Tribes games where they were "purchased" via vehicle terminals. The levels range from fairly small to rather large, which is a solidly good thing, but the problem lies in the gameplay. Sure, it’s still Tribes with its vehicles and heavies with mortar launchers, but without the strategy of sensor placement, asset protection, and the option of having a player in a command chair whose sole job is to oversee and advise, it almost feels like an empty shell. In essence, and it pains me to say it, Tribes: Vengeance’s multiplayer feels like the Onslaught mode seen in Unreal Tournament 2004 only with sub-par ground vehicle handling, terminals to get any weapon and armor from instead of racks of them scattered about, and jetpacks mounted to the back of every player.
Tribes: Vengeance does add a few nice features to the formula that will undoubtedly brighten the faces of Tribes veterans. The physics engine in Tribes: Vengeance isn’t the most realistic one out there, but when you blast an enemy unit in light armor with a spinfusor round and watch him flail into and over a railing, you can’t help but laugh. If an enemy is firing his jetpack at the time of his demise, the body goes limp while the jetpack continues to fire, sending the corpse flying around and slamming into the ground before finally coming to a rest. The weapons still feel like an old hat, the spinfusor rounds still fly rather slowly and pack a massive punch, the chaingun is still fairly hard to use and has its characteristic shape, and mortar rounds still explode in a big green cloud of pain. "Skiing" is now much easier than it has been in any other Tribes game, and is now as simple as holding down the jump button. For the uninformed, skiing effectively makes it seem like the ground is made of ice and allows you to jetpack up the side of hills then simply slide -- or ski, if you will -- down the other side with a reasonably limited amount of control.
There is no contest as to the fact that Tribes: Vengeance is easily the best looking Tribes game to date. The character models are all of sufficiently good quality, but the real stars are those used in the single player campaign cinemas that are not only well-animated but actually show believable facial expressions and emotions. Weapon effects are essentially a facelift of the same ones used in the original game, spinfusors still have the blue trail behind them as they fly, grenades and mortar rounds have a white trail behind them as they arc down on a target, and the sniper rifle still leaves its signature red line for anyone to pinpoint the shooter's location. The environments as a whole are detailed and diverse, whether you are looking at a massive arid expanse of land decorated with a bridge and a massive skeleton or the inside of a Tribesman bunker. The vehicles look rugged and rather durable, though the fighter aircraft looks about as flimsy as a foil ball.
On the sound end, the voiceovers are of good quality even in the plot-driven single player campaign, despite the flaws associated with the rest of that aspect of the game. Obviously, sound effects play a major role in the game with all of the shooting and killing going on, and there’s no disappointment in that category either. Not only do the weapons all sound believable, but they also resonate like they pack a punch, but their sounds aren't too different from what Tribes vets will expect. Explosions could use a bit more oomph, but the scream of a mortar shell hurtling down from above still makes you want to clamber away from the spot as fast as you can, just as it did in Tribes games past.
Tribes: Vengeance’s multiplayer seems to have converged on to the mainstream Unreal Tournament style of play. If you're good at Unreal Tournament 2004, it is no stretch of the imagination to say that you'll be good at Tribes: Vengeance. As of this review, I was able to play a few different game modes, CTF, Ball, and Arena; there were others, but there was no one on the servers to play with. CTF is pretty much the same as in every other game, except with the Tribes spin of being able to fly either with your jetpack or with a vehicle.
A new mode called Ball is very similar to Unreal Tournament's Bombing Run: there's a ball, and you have to deliver it to the other's team's goal. It sounds simple, but when they're skiing and flying while everyone is shooting at you from who knows how many directions, it makes for a fun challenge, especially in a confined map like Cavern.
Arena is another new mode that only allows you one life for the duration of a round which will demonstrate your skills against other Tribes players in two teams, testing your ability to play smart rather than going in and dying in a blaze of glory. The lag is barely noticeable on most of the game servers that I tried, only registering slightly when there is severe action, but dial-up players might suffer. There is a decent multiplayer base waiting to be exploited by mods, if it gets exploited at all. Some die-hard Tribes fans will still be reluctant to accept this new release because of the differences from Tribes 1, but for players new to the Tribes game, it is inviting.
As previously stated, it’s tough to review a title that is based on multiplayer, knowing that while the single player aspect isn’t meant to be the main draw, you may as well have a good one or none at all, and the multiplayer aspect feels alien to the gameplay that has already been set forth by the series. The single player campaign starts off incredibly well, evoking thoughts of "Oh my god, they finally made a decent single-player Tribes experience," and then declines to the lowest possible point not five levels into the game. The multiplayer aspect is far less deep than it has been in previous Tribes games, and frankly, the game seems to be nothing more than a mindless game of Onslaught, since the features that would add any real strategic elements and have added them to past Tribes games simply aren’t to be found in Tribes: Vengeance. While Tribes: Vengeance doesn’t have any real flaws in its multiplayer component, it does seem to lack depth, whereas the original game’s abundance of depth is the very reason why hundreds of people still play it to this day.
Score : 8.2/10
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