Reviewed by BlackMage
Some of our recreational games have been called allegories for war. From football to chess, and board games like Risk, each diversion focuses on conflict and the elimination of an opposing threat. In college, I often played paintball, and although the terms were anesthetized (guns were markers, while burning was akin to covering fire), the sport was the closest most civilians would get to a real infantry battle.
In 2004, Activision released Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball for the Xbox. The game offered an alternative to Halo 2, by offering a competent recreation of both tourney play, with a woodsball backdrop. While the game was enjoyable, it suffered from a lack of depth, and shortage of options. Four years later, Activision has returned to the field with NPPL Championship Paintball 2009. Is this game an improvement upon the original, or is it destined for a quick trip to the deadbox?
Once the player selects a character, there are five modes of play: career mode, quick play, exhibition mode, dynasty training skills and also a field creator. Career offers players the ability to evolve your team’s abilities through a succession of speedball tournaments. Additionally, success allows the player to buy different equipment, although we noticed little performance difference between the default and more expensive gear. Both quick play and exhibition allow the eager player to quickly drop into a match; exhibition allows play on five woodsball maps, as well as the title’s user-generated maps
Player use the left analog stick to move, while the right stick is used to adjust marker aim. Shoulder buttons are used to sprint, snap to objects, and fire the marker, while the d-pad is used to issue commands to the your teammates. While the main control scheme was functional, the game’s use of a context-based ‘A’-button gave me sporadic problems. While the usual function of the button is a slide or dive maneuver, it is also used to jump over smaller obstacles. About ten percent of the time, the game did not recognize my desire to jump over a barrier, putting us in danger.
NPPL’s artificial intelligence is painfully inadequate and underdeveloped. During matches, CPU-led enemies tended to stay close together and move predictably from one side of the screen to another. In single player Capture the Flag matches, foes wouldn’t show any defensive flag guarding behaviors, making the scenario painfully easy. Although the player can set breakout routes for AI players before the start of every round, these strategies seldom factored into successful for the player. For multiplayer matches to remain lag-free, players may have to add in a few bots within the rosters. In general, I found a scarce amount of players on Xbox Live; although the players I did encounter played the title heavily.
Graphically, the title is marginally better than last-gen’s Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball. While the facemask border that surrounded the player’s perspective is now optional, and markers take up a reduced amount of screen real-estate, fields textures and player modes are of similar quality. Clearly, the high point is the represenation of the obstacles which look suprizingly photorealistic. Sonically, the developers nailed the distinctive sound of paintballs leaving the marker barrel, however the voiceover work from Team Dynasty is delivered unenthusiastically.
Overall, paintball aficionados may appreciate NPPL Championship Paintball 2009 despite its flaws; currently no other recreation of the sport exists. Fans of first-person shooters seeking an alternative to Call of Duty or Halo 3 would likelier be happy putting fifty dollars toward the purchase of actual paintball equipment, rather than buying this game.