Reviewed: March 21, 2005
Released: November 16, 2004
I really had no expectations going into the review for Greg Hastings' Tournament Paintball. Other than a few rounds of “laser tag” about 10 years I don’t regularly handle firearms or point them at people, other than in video games of course. But like any good reviewer I decided to do a bit of research which started with a few of my friends who actually do play paintball and a few of their friends who play it even more.
I must say I have learned a lot over the past few weeks, first and foremost, that this game, while remaining a game, has got to be one of the cleverest marking and induction tools since America’s Army game. If you didn’t play paintball before you played this game chances are you’ll find yourself putting on a helmet, some body armor, and loading up your paint pellets some weekend very soon.
And it’s not just because of the Greg Hastings’ endorsement, but the way the game approaches the “sport”, with real-life equipment, arenas, and tactics. This is basically a training tool on your Xbox that will teach you the sport before you even get hit with your first real blob of paint. In fact, it is so much a “simulation” that the guy who owns the local paintball shop continually buys out all copies of this game in surrounding stores and sells them in his shop.
This game is loaded with content including three play modes (Elimination, CTF, Center Flag), 14 pro players, 25 real-life sponsors, and hundreds of licensed products, weapons, apparel and such. And to keep things real to life, the game even allows you to “try” and cheat with a clever system to wipe the paint off you without getting caught.
As you might expect, Tournament Paintball is a multiplayer gamer’s dream come true, but there is still a substantial single-player component that delivers a solid gameplay experience while training you up for the Xbox Live matches that are sure to follow.
The solo gamer can look forward to 19 challenging tournaments with no less than 98 field layouts in all sorts of indoor and outdoor environments. There are 80 different teams to test your skills and 69 of them are based from real-life. The more you play the better you get, both as a player and as the character in the game. You earn experience points that can be assigned to various attributes as you rise from rookie to pro standing.
Taking the game online or hooking up with system link gives you even more options including 7-on-7 team play that works extremely well with the Communicator headset for coordinating your attacks. The multiplayer modes also offer 20 new locations and 179 field layouts tweaked for larger numbers and multiplayer strategies.
The game eases you in with some excellent training that teaches you how to take cover and peek around or over obstacles using a very clever control scheme. You also learn how to move, run, and do diving rolls. The controls are extremely fluid and intuitive, more so that most other FPS games and unlike those other games you have to master the concept of a low-velocity projectile, one that doesn’t have an infinite range and one that slowly arcs and drops to the ground much quicker than you might think.
Another immersive element is the view, which takes place through a claustrophobic perspective through the helmet face-shield. It can be quite startling to get hit in the head and have a big splat of paint dominate your view.
Tactically, the game is a bit slow, almost like a game of hide and seek where you try to move around and stay hidden behind obstacles. The range of the paint gun isn’t huge so you have to get fairly close or really lucky to hit a moving target. Often the enemy AI plants itself behind a barrier and peeks out just long enough to shoot, forcing you to move to a new angle of attack.
No matter how good you are you will eventually get hit and that is where one of the more enjoyable elements comes into play, the cheat system. When you get hit a swinging meter appears and you have to time the button press to hit it when it’s in the green area. Depending on how obvious the hit, the meter might be going really fast or casually slow. If you get caught cheating you might get a penalty or just removed from the game as usual.
One feature I did not like was the post-death transition. Much like the Rainbow Six games when your guy is "out" you assume the identity of another player on the team. In Tournament Paintball this transition is instant and startling. By the time you get your bearings you are likely to get tagged out. It would have been so much better to have a few seconds of invulnerability or even better, a spectator mode that allowed you to pick the right opportunity to reenter the game.
If you are tagged out in multiplayer you do get a nice spectator camera that lets you view the entire field and follow anyone for the remainder of the match; a great way for analyzing the enemy tactics and learning their favorite hiding places.
I was initially disappointing that I could not take my “skilled” character from the single-player game online, but then I realized that would give certain players an unfair advantage. Much like NASCAR, this game creates a level playing field and relies on the skills of the “driver” to win.
The graphics in Tournament Paintball are really well done, often a bit too colorful at times, but that might be a carryover from the real-life sport. I have yet to visit a real paintball field. There is some interesting and excellent lighting effects and shadows that gives the game real depth.
The first-person view is constricting at first but quite realistic, just like you were wearing a real helmet. Movement is a bit floaty and the weapon bob can nearly make your nauseous. Animation of the other characters is pretty cool but chances are if you see them they have already seen you and you are already tagged.
Menus are nice with hundreds of licensed items all depicted with graphics and text descriptions. You have a visual representation of your character that updates in real-time as you equip them in the latest paintball fashions.
The music in Tournament Paintball is really good and I never got tired of it, but if for some reason you do you can insert your own custom MP3 tracks.
Sound effects are minimal yet realistic. You’ll hear footsteps and heavy breathing inside your helmet while sprinting. There is a hollow thud when you get struck and the non-threatening sound of the paintball gun firing. Everything is given the 3D treatment with Dolby Digital so you can locate enemies by their sound.
You can finish the single-player game in less than 12 hours and there is no reason to replay it once you do, but the online modes will keep any avid paintball player glued to their Xbox for months to come. There are even Live Scoreboards, which will undoubtedly attract the competitive paintball gamer.
This is a great way to keep your skills and tactics honed during the winter months or on weekends when it’s raining. There is a ton of content packed into this game making it more of a paintball catalog or encyclopedia than a game. It really can double as an instructional tool for the sport and I wouldn’t be surprised to see paintball numbers soar at shops around the country.
Greg Hastings' Tournament Paintball may or may not appeal to traditional FPS gamers. It definitely is a lot slower with more tactics than many gamers are used to unless you play a lot of Tom Clancy games. Just getting used to the arcing paint pellets took me hours of trial and error.
The game is also a bit light in the single-player aspect, so if you don’t have Xbox Live or don’t like to play games online then you might want to steer clear of Tournament Paintball. But if you are looking for a new spin on the FPS genre rooted in a realistic and increasingly popular sport, you might just want to check this game out.
According to the National Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), participation in the sport of paintball exceeded 9.8 million players in 2003 and has steadily increased every year since 1998. It’s not just a fad for weekend warriors anymore, and Greg Hastings' Tournament Paintball will fill a void for avid paintball enthusiasts and casual video gamers of all ages.