You might expect a paintball game to play like a gimmicky, bloodless version of your average first-person shooter. However, if you're familiar with the sport of paintball, you already know that there's much more to it than that. In fact, Greg Hastings' Tournament Paintball and its followup, Greg Hastings' Tournament Paintball Max'd, go to great lengths to present paintball as legitimate sport, with its own rules, culture, products, and players, rather than a dumbed-down imitation of a first-person shooter. That nonword in the title of Greg Hastings' Max'd sounds silly, but it brings with it some much-appreciated new features like team control, voice commands, a map editor, and more course layouts and tournaments than the previous installment in the series.
Max'd is all the fun of paintball, without all the welts and bruises.
As in the original game, Greg Hastings' Tournament Paintball Max'd lets you participate in the lightning-quick sport of tournament paintball. All of the matches are team-based, with three, five, or seven players on each team. The three game modes are elimination, single-flag, and capture-the-flag. All three games play pretty similarly, but they're scored differently. In elimination matches, the objective is to just shoot all the players on the opposing team. That's basically the objective of the flag matches too, because the easiest way to grab a flag is to eliminate the opposing team first, so you can deliver the flag unopposed. In a single-flag match there's one flag in the middle of the course, and one start box on each end of the field. You score points by grabbing the flag and delivering it to the start box on the opposing team's side of the field. In capture the flag, you have to grab a flag from the opposing team's start box and bring it back to your own start box. The first team to secure a flag wins the round, and points are distributed based on how many eliminations and survivors your team had, as well as which team was the first to grab the flag and which was the one to secure it. In the flag match tournaments, both teams score points that add up from round to round, and the team with the most points at the end of a set number of rounds is the winner.
The rules are simple and easy to pick up, even if you've never had any exposure to paintball beyond early-morning showings of Gotcha! on TBS. The focus of tournament paintball isn't on rules (you can blatantly cheat, just as you could in the first game), but on quick moves and smart tactics. The courses are small and are filled with various low, medium, and tall structures to provide cover. Coincidentally, you have three different positions available: prone, crouched, and standing. You can also dive and sprint, which comes in handy when you have to take some evasive action (which you often will). In any given match, you basically run from cover to cover until you find an enemy, and then you just start blasting away with paint. The paintball guns--called markers by those who are in the know about such things--aren't particularly accurate, so the best tactic is to just send as many paintballs as possible at your target and hope that one or two of the balls hit their mark. You can run out of paintballs, but that rarely happens because most rounds don't last longer than 30 seconds, and it isn't irregular for a three-on-three round to end in fewer than 10 seconds.
As simple as it sounds, the game manages to pack a lot of fun and intense action into these short, rapid-fire rounds. The challenge is in anticipating where your opponents will move and using a bit of smart teamwork to outfox your enemies. One of the new features that makes coordinating your efforts on the field easier in Max'd is teammate control. If you have an Xbox communicator headset, you can issue verbal commands to your teammates. You can tell them to attack, move, or focus on a certain area. If you don't have a mic, you can issue commands to your team using the white button on the Xbox controller. By aiming at a teammate and hitting the white button, you can get him or her to move up to the next nearest bunker. By looking at a specific area of the field and hitting the white button, you can tell your team to look at that area. If you just want your team to attack, you can hold the white button for a couple of seconds. It works well, and you'll use these commands often; you'll rely a lot on your team to back you up, and if you don't communicate with them, they'll quickly get eliminated and you'll end up losing the round. Before each match, you can also assign routes to your teammates using the breakout manager. It works sort of like calling plays does in a traditional sports game, and a good breakout plan can mean the difference between victory and defeat.