Tribes Aerial Assault

Tribes Aerial Assault

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 12/11/2002 for PS2  

Perhaps one of the least overlooked titles of our time was a PC game called Starsiege Tribes. Created by the brilliant minds at the now defunct Dynamix Studios, it turned out to be one of the most addicting games that I had ever come in contact with. It was truly a trailblazer at the time, emphasizing team play as opposed to the uni-centric gameplay of Quake, the game managed to find quite a large core following that remained heavily devoted to the game. Now it heads to the console realm in the form of Tribes Aerial Assault and while the game has since lost some luster, it’s still a highly addictive title that just barely misses the mark.

What makes this game so unique (other than the team play) is the inclusion of a back-mounted rocket pack. When used correctly, it’s the difference maker in the heat of a battle. It’ll help you jump further, strafe quicker, and launch better assaults. When paired with the disc launcher (the game’s signature weapon) it can form one deadly combination. Just ask Sierra’s Alex Rodberg (aka Marweas), this guy is wicked deadly with the spinfusor, or so he tells me.

This is an addicting game, trust me on this one. When I started to review it I thought I would just put the game through its paces, or so to speak, but I ended up playing the game for the entire night. There I was, reliving my Tribes experience all over again, becoming addicted just like the first time I picked it up, except this time, I was playing with a Dual Shock 2 and not the mouse and keyboard. While some may see this as a negative, the game has aids to help compensate for the inaccuracies. There’s an auto-targeting mode (for those who are less than manly of course) to help you get a bead on your opponent and the game’s hit detection seems to be a bit more forgiving than its PC brethren. In a nice touch, server operators can turn these features off because really, who wants to play in a server where you can nail a flying opponent with the spinfusor?

Weapon variety is excellent, featuring a nice assortment of chainguns, laser rifles (sniper rifle), grenade launchers and gauss rifles. Each of them are useful in a practical manner and they manage to avoid a common FPS pitfall in that they are totally unique from one another. They don’t fall into that trap of being too similar because trust me, the spinfusor and the chaingun don’t have too much in common, except for that whole killing your opponent thing.

As stated, the game heavily placed the emphasis squarely on teamwork and while there are deathmatch-like modes included, they’re not really all that entertaining. The meat of the game lies in the capture the flag mode where you (duh) have to capture (duh) their flag (duh) and return it to (you guessed it) your flag. This would be a commonality if it were in any other game but the flags are concealed within huge bases with defenses. If that weren’t enough, teams can set up their own defenses and deploy objects such as turrets and cameras. Oh and that whole rocket pack thing really makes this game more dynamic too. Have you ever tried to snipe someone as they were flying through the sky in an unpredictable arc? I didn’t think so.
There’s not much of a single-player component, it could very well be the first PS2 game designed with solely online play in mind. What you have is a quasi-tutorial mode against a number of bots. It’s like a skirmish mode where you can get the layout of the maps and learn to spot vantage points. It’s nice though and it will help you get into the game. The addition of bots (which can be used in multiplayer as well) really help flesh out the game, especially when you’re low on players.

The entire visual package just screams Tribes, from the cold-looking buildings to the huge and expansive environments, you won’t soon be mistaking this for Unreal. The game has a very distinct look and flavor to it that really makes it stand out from the competition and while it doesn’t quite look as good as its PC counterpart, it still holds its own on the PS2. It does stutter a bit in the FPS department, chugging along on some areas of the maps and during intense combat but it didn’t bother me too much.

The game’s audio is still quite good and will provide you with the feeling that you really are in the midst of combat. I personally enjoyed it and felt that it accompanied the action quite nicely. One downside though is the lack of headset communicator support, it would have been nice to be able to talk to my teammates. In fact, you can’t talk to them at all unless you use the pre-set commands. Really though, how can I fault the game’s audio department when the designers still managed to include the all too classic, “Shazbot!”

Where does this game falter? It’s just that if you’ve played the PC version you truly have no reason to play this game. Think of it as a sort of dumbed-down version of Tribes and Tribes 2 and you’ll get the picture. It’s an excellent console experience but if you’ve played the PC version, you’ll immediately notice the limitations. For one the player limit has been lowered, while Tribes 1 easily handled 32 players on a dial-up connection (a testament to the game’s excellent network code) the PS2 version has trouble handling 16 players on a broadband connection.

It’s also quite difficult to correlate any sort of plan of attack due to the game’s lack of communication assets. I wish that it supported the headset or at the very least, the USB keyboard. Instead you’re forced to rely on intuition and hope that the other person is thinking the same thing as you.

Tribes is an excellent game, make no mistake about it. It’s a blast to play and if I had to choose between this and Socom, I’d choose Tribes in a heartbeat. The gameplay is much more open-ended and I don’t feel like I’m confined to a tiny little map with nooks and crannies. If you’re in the market to try a fun and innovative game (to console owners anyway) then I’d fully recommend Tribes Aerial Assault. Sure it has its detractors but while they’re busy complaining, you’ll be too busy having a great time to care about what they say.
Excellent squad-based action comes to the PS2 and although it’s marred in a few regions, it’s still an above average experience that caters to all FPS fans. Make sure you have the online adaptor though, this is one time that you won’t wanting to be going solo.

Rating: 7.7 Above Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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