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NDS Review - 'Greg Hastings' Tournament Paintball MAX'D'

by Bill Lange on June 13, 2006 @ 1:22 a.m. PDT

Greg Hastings' Tournament Paintball MAX'D introduces the franchise's speed and innovative controls onto handheld systems for the first time. A handheld first, the title allows gamers to switch shooting from hand to hand, lean and shoot from both the left and right hand side, and snap up to shoot from behind lower obstacles.

Genre: Sports
Publisher: Activision Value
Developer: Activision Value
Release Date: January 31, 2006

Nintendo's been on something of a "let's do something weird and experimental to get people buzzing" kick in recent years; the announcement of a portable gaming system with two screens was regarded as a cheap gimmick before it caught momentum, and the Big N's high-concept, next-gen Wii offering had tongues wagging from the moment it was conceived.

Despite a somewhat sluggish start, the DS has carved out a niche for itself as the preferred on-the-go system for puzzle gamers and fans of less traditional fare (like courtroom simulators, magical surgery games, and aquatic music generators). With the release of the DS Lite, Nintendo seems poised to widen the gap between itself and Sony's PSP, the one rival that had any shot at usurping its handheld throne. What can Nintendo do to mess this up? Allow more trash like Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball MAX'D to grace its platform.

At the time of this writing, there are only four first-person shooters on the DS: Greg Hastings, Nintendo's own Metroid Prime Hunters, Goldeneye Rogue Agent, and Peter Jackson's King Kong. Nintendo must know something about portable FPSes that no one else does, because the other three aren't fit to be spoken of in the same breath with Hunters.

The game opens with a ridiculous movie clip. Heavily compressed and pixelated, the player can almost make out a convoy of dark SUVs entering "the ghetto." While Cypress Hill's own B-Real raps in the background, paintball "stars" leap out of the trucks (accompanied by caricature freeze-frames of themselves) and pose menacingly. This hilarious spectacle goes on for several minutes.

Finally, we've moved on to the main menu. Career mode hovers in some insane middle ground between maddeningly unplayable and respectably deep. Before beginning the game, you can choose your player and, after accumulating cash, buy new paintball jerseys, masks, and guns. An RPG-like character development system is also included, allowing you to increase stats like accuracy and stamina with points awarded after winning matches. To accompany you into games, you can build a team from over 40 real-life players to pick and choose from. There's also the slightly shady option to cheat when you're hit – tap A quickly after getting splatted to have a chance at wiping the paint away before the ref sees you. If he catches you, though, hello team disqualification.

Unfortunately, the relative wealth of customization options simply does not mesh with the actual gameplay's broken feel. The main problem with Greg Hastings is that everything except your player's arm and gun is a pixelated, unintelligible blur, and thus, dodging incoming fire is rather difficult.

It certainly doesn't help that the collision detection in Greg Hastings' DS offering resembles an alien from another dimension's idea of normal. Come within a foot or two of a barrier, and a paintballer will be entombed in some invisible force field for a spaz-tastic moment, allowing any enemies around a free shot.

For a group of professionals, your teammates are pretty dense, walking out into the open, running in circles, and shooting while stuck behind an obstacle. You'll probably take a few potshots at them by accident unless you pick a distinctive jersey color; when your eyes can't understand anything the DS is trying to show them, any moving object becomes a target.

You'll be walking into this mess prepared, though. There are several different control options, so it doesn't matter if you're right-handed, left-handed, prefer the stylus, or lean towards the face buttons, you're accommodated. Of course, the same is true of Metroid Prime Hunters, so this comprehensive array of inputs isn't really much of a selling point. Unlike Hunters, though, a diagonal run (i.e., anything other than planar movement) is forbidden; this is paintball, and we can't have people taking evasive actions!

The silver lining in this dark cloud is the commendable job done in the music department. The DS is not a powerhouse in the sound area, but Activision managed to squeeze in six real-life tracks, ranging from Puddle of Mudd's rock to Cypress Hill's rap. The compression is well-done, and there's little to no distortion. It's too bad they couldn't fit in more songs, because the six here become repetitive quickly; you'll hear them all at least once before the end of your first tournament.

Did grandma get you and your brother copies of Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball MAX'D for Christmas because "the man at the store said you'd like it?" Misery loves company; the game supports multi-card wireless play, and you'll have slightly more fun on a level playing field than with the blatantly cheating AI paintballers.

In the market for a pulse-pounding, white-knuckle action game for the Nintendo DS? Walk into your preferred game store and grab a copy of Metroid Prime Hunters, making sure not to accidentally make eye contact with the dusty, twice-returned Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball MAX'D on the shelf above that has been doomed to helplessly watch the years ooze by. Sorry, B-Real, not even you can redeem this one.

Score: 4.0/10

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