Reviewed: November 7, 2006
Released: September 29, 2006
I’ll admit it, back in late 2004 when I first heard that there was going to be a paintball game on the Xbox, I was stunned. A paintball video game? I mean, how fun could a paintball game really be? I love shooters and all – but I had seen paintball on TV, and playing a video game where the premise is simply to scamper around some dinky arena, hiding behind a bunch of plywood walls waiting to dot someone with a bunch of air-powered pellets…it just did not scream “good fun” to me.
Then it happened. I logged onto Xbox Live one day and I was shocked to see not one, but four of my friends were playing Greg Hasting Paintball Tournament. And day after day, week after week, it never failed that whenever I logged on there they were…playing paintball.
Two of the guys were employed by one of the local game stores at the time, so on one of my visits I ribbed them about playing Paintball game online. But one came back serious as a heart attack with, “Dude, it is really sweet…you have to check it out”. Well, I never got around to checking it out at the time. Frankly, because I just couldn’t justify the price (even if it was a budget title) for a game with no story, just a series of deathmatch-type battles.
But when reports came in that the sequel, Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball Max’d, had hit the GCM offices – I decided to give it a look. And you know what? If the old game was anything like this new Max’d version…well, maybe those guys were onto something.
If you have never played paintball (don’t feel bad, I haven’t either), or seen it on television (I have), the basic layout of the game is simple; a small arena is lined with various structures, bunkers and obstacles, with each end hosting a home base for one of the two opposing teams. There are only three different flavors of events from which to choose: Elimination, Single Flag, and Capture the Flag. And for any gaming veteran, these team-based games are fairly straightforward.
In each of the three match types, the teams start out at their home bases and once the whistle blows, they immediately run for cover. Most of the action is played from a squatting position, as players play duck-and-cover behind the various objects and bunkers scattered about the landscape.
Obviously, the main objective of any of the matches is to splatter your opponents with as many paint pellets as you can (you need to at least get two for a kill) before they splatter you. Elimination mode is your basic deathmatch, where the team with the last man standing wins.
Single Flag, true to its name, places a single flag in the middle of the arena and both teams vie to get their hands around it and deliver it into the opposing team’s base.
Capture the Flag places flags in each of the home bases, and each team tries to get the flag from the opposing team’s base and be the first to deliver it safely to their own home base.
Obviously, each of these modes ends to a slightly different strategy – and to facilitate this strategy element, Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball Max’d adds pre-match route selection in which gamers can determine patterns of attack before the action even starts. And when the heat is on, the game adds a Rainbow Six style squad control scheme in which a simple press of a button will either auto advance teammates to strategic bunkers, or direct them to select areas defined by the targeting reticule.
The matches are all very quick, and even against the AI characters a match may not last more than a minute before ending rather abruptly. Still, once the gamer gets a good handle on the finer points of the gameplay, even the quickest match can be quite exhilarating once the paint begins to fly.
What is most surprising about the game is how well the AI reacts to the action onscreen – regardless of what side they are on. Teammates will defend dutifully, and the opposition will peek and shoot with stealth and precision. Matches will find players leaning around obstacles, scanning for that one last sniper popping pellets on the bunker just inches from their face. Spot a distant flash of color, and pray-and-spray is the name of the game.
If the player’s character is “killed”, he will warp into the shoes of one of the remaining teammates, until no teammates are left. In some of the quicker matches, the gamer will spend more time warping than shooting – but that’s the breaks in paintball.
Really, the main problem with Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball Max’d is that with the lack of game modes (three is all you get) and the arena-style gameplay begins to wear thin quickly – and if you don’t have a good lineup of friends to square up against online, there’s no real reason to keep playing after a week or two. But don’t get me wrong, Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball Max’d is a surprisingly solid offering, and really only falls victim to the real-life sport it was designed after.
Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball Max’d doesn’t fare so well in the visuals department. The low-res textures and sparse environments are really disappointing, and don’t do a whole lot to help with spotting opponents at a distance. As mentioned earlier, paintball really is a game of “pray and spray”, but it would be nice to target in on opponents with a bit less difficulty.
The background environments all differ substantially from one to the other, and arenas feature quite a variety of objects to act as bunkers and walls. Urban settings feature real-world ghetto debris, wooded settings feature trees and stumps, and tournament arenas feature inflatable bunkers. Still, the textures are used over and over in each arena, and the game just plain looks dated.
The final gripe I have is with the fact the most of the first person view is blocked by the face shield and the massive paint markers. I am fully aware that this is due more to the equipment used in the sport and not due to any coding issues, but it still impedes the gameplay.
The sound quality is also fairly lackluster and uninteresting overall – the pop, pop, pops of the your player’s paint marker hardly inspires much excitement, and the sounds of paint markers hitting the various scenery about your character don’t really incite any anxiety.
For the most part, the soundtrack is riddled with chunky radio rock from the likes of Octane, Puddles of Mudd, and Static-X. While most of the music is fairly generic, it does feature an exclusive new hip-hop track from Cypress Hill’s B-Real which is pretty darn cool. Still, the total number of tracks is pretty low, and in a single sitting you might hear the same song three or four times over.
At $40, I would have to say that Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball Max’d is a bit overpriced – at least for what you get. The gameplay is definitely fast paced and fun, but the lack of modes and the poor presentation really give the game a buget-priced feel.
The online play is fun if you find the right opponents (if you can find opponents at all), but most of the competition is quite skilled at kicking your butt. It can get frustrating to be marked out of a round within second, but when you finally make a solid mark, the feeling is unmatched.
I would have o believe that the game plays a bit better on the Xbox, and online on Xbox Live. Still, on the PS2 Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball Max’d is a lot of fun – that is if deathmatch stye gaming is your bag. Obviously, those looking for any semblance of a story should look elsewhere.
If Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball Max’d was a budget priced title, I would have no problem recommending a purchase. As it stands, with an MSRP of $40, I am leaning towards a rental.