|Greg Hastings' Tournament Paintball Max'd (2005)
Available for: Xbox
To many, paintball is one big gimmick, but to a select few, the adrenaline-pumping action sport is one of the fastest growing games in the world. Complete with international tournaments, big-name sponsors, and their very own poster boy (Greg Hastings), it’s really no surprise that a video game emulation has finally hit shelves. What is surprising, however, is that “Greg Hastings’ Tournament Paintball Max’d” is one of the most entertaining guilty pleasures of the year. Billed as a sequel to the previously released “Greg Hastings” title, “Max’d” is nothing more than a tricked-out edition that offers a few new features, locations, and markers, but still delivers on everything you could want in a first-person shooter, and at a bargain price.
If you’ve never played tournament-style paintball before, the concept is pretty simple, but it may not be as straightforward as you think. For instance, the style of play doesn’t include running around the woods in full camo, but rather involves an enclosed “speed field” with anywhere between six to fourteen players playing at once. These speed fields are usually about 100 yards long and feature various bunkers littered throughout, and though there are many variations of tournament play, but the most prominent forms show up in “Max’d”: Elimination (shoot all of the opponents to win), Center Flag (shoot opponents and collect the center flag to score points) and Capture the Flag (a flag is placed at each end of the field; the same rules above apply). These are the three styles of tournament play that you’ll experience while making your way through the game’s Career Mode, and as you progress, you’ll also be given the chance to recruit new (and better) players, purchase gear, and improve your skills.
And just like real-life paintball, “Max’d” also gives you the chance to cheat. When your player is hit, a circular Cheat Meter pops up in the bottom corner of your screen with varying levels of both positive and negative results. Depending on when the necessary button is pushed, you can get lucky with a ball bounce, or even successfully wipe the paint before a referee sees you. Press it at the wrong time, though, and you could be called out, along with one or three other members of your team. Taking into account that you’ve mastered the “Madden” field goal/punting technique, you shouldn’t have too much trouble staying in the game, but the more times you evade elimination, the faster the meter moves; so be careful.
The newest features added to “Max’d” offer a more comprehensive experience, but if you already own the original version, it may not be worth dipping into your piggy bank a second time for. Sure, it’s nice to see more field options, listen to new music, and have the option of playing split screen co-op with a friend, but none of these are necessary additions. Instead, the biggest change comes in the form of strategy and creativity. Along with a field editor that allows you to build your very own paint park, the Breakout Manager is perhaps the most useful feature. Instead of going into a match-up blind, with no preconceived idea of what your computer teammates are going to do, the Breakout Manager lets you plan a pre-match strategy. On top of that, you can also bark out voice commands (“Move,” “Look” and “Attack”) to your teammates during the match with the press of a button. It’s nice to have control over the computer for once, because let’s face it, video game A.I. isn’t all what it’s cracked up to be.
The icing on top of all this pretend killing goodness, of course, is the game’s Online Mode, but unlike most first-person shooters, which seem to rely on a strong online community, “Max’d” is the complete opposite. You shouldn’t completely dismiss playing on Xbox Live, though, despite the erratic lag and the lack of any distinctive features, but it certainly finishes second to playing through the Career Mode on your own. It’s in the single-player campaign where you’ll get to stock up on all of your favorite gear (which you normally wouldn’t be able to afford) and play alongside paintball superstars like Hastings. That alone is worth the thirty dollar price tag.