Greg Hastings Paintball 2 Review
Outside in the woods drenched with rain, shots fly by my head. A single splash of paint on the tree trunk in front of me followed by a barrage alerts me to the enemy position. I lean out from behind the trunk, look across the under branch growth of bushes and moss, and open fire. This is combat, with everything but the bullets. And oh yeah, it's on the Wii so when a paintball slips through the leaves and hits me in the mask I don't feel a thing.
At first I felt drawn into Greg Hastings Paintball 2, hoping to deck my team out with nice new shinies by winning lots of tournaments. But unfortunately for Greg Hastings, who is a real professional paintball player, this game is pretty bad once the thin varnish wears off. Yet even though the graphics are out of date, the voice-overs are cheesy, the music is annoying, and the game play is limited to three game modes, GHP2 nonetheless provides a few hours of fun by capitalizing on the idea that paintball is a fun game generally.
Despite the paintball gun's ammo tank (the hopper) taking up a third of my screen, I was able to get some kills in my first few rounds. But after another round or two I realized that the graphics look appropriate for N64, maybe even PlayStation, but not a current generation console. I don't usually count bad graphics against a game, especially on the Wii, (The Conduit had much cleaner weak graphics, at least), but for GHP2 I'll make an exception. Because this is a first person shooter, tight and clean graphics determine many game play factors, and I found my experience hindered by the lack of variation and decade old texture style. There are a few distinct climates, but within those climates it all just looks like one colorful blob most of the time. Being on the field isn't much fun after awhile, since it always seems to be the same. Additionally, people look almost identical, varying only in height, width, and belly size. There might be a distinct female texture. Strong gun and other gear designs nearly make up for this overarching shortcoming, but realistically none of the accessory graphics really matter. Without clean graphics or expansive game modes, GHP2 falls far short of an immersive first-person shooter.
Online play pretty much doesn't exist, since there never seems to be anyone else looking to play a round, so I spent most of my time in career mode. After starting a career, naming a team, and spending way too much time customizing my team emblem (which just ended up being a blue smiley face), I played and won my first match. This mode requires commitment to a roster of real paintball players (but no custom made players), gear, and all of the other unlockable doodads. There are three different game play types, including Woodsball, Speedball, and Recball (which are all real terms). In each of these modes my team progressed to about the fourth of maybe 15 rounds in each game type before the difficulty went up. By that point I had pretty much stopped caring, however, because I was constantly distracted by the game's horrible sound.
The music in GHP2 is little more than generic power guitar songs that quickly deserve muting. The gun sounds are authentic, but the absolutely worst part about being on the field is the character voice-overs. These are so poorly implemented that I often was startled to hear a series of the exact same voice-over coming from different characters. This is quite disturbing. There are often other voice-overs (presumably by Greg Hastings and his buddies) that play at the beginning of certain matches, but the voices sound canned and I quickly wanted to make them stop. Additionally, the non-player characters on the field constantly talk about stuff going on, but none of it is really useful. Combine the lame NPC commentary with the game's incredibly weak AI system, and you've got teammates that hop in the line of fire, get shot and eliminated then say Hey, man, I thought you were covering me! three times.
Another lackluster feature is the interface, which is true to the pseudo-military style of paintball culture: lots of black, grids, and motion. In the loading screens between team configuration and game play, which are quite brief actually, the game provides a random fact and accompanying picture about the history of paintball, stretching back to the 80s with the first teams. Though all of the information is encased in shameless advertising for Tippman, Spyder, and a website called X3.com), it's rather interesting. Overall the interface is simple enough, but the shop is in a weird place (you have to edit someone's inventory to buy items) and for some reason I often ended up exiting menus that I meant to advance. Navigating through the interface and customizing everything can also be a bit frustrating depending on which controller style used.
Additionally, settings are basic and include camera sensitivity, volume controls, pointer configuration, and most importantly, controller selection. I found that the Classic Controller Pro provided the most natural way to play, since pointing at the screen in any Wii first person shooter is pretty unstable and annoying. Using the Wii Zapper makes no sense, since many of the important controls are on the face of the Wii Remote, in the most awkward of positions; no matter what, actually, the button layout is a bit awkward. While it's impressive that GHP2 has so many controller options, the button layout is not explained through an obvious diagram (you have to dig for this) and none of the controls seem completely intuitive. Navigating the field is pretty awkward no matter what, which just adds another layer of paint over this lackluster game.
With all these detrimental features, it is hard to figure out why I spent as much time playing this game as I did. Perhaps it was the need to look for some redemptive quality in the latter stages of the game (this search failed) but I think it was simply because paintball is a fun game in real life, so a video game about paintball is guaranteed to be at least some fun. Someone who loves paintball but can't afford the equipment and the ammo might enjoy the game for awhile, but I can't even imagine fan boys sticking with this game for long when there are so many other solid first-person shooters available for the Wii.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.