Tribes Aerial Assault
If you were to take some Quake characters for a picnic in the countryside, you may get a scene like you'd see in Tribes, a popular online PC first-person shooter making its way to the PS2 this fall. This game's outdoor environments may bring out the agoraphobia in players raised on indoor "corridor" shooters--after all, how do you strategize in such open areas? "The first thing you notice about the terrain is the vast spaces and rolling hills," says Chris Mahnken, Tribes' producer at Sierra. "But that's deceptive, because not all the hills are rolling, and none of them are the same--every map has a unique feel. Soon you learn the best way to get from place to place, using the hills and valleys as cover. You find the ledge that lets you mortar the enemy base from just out of sight or the valley that you can fly the bomber out of without exposing yourself to too many enemy missiles."
This isn't just "Outdoors Quake," however. You get a jetpack for short spurts of high-altitude warfare, and when you run out of energy, you can "ski" down hillside slopes so you can zip along without taking fall damage or slowing down. "You can figure out the best ski routes to help you fly at the enemy flag at top speed," says Mahnken.
You're not necessarily in a shoot-everything-that-moves mode (mood?) with Tribes. "The freedom is one of the major benefits," Mahnken explains. "You can do whatever you want. In the mood to break stuff? You can assault the enemy base and trash their gear. Feeling crafty? Place turrets in all the most devious positions around your base. You can even switch the type of base gun emplacements to thwart changing enemy attack styles." The game even has inventory stations (located in your base or wherever you decide to deploy them on the field) to let you change your character type to reflect your preferred style of play. "Defensive-minded players can play in heavy armor and defend the flag or other critical equipment," says Mahnken, "or choose light armor and chase down enemy flag carriers."
Download Tribes Aerial Assault
Those of you who dont venture onto your computer to play games should know that Tribes is the third member of the PCs Holy Online Triumvirate of first-person shooters (FPS) whose other slots are filled by the Quake and Unreal franchises. Tribes has always been the most complex of the three, due in part to the jetpack factor (they come standard with the suit) and three distinct armament choices: light armor, which is fast as hell but cant hold much heavy weaponry; medium armor, which is slower but more powerful; and heavy armor, which turns you into a lumbering beast vaguely resembling the Thing, except this time armed to the teeth.
All the complexity of the PC version has been faithfully transferred to the PS2, and thats both a good and a bad thing. The good news is that online veterans will have access to all those little tweaks and options that SOCOM lacks. The bad news is that novices are going to be left staring slack-jawed at the setup screen. Which character do you want? What armor do you prefer? Which weapon do you want to start with? What kind of game do you want to play: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Capture and Hold, Hunters? Which map do you want to play on? How many players do you want in the game? You want bots? We got bots! How many do you want? How smart do you want em? Do you want friendly fire enabled? How much damage should it do?
Its exhausting just to list; imagine coming in as a first-time player and being faced with such an array. This complexity, both in game-play controls and in setup options, is Tribes strongest suit and its biggest weakness. But while its initially daunting, theres a sense of accomplishment that comes with learning all the advanced techniques. And the best part: You get to show off all those skills online.
If the ultra-realism of SOCOM turns you off, this futuristic sci-fi shooter just might be your cup of destruction. Like SOCOM, Tribes is a team-based effort: You and your buddies form teams of up to eight, for a maximum of 16 total participants, then coordinate your assault in games of capture-the-flag, team deathmatch and fortress assaults. What makes Tribes a unique shooter is its class system. Recon units are faster but lack the punch of a slower Juggernaut trooper. Oh, and did we mention that you can fly? Not only do you get to fire up your jetpack, you'll also pilot an armada of transport and assault ships.
Getting an online game going is easy. Players simply jack into the Tribes lobby, then either join a game or create their server for others to join. Right now, Sierra has every intention of supporting narrowband dial-up connections, but that's not a guarantee. "We're just starting testing of the dial-up connection and determining if it will be fun," says Adam Kahn, Sierra PR manager. "We won't release a game that allows some portion of the audience to dominate another portion based on anything but skill."
It's the 40th Century and just when humanity thought they had the art of killing down to a' well' an art, along comes hordes of genetically engineered BioDerm salve soldiers. So now it's up to the four neo-barbarian tribes to stop them.
Tribes: Aerial Assault is destined to be one of the top games for the PS2's burgeoning online market, with a frenetic pace that will keep even the hardest core fraggers begging for more. The main thing that sets this game apart is its reliance on aerial combat, allowing players to jet around the battleground for hardcore gunning action and forcing some modicum of targeting abilities in an otherwise run-and-gun genre. Add to that the fact that Aerial Assault comes with four types of vehicles (one ground and three air) which can be accessed by finding and standing at a vehicle station, and you've got a game brimming with possibilities. Players also get to choose between three types of armor, eight weapons, four types of grenades and an interesting selection of backpacks that provide everything from extra health or power to one use items like remote turrets.
Although the game comes with a slight single player campaign, the real fun is in its multiplayer capabilities, allowing a person to have fun at home with a buddy on a split screen blowing up bots or going online and duking it out with a plethora of strangers. There are five types of games included: capture the flag, capture and hold, deathmatch, team deathmatch and hunters (think deathmatch meets capture the flag). Unfortunately, you'll have to have broadband if you truly want to host a game, but with a T-1 line you can have up to 16 players going at it.
With its wide selection of game types, variable Artificial Intelligence settings, and most importantly, it's online play, Tribes: Aerial Assault is a keeper.