XBOX REVIEW: GREG HASTINGS' TOURNAMENT PAINTBALL

I laughed out loud when I heard that bowlers considered themselves athletes. Never mind that they are actually lobbying for it to become an Olympic sport. What's next? Olympic videogaming?

Perhaps the next best thing to Olympic videogaming is the result of a first-person shooter combined with a sport. Greg Hastings' Tournament Paintball is both a shooter and a sport. It's non-violent fun for the entire family. But it's challenging enough to frustrate even the most ardent of hardcore shooting fans, especially in the online tournament modes where you can compete with some of the best in the world.

Paintball features two teams in a war. The only weapons that can be used are paintball guns which are loaded with paintball pellets that explode on contact, thus tagging the enemy. They are non-lethal but leave an indelible print on the victim marking him or her to be taken out of play. The paintballs do smart when you get hit and that's why protective gear is worn to cover the eyes and other sensitive parts.

As much as I didn't think this game would hold any interest for me I was surprised at how well the format adapted itself to the console. All of the matches take place in confined areas, both inside and outdoors, so immediately we have an arena with predetermined boundaries which is something videogame programmers love. There are all kinds of obstacles that offer cover, so the game takes on more of a strategic challenge in confined areas as opposed to a run-and-gun style of gameplay with huge levels. Lots of time will be spent hiding while keeping tabs on your enemies which are also taking cover. You have to be careful when you make a move because the enemy is also keeping a close eye on you.

Controls enable you to duck, crawl, crouch and dive. These commands will have to become second nature to you. The better you do in the games the more experience points you will earn. You will also acquire top-of-the-line equipment. Unfortunately you can't take your highly developed character and high-tech equipment online. In some ways this may be disappointing but it means that you can go online immediately without having to build your character and possibly getting smeared by opponents just because they may have played the single-player game longer than you.

I didn't know that there were professional paintball players. Do they hang out at the same club with Olympic bowlers? In any case, there are some professionals that you can choose to play on your team. There are 39 other characters that you can choose from, and you will have to choose a handful of them for your team in the single-player modes. The online modes allow up to 14 players and as long as you've got a good connection you won't have to worry about any lag. As you might expect the modes include variations of deathmatch and capture the flag.

Aiming takes some practice since the physics are very close to real life. The paintball is a large projectile and will therefore be more susceptible to resistance and gravity. You will have to set your sights higher for longer shots.

Cheating is not only allowed but it's encouraged. At the instant that you get hit you have a split second to wipe the paint off yourself. You must do this while the meter is still in the green section. It's like getting an extra lease on life if you can manage it. If you're too slow you could be penalized for cheating. Oh the humiliation…

The presentation of this game is average, right across the board. The animation, the environments, the sound effects and the music remind me of a budget title. At least the gameplay is above average and that's aided by the solid mechanics which allows us good control and great line of sight.

Load up your guns and get ready to paint the town, or someone, red.


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System: XBOX
Dev: WXP
Pub: Activision
Released: Nov 2004
Players: 1 - 14 Online
Review by Stew XX
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
3.0
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
2.5
VALUE
3.5