Back when I was a teenager, I heard of many little events in Central Illinois that a bored teen such as me could partake in that the country boys loved to death. One of those activities was paintball, and despite my early skepticism, I really enjoyed the experience. Well, I enjoyed it until my dad (a former member of the US armed forces) shot me right between the eyes before I could even see him. However, I never really expected for someone to actually try and turn the event into a video game, figuring that more mainstream sports would simply fit better. Now, Greg Hastings Paintball 2 has crossed my Xbox 360, and is begging for my review. So, how does it do? Is it everything a gamer could hope for, or is it a trumpeting biffer?
From a technical standpoint, the first issue that you as a gamer will notice is how basic the graphic designs are. Though the term is often thrown about too much by critics, the graphics in Greg Hastings Paintball 2look incredibly dated. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that an original Xbox console could probably run this game based on the visual content. Player models are incredibly basic, as are any textures and environments that you may go into. Though there is a wide array of wardrobe choices for the aforementioned player models, none of them are really detailed enough to really mention here. The same goes for any sort of environment. Frankly, the game is simply ugly to look at, and I’m honestly shocked as to how haphazardly slapped together it all looks.
However, to the game’s credit it does have some saving graces in this department. Though the menu music can get fairly repetitive, the in-game sounds sound authentic. When you slide along the grass, or fire your paintball gun, or reload your paintballs, the corresponding sound effect sounds very good. So, that element of the game is very well put together. However, one thing that made me chuckle was some of the spoken word from the NPC’s in-match. I caught a couple of my teammates yelling something to the tune of “Oh, fudge!” or “Why did I do that?” Since my adult mind immediately went to more profane thoughts, I found it a little jarring. However, you have to do what you can to meet the rating, so it’s forgivable. I’d have honestly just preferred frustrated grunts or groans, but that’s personal preference.
Another item to the game’s credit is that the maps are fairly well designed. Each one gives an adequate amount of cover to the player during a firefight, and allows for decent flanking maneuvers and marginal strategy during gameplay. There are also different climates that the player can play in, with different wind directions and intensities that play into the faux firefights. Equipment also has varying factors depending on weapons and loadouts, so one may want to switch things around depending on conditions and terrain. So, there is a degree of strategy to the game.
In the realm of gameplay, there is really nothing wrong with Greg Hastings Paintball 2 from a technical standpoint. The frame rate is incredibly steady, and many of the loading times are incredibly swift. From one menu to another, I never found myself waiting very long to get to the next step of gameplay. In comparison to the load times of other games that I have played this generation, Greg Hastings Paintball 2 is incredibly swift. If the player wants to switch from single player to multiplayer, he’s not going to find himself wondering if he has time to cook supper while the game loads up.
Another thing that works to the benefit of the game is the level of customizability. In the single player career, you start out building your own paintball team, and start with base equipment. Each player in the game is an actual paintball player, so if you’re an aficionado, you’ll find yourself being pleased here. After the opening matches, you play through several tournaments to earn cash, unlock tons of gear (such as guns, paint grenades, outfits, CO2 canisters, etc), and then purchase it, customize it, and switch it up as much as you like. If you want to have variance, you can easily equip each teammate with different weapons, depending on what you want them doing.
There is also a degree of tactical control in Greg Hastings Paintball 2, allowing the player to select an overall strategy at the beginning of the match, and then specific orders during gameplay. However, said orders are downright worthless in a fast paced match, and feel a little clunky during matches that aren’t. This game could have learned well from a title like S.W.A.T. 4 or maybe even Rainbow Six when it comes to learning how to integrate tactics into an FPS without it feeling overwhelming, or pointless. Sadly, these lessons were not learned.
General gameplay doesn’t really differ from Career to Multiplayer. Many of the game types are still intact, and you have a large array of game modes to choose from. My personal favorite is one called Blackjack, where you only have 21 shots in your gun, making you pick your shots, or bust once you run out of ammo. But, there are matches like Sniper, where the goal is to pick off certain targets set up on a map, or simple elimination, CTF variants, and control point variants similar to War from the Call of Duty franchise. Essentially, it all feels very familiar, but with a paintball gun rather than an M16a1. So, it gives the player plenty of options, to say the least.
However, Greg Hastings Paintball 2 commits a sin against what could be considered one of the Ten Commandments of Video Game Design. The game is simply not fun to play. In most other video games, there is a feeling of intensity or penalty whenever it comes to loss, but this game completely annihilates it. The biggest example is the “cheat” system. If you’re shot once, you can do a quicktime event to smudge the shot off of your visor. If you miss it, you’re eliminated, but if you do it correctly, you’re back in the match. So, it’s possible to literally be shot, and then the minute your opponent turns to your teammates, you can shoot them in the back like a jerk. There is a penalty system in place for a referee catching you. If you’re caught, then you and a teammate will be thrown out of the match. That would work well if the referee wasn’t cock-eyed. You will never get caught by the ref in this game, because the quicktime event is too easy, and even if you miss it it’s not a big deal. You’ll just take control of another player and start the process over.
Another big issue with the aforementioned lack of penalty is that there seems like there isn’t much penalty for losing. If you’re stomped in a tournament, you can just restart that particular match. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but paintball is a game where you have to be smart, use tactics, and pick your shots, but I found myself spraying paint like I’m Leonardo DaVinci on a three day cocaine bender. That was the main reason I enjoyed Blackjack so much, was due to the tactical element. Another problem is that the AI is awful. There were points where I would play like Duke Nukem, and use the simplest flanking maneuvers to sweep the entire opposing team with little to no effort, and this was against the most difficult opponents!
All in all, Greg Hastings Paintball 2 falters in the technical aspect of the game, but fails utterly when it comes to the fun factor. It’s a very rare case of a video game where a game can do many things right, and only a few things wrong, but the wrong outweighs the right so badly that it completely tips the scales. In this case, it not only tips the scales, but rather makes them fall completely off the table. It’s video game design 101 for a video game to constantly be compelling, but this is a game that could be used to cure insomnia.
However, despite the low score that I’m giving this game, I will say that the franchise has some potential. If the developers can make the game much more visually arresting, coupled with a new focus group of testers from various backgrounds to come in and pick it apart, the series could bounce back big time if it has another installment. If the developers come back with a stronger effort, it may be worth the money. However, even though Greg Hastings Paintball 2 doesn’t retail for as much as a bigger release, I would still say to pass on it completely, and rent it if you’re curious about it. To the credit of the developers, though, the arrow aimed at the sun travels higher than the arrow aimed level to the ground
~ Micah C