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Combat Evolved - The Tactical FPS Rides Again

Posted by Ozzallos Saturday October 30 2010 at 5:15PM
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For many fans of the genre, it was like a dream come true. After seeing a number of posers take wild stabs at the tactical first person shooter arena, hearing the news of a Tribes MMO has left myself and others all but salivating. For those unfamiliar with the Tribes franchise, you'll have to set the wayback machine to the 90s and the Sierra/Dynamix Earthsiege universe. The background story is largely unimportant these days, though the game's mechanics were ground breaking in the day.

Amazingly, they still are.

Tribes consists of open field warfare across a relatively vast area, pitting two teams against each other in what are today considered relatively common place scenarios. Capture the flag, domination, capture and hold, last man standing, etc. The meat of the game, however, lay in what you could do within these scenarios. Every player could choose an armor type (light/med/heavy) which in turn determined what sort of weapons and utility pack you could equip. This in turn, defined your role on the team; be it flag runner to engineer, or even heavy artillery.

You n00bs thinking 'Team Fortress' can GTFO. The depth inherent in the Tribes system was staggering for a FPS, nor was it something you could simply jump into. The franchise is the literal definition of a "sandbox" game, where players can wander the landscape at will, choosing any role they desired based on a combination of weapons, armor and packs. That's not even counting the deployable unit options players could draw upon-- Everything from the dreaded laser turrets to jammers, motion sensors, remote cameras, etc. No game before or since has been able to pull off such an ambitious tactical environment.

But there is one that tried.

...And unless I missed my guess, they aim to assault that lofty peak yet again.

Nearly everybody reading this knows the name Halo and its developer Bungie. As of the moment, their franchise is the undisputed king of console first person shooters, and rightfully so. They make a damn fine single and multi-player game; a trend that has persisted to this day. When it debuted on the Xbox, it was a ground breakingly epic, but what fewer knew is that it almost wasn't. Not only that, but what you see as Halo today wasn't what Bungie had originally intended for the franchise.

That's the story.

Like Tribes nearly a decade after its advent, the first iteration of Halo was intended to be an open terrain tactical FPS. That particular aim fell by the wayside once Microsoft bought Bungie out, likely due to the constrains of the first generation XBox hardware and target audience. I can't particularly fault them for it either... I remember every glorious moment of play myself. Even so, it would appear as if the TFPS is coming full circle.

For those not following the news, Bungie has signed with Activision-Blizzard to partner on... Something. Baseless speculation aside, it's tough to ignore a convergence of skills and events. On one hand, we have the aging World of Warcraft franchise. Sorry peeps; you can only slap so many new coats of paint on before your realize your 70's Pinto is still a 70's Pinto. On the other hand we have Bungie that, like Id, has traditionally only done one thing and one thing only: Make first person shooters. From Marathon to Halo, you can all but bet that whatever Bungie produces it's going to be some flavor of FPS. There have always been rampant speculation on the possibility of a Starcraft MMO, and who better than to fulfill that wishful thinking than a company that has all but already done it? Finally, there's the sudden resurrection of the Tribes franchise, lingering on the edge of death only to brought back through a series of events completely unrelated to anything I've mentioned so far.

Of course, all of this could be wild and fantastic speculation. It probably is. But if there's one thing I hope that all these signs point to, it's that the TFPS is on the rise once again. Not this crappy Global Agenda junk or a watered down version ala Team Fortress. Tribes was a game that rivaled most real MMORPGs today. It's general combat area was larger than most of these game's pre-load world zones. They routinely had 32-64 players running around in their "battlegrounds" using their own class system in real time combat, not the quasi turn based mechanics most MMOs- including WoW -use today.

All of that over a decade ago.

I'm dubious as what Tribes can bring to the table. It's a formula that Sierra succeeded with, but it's not longer their IP. But if this is any indication of what Bungie and Blizzard will bring to the table...?

Fucking all in.