Tribes: Vengeance Review

The Tribes games have always been designed for multiplayer play, but the latest game in the series, Tribes: Vengeance, provides a single player campaign as well. I know what you’re thinking, the single player component of games designed for online play are usually, well, underwhelming to say the least. Well Vengeance has a little surprise in store for you – the single player campaign is actually quite good. In fact, the game is worth buying just for the single player component. Don’t worry; it’s not a sign of the apocalypse. Instead it is a blessing for Tribes fans and action gamers alike.

I’m going to create a sacrilege here – I’m going to lead a review of a multiplayer online shooter by telling you about its single player campaign. That’s because unlike other such games where the single player aspect deserves no more than a footnote or passing mention at the end of a review, Vengeance’s single player campaign is actually a pretty good one – although you’ll have to put up with some really long load times and a few overly difficult missions. The campaign follows the story of the conflict between the Empire and its royal family and the rebel outcasts known as the Tribes. You’ll get to play as several different key characters at a key time in the conflict. Suffice it to say that not everything is as it seems and that as the campaign unfolds the dividing line between Empire and Tribe will blur and intertwine. The campaign game is filled with plenty of cutscenes to relate the story, but it definitely feels episodic in nature. The reason for this is that while it is a great way to create a richer backstory for what is primarily a multiplayer game, the campaign is essentially an extended tutorial. During the course of the campaign you’ll get a chance to gain experience with the various weapons, armors, vehicles, and game types found in the multiplayer game. This doesn’t mean that you’ll be spending all of your time battling bots in multiplayer arenas, although there are some missions like that. There is actually a wide variety of environments in the campaign from the interior of starships to underground caverns, so you won’t really feel that you’re just prepping your skills before going online.

A level from the single player campaign.

Once you complete the campaign the multiplayer action awaits, and it is the online battles that are at the heart of the game. Up to 32 players can compete in a match and all of your opponents will be human as there are no bots in the game. The battles in Tribes have a different feel to them than in most multiplayer shooters because of some features unique to the game.

The first of these is that all players are equipped with jetpacks. The jetpack can be fired at any time to give you a speed boost, an extended leap, or to send you soaring across the map. You can generate quite a bit of speed and loft with an extended burn, but your pack has a limited supply of energy. Burn through it all and your jetpack will cut off and you’ll need to give it a chance to recharge before it is at full strength again. You need to be careful not to burn through your energy when you’re high off the ground or you will be in for a nasty fall. Of course you’ll still be able to fire your weapons while aloft, so Tribes features some very exciting aerial dueling. It takes some skill to hit flying targets while you yourself are airborne, so if you’re a shooter newbie who has trouble hitting stationary targets as it is you’ll probably find the action too fast and challenging. On the other hand, action gamers will love the faster and more challenging gameplay created by a seemingly innocuous accessory, i.e. the jetpack.

Another feature unique to Tribes is your ability to “ski.”. No, you don’t strap on the boards and hit the slopes in the game. Rather a press of the space bar will remove the friction from your feet allowing you to sail down slopes in the terrain. This obviously allows you to move a lot faster on the ground, but it also opens up a number of maneuvers when combined with the jetpack. For example, you can fire off the jetpack while you have skiing engage and use an upslope as a ramp to launch you on a high speed trajectory. Or you can ski right into and through an enemy base, grabbing the flag before they can even see you coming.