Anyone looking for the best paintball experience on the Xbox should look no further than this game. Though it's definitely a niche genre, Greg Hastings' Tournament Paintball Max'd effectively captures the mix of action and properly using cover in arena paintball. Fans of shooters in general may not really be interested in this game since there aren't any bullets. Still, for anyone going into this game with the expectation that they'll only be playing paintball it's a solid experience with plenty of play options.
After creating your profile name you're able to jump right into Max'd's Career, Exhibition, and Multiplayer modes. In Exhibition you can compete against others or the computer in Elimination, Capture the Flag, or Single Flag competition. For a more engaging single player experience, the Career mode definitely needs to be checked out. Here you'll be able to join in competitions that increase in difficulty across the game's 213 field layouts. As you progress you'll get new gear, teammates, and eventually get to face off against the 14 professionals. On top of that, you'll also get a surprisingly deep multiplayer experience and a map editor.
It May Be Paintball, But You Can Still Get Headshots.
While there may be a variety of modes, the most important component of any game, the gameplay, could still suck. Thankfully, Max'd is able to properly satisfy the urge to coat your opponents in paint with responsive controls and few cool duck and cover options. Once on the field in any of the game's modes you'll be able to dive forward, sprint, switch your gun, or marker as it's called, from hand to hand, and lean out or above stage obstacles. This makes it really easy to successfully hide yourself and lean out at precisely the right moment or sprint at your enemies, dive down, and then shoot them before they have time to react.
In addition to your variety of moves, you'll also be able to command your squadmates to a certain degree. Before a match you'll have the option to layout how your squad will position themselves right after a match starts. You can even set secondary movement objectives and control periods of cover fire that they can provide. After setting your pre-match strategy you'll be able to manipulate team positions once in the game. Pressing the white button allows you to tell your teammates to move up, and you can also get them to assault certain areas. Given that your teammates act in a somewhat intelligent fashion, it's definitely to your advantage to plan team positions and move them around on the battlefield when trying to be the first to capture a flag.
Along the lines of A.I., your opponents prove to be challenging adversaries, though at some points they seem a little further towards the stupid side. For instance, some enemies take questionable cover positions. Generally, though, they'll stick behind cover and pop out occasionally to blast paint at you. As you move your opponents will react by darting between cover points. They're even smart enough to make risky ventures into a flag capture point to try and win the game before your team is eliminated.
At some points we charged into an area of cover to try and surprise an opponent behind it and we found ourselves getting our plastered with color. Our opponent had apparently been smart enough to see us coming, creep along the opposite edge of the obstacle, and then hop around behind us. After surviving the initial wave of massive depression that resulted from being so horribly outmaneuvered by a machine, we have to admit we were impressed to see such sophisticated enemy A.I. in a paintball game. At other times, however, we would fire several missed shots at enemies and they wouldn't notice us.
When you are hit in the single player game the option to cheat becomes available. While this may seem unfair to some, it definitely lessens the degree of frustration in single player modes. A timed mini game pops up on the screen when you get splattered and you'll need to stop a moving cursor at a specific point in order to have the hit be counted as a miss. If you do you'll move on. If you time it improperly you'll either be knocked out or even take a huge penalty like losing several of your teammates. You don't need to cheat in Max'd, but it's a nice feature and balanced with its share of negative outcomes.
Another feature is the range of things you can do in career. By winning tournaments you'll be able to accumulate experience points as well as credits that can be put towards new markers, clothing, carrying harnesses, and a bunch of other items. Yet despite the apparent depth, this mode still gets old after a while. Though you can progressively hire more teammates and improve your skills across 29 tournaments, each tournament eventually starts to blend into the one before it. This is primarily because each map is very similar. Granted they differ aesthetically, but mostly each map is a small arena with inflatable obstacles or piles of wood among other things. After a while, they all start to feel the same. Also, it's difficult to get a sense of how your skills are improving and how your movement is affected by weight. You can tell what improvements are being made based on what the game tells you, but actually feeling the difference while playing proves to be a more evasive matter.
Shoot Your Friends. It's Fun.
The feel of you marker in Max'd is yet another strong point. Even with crap equipment and low skill rankings, you'll still get a reliable cone of fire where you're aiming. It's not like you'll be nailing targets with laser-like precision, but you won't be missing your opponents at point blank range. As might be expected, it's more difficult to be precise at longer distances, but the paintball trajectories remain well within the domain of reason, unlike in other games.
If you're buying this game then you'll want to be able to play over Live, since that's where you'll be spending most of your time. Max'd's multiplayer component is definitely the game's strongest point. It lets you play in all its game types and in addition provides a tool for creating special teams whose collective and individual rankings are tracked in an online leaderboard. It's definitely a great way to experience this game and fully put to the test all the different movement and shooting tactics available. From what we got to play our opponents were diving all over the place, trying to outflank and outmaneuver as sheets of paintballs flew by in the open areas. It was definitely a much more intense experience than in Career, and we had a hard time heading back to the single player portion of the game.
The game's graphics aren't going to win any awards, but they're smooth and do a good job at bringing Max'd's arenas to life. There isn't much movement in the player models and some of the game's textures are boring. The gun models, too, aren't overly detailed, but they have some nice reflections in them and the different parts you have equipped are represented onscreen when you change parts. Perhaps the most noticeable graphical feature is the fact that your first person view is encircled by your goggles, giving you a better sense of immersion. There are some flashy lighting effects, but overall the graphics are tame.
Players will occasionally shout and the announcer that chimes in at certain points is easy enough to listen to. The game's soundtrack is decent, incorporating music from actual recording artists that accompanies the gameplay appropriately. Mostly, though, you'll just be hearing the repetitive pops of your gun.
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