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Friday, June 17, 2011

Review: Greg Hastings Paintball 2 (PSN)

As with many people around the world, I enjoy a good game of paintball. I don’t follow it as a sport – or even truly consider it anything more than a fun pastime – but my friends and I enjoy playing the occasional game at one of the handful of paintball fields around our hometown. Of course, considering the cost and time dedication that is necessary for a game of paintball, we instead spend most of our time playing videogames. Instead of shooting real paintballs at each other, we shoot virtual bullets at each other.

But, hey, Greg Hastings heard that you like gamin’ in yo paintball so he put some paintballin’ in yo game.

Greg Hastings Paintball 2 is actually the third paintball videogame to bear Greg Hastings name, so don’t be confused by the number attached to the end of the title. I’m not entirely sure who Greg Hastings is or whether a professional paintballer should be considered famous enough to warrant a videogame franchise based around him. Of course, we’re still seeing Tony Hawk videogames, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Look out!

That being said, Greg Hastings Paintball 2 is actually an alright game. Majesco, the publisher behind the game, has done a fairly good job of translating the chaotic and tactical nature of paintball to digital gaming media which is something I wasn’t expecting. I’ve always been curious as to how the game of paintball would translate to the videogame industry but have never had the guts to actually buck out and give it a try. Now that I have, I have to admit the game was actually much better than I expected. It certainly isn’t on the same standard as blockbuster titles like Call of Duty or Battlefield but it’s a different beast entirely.

For starters, it’s a much faster-paced game than Call of Duty or Battlefield, though that seems kind of amusing to say. Even now, my subconscious is screaming at me: “A paintball game being faster-paced than a war-based FPS? That’s ridiculous! It’s not like there are any explosions in paintball!” And that’s a fair assessment but, like real-life paintball, many of the matches are over in a matter of a minute or two. After all, they also call it speedball for a reason. Because of the quick nature of the game it’s easy to pick up for a match or two when you’re looking to kill some time. This is a good thing because, even despite its strengths, after playing for any amount of time you start to notice the flaws just beneath the surface.

For starters, the character models are something on par with what we used to see last generation. The movement animations are alright but pale when compared to other first-person shooters of the last year. The hands of the models are particularly annoying, never actually grasping the guns and merely sticking their fingers straight out from around the grip. There aren’t even any facial models; each and every character wears a mask, as per the safety regulations of paintball, but it’s hardly an excuse. The only way to distinguish between different characters is by what they’re wearing, their height and the awkwardly polygonal breasts for the female characters.

What? It’s a fair complaint!




The controls for the game are straightforward enough, though the game does utilize a cover system similar to what is in Killzone 2 and 3; pulling down on L2 allows you to pop in and out of cover by moving the left stick. It’s a pretty intuitive system that works well for the sort of cover-based tactics inherent in paintball. The computer AI for the opposing teams seem to be fairly decent, though the AI for your team is more of a hit-and-miss affair, spending equal time doing nothing and completely owning the other team. More than once I’ve had a single AI teammate get four eliminations in a row in one match and then get eliminated within seconds of starting the next. Of course, neither AI compares to the skill of the human mind so, as long as you play smart, you should be fine.

There’s also a command system where you can give orders to your teammates. It’s a very rudimentary system with only three different commands – defend, move to and attack – but it works well for what it is. The unfortunate thing is that because each match is over so quickly, the command system seems almost unnecessary; you barely have time to even think about giving orders before the match is over and done.

Playing the game, you can either partake in regular Exhibition games or you can embark on a Career mode that has you recruiting actual paintball professionals and winning money at tournaments around the United States that you can then spend on equipment and physical training for your team. There’s also quite a number of different game modes built into the game that you can choose from, and there are a plethora of lovingly recreated paintball fields from real arenas around the States, so you’re never at a loss for things to do.

Probably the best thing about the game is the paintballs themselves. You can tell that Majesco spent a great deal of time making sure the paintballs in-game moved like paintballs do in real life; never will two shots hit the exact same spot, and it truly is intimidating to see dozens of paintballs flying over your head while you cower behind a bunker. The balls arc like they do on an actual field, so you always have to compensate for wind and gravity when shooting at targets further away. Some of the hit detection seems a bit off, especially when you get up close and personal with an opponent, but perhaps that’s just the frantic nature of paintball bleeding through the controller.

Capture the flag is a staple in paintball.

There are some entertaining additions -- like how your screen will start to fog up if you sprint while running, simulating how your goggles actually fog in a real game. Likewise, the ability to switch which shoulder your gun is on is helpful when hiding behind cover. There's even a slide and a dive animation built into the game, allowing you to quickly maneuver around the field.

Unfortunately, the entertaining things are often tempered with the frustrating, such as how the voice acting is pretty mediocre and the music is repetitive and contrived. The Career mode, while seeming robust, is very simplistic and a bit tedious after a while. It’s entertaining to see all the different paintball fields from around the States, ranging from famous fields in Boston to grand spectacles in Hawaii, but the character and team development isn’t even worth bothering with.

All in all, Greg Hastings Paintball 2 is an entertaining diversion. It's not the best, but it's hardly the worst game you could buy. Of course, with a $20 price tag this game is for paintball enthusiasts or for the people who like paintball but would rather stay at home; at that price, I simply cannot recommend it for anyone else. Just like real paintball, though, it’s always more fun with friends so make sure, if you do pick it up, to call a friend over and hand him that extra controller. 

Otherwise, you’d be better off playing Call of Duty.

(Reviewed on PSN. Greg Hastings Paintball 2 is also available for Xbox Live and Wii.)

- Nick J.



Review: Greg Hastings Paintball 2 (PSN)
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