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7/4/2004: Starsiege:Tribes & Tribes 2 [>> Go]

    Tribes and Tribes 2 are online multiplayer first-person shooter games that were first released in 1998 and 2001, respectively. That makes them practically ancient in terms of graphics technology. But the publisher, Vivendi Universal, is now giving them away for free in order to promote the next game in the series, Tribes:Vengeance. While these games don't have the visual quality or popularity of games made within the last year, neither do they have the monster-rig hardware requirements of recent games, meaning that if you've got an older computer (like my oft-mentioned 5-year-old P3/500) you can actually play them. And, they're available for free - you can't say that about Painkiller, Far Cry, or Max Payne.

    First, some info about the games. Like most (all?) first-person shooters, you run around shooting things. Tribes offers a single-player training mode that briefly takes you through using weapons, vehicles, the "command view", equipment/ammo/control stations, and the varying game types (capture-the-flag, free-for-all, etc.). Once you're comfortable with the basics, you go online (high-speed Internet recommended) and join multiplayer games with other people (or host your own game, which lets you pick things like the type of game, map, number of players, etc.). Tribes is inherently team-based (hence the use of the term "tribes"), so in many of the games you join, you're part of a team working against the other team (to shoot them, capture their flag, secure more control points than they do, etc.); but classic deathmatch (free-for-all) is also available. (An interesting note is that Tribes had drivable vehicles long before Unreal Tournament 2003, which often seems to get the credit for such an innovation.) PlanetTribes.com has a little more information about the two games, but since manuals aren't provided in the downloads (discussed below), it's a little hard to come by good information on the hows and whys of playing Tribes.

    Tribes can be downloaded from FilePlanet.com or directly from Sierra (135MB download each). You should also download the 1.11 patch (also from Sierra or FilePlanet.com) so that you've got all the latest updates to the program. Tribes 2 is supposed to be downloadable from FilePlanet.com, but I've never actually been able to get it because FilePlanet says that they've run out of keys and are working to get more (and therefore, they've disabled the download as well). There appears to be a separate page set up specifically for people who got the June 2004 issue of Computer Gaming World magazine with CD-ROM (which contained Tribes 2) here at FilePlanet, but all that gives you is a CD key, not a download. I've received a CD key using this second site, so if I can ever find a place to download the actual program, I'll be able to install it and try it; but for now, all I've seen is Tribes, and that's what all the information in this review is based on. Hopefully FilePlanet and Vivendi will get things figured out, so keep your eye on that FilePlanet page, or find someone who got the June CD-ROM that came with Computer Gaming World magazine and install it from there.

    I think this is a really great and under-used idea - give away old games to promote new ones. Every year, hundreds of new games are released; in 12 months, most will have disappeared from store shelves and never be heard from again. Usually, games even 1 year old use such antiquated technology that nobody will buy them, save perhaps in the clearance bin or $10 rack of your local software store. It seems like there is a point when a game will sell absolutely no more copies; once a game reaches that, why not give it away? This is the first example I've seen of this kind of promotion, but I hope it's not the last.

©2017 Tyler Chambers