With Team Fortress Classic riding ever higher in the online charts, and Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 waiting in the wings, Tribes 2 needs to be good. Real good. Developers Dynamix need to retain the predecessor's breakneck speed and effortless connectivity, and add a raft of new weapons, new factions, new maps and new graphics. And we reckon they've done it.
The most obvious difference between Tribes and Tribes 2 is the way it looks. The rather angular and wishy-washy decor from the first instalment has been replaced by a rich world of textures, remodelled polygons and dynamic weather effects; a deep ocean laps at the beaches of craggy islands, enabling crewed submersibles to approach unchallenged (more about that later); fingers of lightning reach out to tickle the ground far off in the distance, with intense explosions filling the foreground; and as before, there's the seamless transition from interior to exterior environments across 30 or so new levels.
According to Nels Bruckner, lead programmer at Dynamix, all the next-generation visuals are actually based on old code. This means that the widely praised terrain engine has been retained and the frame rate kept high. The only downside is that you need a beefy 3D card and OpenGL drivers in order to experience all the glossy tricks (although by the time the game is released next year that shouldn't be an issue). Dynamix are also looking at supporting 3DNow! and other processor extensions, but won't promise anything.
Things are much the same on the networking side, with existing code being revised rather than rewritten. The only major factor affecting gameplay was the CPU load of the host machine. With the maximum number of players being raised in Tribes 2, Dynamix are working feverishly to optimise the server software. They're also set to release a Linux version of the dedicated host (much like Valve have done with Half-Life) to help boost support in the UNIX community, and a Macintosh version to increase the user base. There's also a chance that the new game will come bundled in the same box as Starsiege Universe 2, as per the previous version, although Sierra aren't committing themselves.
What is certain is that it will be much easier for new players to get into things. This means faster, easier access to servers, plus new training missions and a practice mode. Rumours abound that a single-player game will feature intelligent bots roaming the landscape to provide a fun alternative to a huge phone bill.
Making their first appearance in Tribes 2 are a new faction called BioDerms, a genetically engineered race of human slaves whose ultimate goal is to destroy mankind. Like the others, they have access to three armour classes and the standard weapons set (due to be expanded by five or so new guns). Real-time voice communication is also set to make an appearance, although exactly how this will integrate with the game interface and what hardware you'll need to utilise it is still unclear.
New vehicles are currently on the factory floor, and include a two-man dune buggy and a hunter-killer submarine. A different set of physics and realism will be introduced for underwater vehicles, players and weaponry, meaning it's going to be a whole new world down below the waves as well as a whole new world up top. We can't wait.
Download Tribes 2
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features: Single game mode
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2018-12-07 Tribes 2 game added.