PC Preview - 'Tribes: Vengeance'

by Ricardo Chimal on Aug. 9, 2004 @ 2:26 a.m. PDT

Genre: Action
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: Vivendi
Release Date: Nov 23, 2004

Pre-order 'TRIBES: Vengeance': PC

The whole Tribes experience really revolves around teamplay, big maps, and big guns. It's no surprise that these things haven't changed in this new installment of Tribes. Movement has remained for the most part the same from Tribes2 with a few exceptions. Skiing is significantly easier to do than in Tribes2, you gain speed even on a flat surface if you use it right. It seems to lower friction when you just hold down the jump button so you can achieve some incredible speeds when going downhill, which is extremely useful when you're running away with the flag. The death sequences after you get killed are hilarious at this point, depending on what you were doing you will spin around well beyond your death like a thrown rag doll. The gameplay itself is currently similar to Tribes2 after it went through the numerous patches. Tribes: Vengeance distinguishes itself by adding trying new things to the mix in order to add to the gameplay. The servers available while I was playing the beta had only CTF maps but there are more game modes promised which will probably change the way the game is played.

There are a few new weapons available this time around which include the buckler -- an offensive energy shield, the grappler, the blaster -- a weapon similar to the flak cannon in Unreal Tournament but energy based, the rocket pod -- it essentially launches a barrage of missles at a target, really only useful against vehicles. My favorite new weapons are the grappler and the buckler, they're a lot of fun to play with and try different things with. The grappler is just what it sounds like, it launches a hook and grabs on to a target, be it a vehicle or a person -- it's the Tribes version of fishing. The most interesting way that i've seen it been used is someone grabbing a tree with it and swinging around it just for fun. Another more practical use is using it to grab an escaping flag carrier or to grab on to a vehicle. There is a catch naturally, it's pretty difficult to catch a moving target with it. The buckler is another favorite weapon of mine, it's a short range offensive energy shield that you can aim. What that means is that you fire the shield, which is basically a killer frisbee, and you can guide it for a short distance to your target. It takes some getting used to but it's very fun. The classic disc launcher is still around and works the same way as the two Tribes predecessors. The mortar still delivers a deadly punch for the unlucky bastards who happen to be in the blast radius. The only thing that really bugs me at this point is that I can't carry more weapons even though I'm wearing heavy armor, but I guess it can be considered a balancing tactic. It's an all around enjoyable experience for the gun freak in me.

The vehicles in the game can sometimes mean the different between victory and defeat in some Tribes battles -- supplying mobile inventory stations at strategic points, support fire from fighters and buggies, and lots of destructive power from bombers and tanks. The fighter has gone through many changes since its initial design in Starsiege: Tribes; it has evolved from a sleek scout flyer to a more aggressive shrike fighter to the new spherical fighter. It has interesting controls which really promote mid-air battles between other vehicles and lone players, it'll hover with ease, dive bomb quickly and make the tight turns necessary to overcome your opponent.

The bomber is still the best team driven vehicle in the beta, if you go out alone be prepared to get shot out of the sky very quickly. The pilot is responsible for flying and dropping bombs while the other two players are equipped with gun turrets to protect the bomber -- this is a welcome change from Tribes2 where the third person in the back of the bomber would generally be useless in protecting the vehicle. The tank is just what you'd expect, a vehicle with lots of firepower. It has an onboard gun turret which another player can control to protect the tank and some jetpack boosters which can help you get over those steep hills and tip over if you're not careful.

The inventory station has gone through many changes since the original Tribes title. In those days we were plagued with long waiting lines at stations when our bases were under attack. Tribes2 tried to remedy this by allowing you to select all your items ahead of time then simply loading up when approached an inventory station. Tribes: Vengance appears to have gone back to its roots a bit, or so it seems in this stage of the beta; I could not find a method to select my items before I approached an inventory station, so the long lines could be a problem later on. There is still the notion of favorites carried on from Tribes2, with some nice tabs that you can rename and customize to your liking but at the moment the interface seems a bit slow to quickly change to a particular favorite preset. Although it could show up later, there isn't a hotkey to quickly change to the favorite of your choice and get back into the fight. It seems obvious to me but what could alleviate the need for a hotkey there is for it to remember the last favorite you used and have it automatically selected. The interface does look good overall, it shows you a preview of what the weapons look like and the items fit very precisely on the screen. My only real concern would be how this would impact the development of mods that utilize significantly more specialized packs and weapons like in the previous two Tribes games.

The menus in the game have changed in an interesting way from Tribes2, it almost seems as if the menus were meant to be used with a touch screen. The problem with the menus at this point is that they seem to lag a bit. Another thing that irritated me was the inability to tab to the next line when entering the login and password for the stats, it's something you only enter in once but this behavior will occur in other similar menus -- yes I know I'm nitpicking at this point but it bugs me, maybe not you.

Overall the game performance was good, I was pleasantly surprised considering I don't have the latest and greatest video card but it ran well on my Nvidia geForce4 Ti4400. Turning down the settings will naturally get you better performance but I was able to comfortably run it at 1024x768 with medium settings. The current maps didn't stress my system that much but in a large battle you will notice the lag, hopefully this will be improved as the beta progresses. I hope that a large scale open beta will happen in a later stage of the beta to ensure that no unexpected problems will occur; I don't want to be seeing numerous patches the first week for issues that should've been resolved during the beta. I'm hopeful and anxious to see the final product.


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