Tribes: Aerial Assault
By: Matt C. on October 13, 2002
With TimeSplitters 2's online mode getting axed due to the lack of time and resources, many PlayStation 2 owners who weren't into realistic shooters like SOCOM U.S. Navy Seals were worried that they would have to wait until at least next year to get their online FPS fix. Luckily, Sierra and Inevitable has come through with the PlayStation 2 version of Tribes.
Tribes: Aerial Assault is easily the deepest and most complex online FPS game ever to be released on a console. Based on the popular PC series, Aerial Assault gives you a buttload of different configurations to choose from. For example, you can choose to have light armor, which naturally allows you to move quickly but makes you venerable to powerful weapons; medium armor, which makes your character move a tad slower but it allows you to take more punishment; and heavy armor, which makes you move painfully slow, but allows you to take a lot more damage and carry the most powerful weapons in the game.
It doesn't end there though. Once you choose your armor class, you must decide on which secondary equipment you want (such as a portable shield generator, a repair kit, an energy pack for longer flights in the air, etc.) and which weapons you want to start with. Personally, I just love all the different ways I can tweak my character. Fortunately, you don't need to exit the match you are in if you decide that you want choose different equipment.
To maker matters even better, Inevitable was able to fit the massive environments famous to the series from the PC version into the PS2's small amount of VRAM. Although I do have a tiny complainant that all of the levels use the same basic texture sets (snow, lava, plains or desert), most of the maps are well designed. And if you are wondering if it is easy to get lost in the huge levels, the answer is "no". Every map has tiny triangles that make finding your base/flag (or the enemy base/flag) a snap. However, if you find yourself stranded without a vehicle, it can take you several minutes to reach your destination, even with the aid of your jetpack.
Despite the massive levels, Aerial Assault still has a nice draw distance. In most cases, you can see enemies approaching from several hundred meters away. Aerial Assault is not exactly a pretty title, but this is expected with a game with such large battlegrounds.
Tribes: Aerial Assault can be played online with dial-up or broadband connections. With broadband, you'll obviously have the opportunity to play full 16 player matches (bots can fill in the empty spaces if necessary) -- assuming that the host has at least a high end DSL connection. There will be occasional lag in broadband games, but everything should remain fairly smooth. I also tested Aerial Assault using a dial-up connection and everything turned out surprisingly well. If you connect at 33600 bps or more, you should be fine with playing 3 other dial-up users. However, many of you may find this hard to believe, but I was able to play a full 10 player battle using dial-up. Sure, there was a delay when I fired my weapon, but everything turned out very well and I still managed to rack up a nice amount of kills and flag returns in a very short period of time. Of course, if you want to do this, you need to join a game where everyone else is using cable, DSL, T1, or T3. Otherwise, don't even bother trying.
Aerial Assault may have an enjoyable online mode, but the thing that practically ruins the whole experience is the lack of communication between other players. Even if you attach a USB keyboard to the PS2, it is still not possible to communicate with other players. Forget about setting up different strategies with other members of your team or taunting players after you just capture the flag. Perhaps I've been spoiled by SOCOM's headset feature, but this is totally unforgivable. An FPS game such as Aerial Assault should have some kind of method of USEFUL communication. The only thing you can do is say predetermined negative and positive comments. The only redeeming feature is that two human players can share one PS2 system to go online using a horizontal splitscreen view. You can obviously execute different plans with a friend sitting in the same room as you.
Tribes: Aerial Assault may have a lot more multiplayer options than SOCOM, but in my opinion, Sony's military shooter is still a much more enjoyable game in the long run. However, if you are not into realistic shooters, you should definitely give Aerial Assault a look. People who are looking for a deep single player experience should look elsewhere in TimeSplitters 2 or Red Faction II because you'll sure as hell not find it here.
Graphics: 6 Sound: 6 Music: 7 Replay Value: 8
Overall Score: 7.4 (Good)
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