The original Extreme Paintbrawl was generally considered one of the worst games of the year when it was released in 1998. So we were surprised to find out that although it's four years later, someone decided it would be a good idea to produce a fourth Extreme Paintbrawl game. But we weren't the least bit surprised to find out that this game, like the original, is terrible.
Extreme Paintbrawl 4 is based on the sport of paintball--an exciting game in which real human beings get up from their computers, head out to a paintball range, usually a large outdoor area, divvy themselves up into teams, then shoot at each other with special guns that launch balls of compressed paint. If you get hit, you'll be splattered with paint, and you're considered to be "dead," or out of the match. Though it's a less-than-accurate simulation of real-life military operations, it can be good exercise and great fun. Yet somehow, Extreme Paintbrawl 4 manages to capture all of the aspects of paintballing that aren't fun, and none of the good ones.
For starters, Extreme Paintbrawl 4 looks really bad. The game only has one character model--a guy wearing a helmet and a jumpsuit. It's what you look like, it's what your teammates and opponents look like, and it's blocky and stiffly animated. Extreme Paintbrawl 4's dozen different levels, which range from a snowy field to a movie theater to a dingy prison, all have a rough look to them. Also, many of the indoor levels are extremely dark and difficult to see in. And though some of the game's different areas look decent enough, others have crude, ugly, simplistic textures that look terrible. Each of these areas' different features and objects, like trees, movie theater seats, and latrines are all instantly recognizable for what they are, but they don't look very good.
Extreme Paintbrawl 4 doesn't sound too great, either. You can barely hear most of the game's sound effects--when paintballs are fired, and when they hit home, they sound more like spitballs than anything else. And even though you might expect players to storm down ramps and down corridors, you can barely hear the sound of footfalls in the game. For some reason, Extreme Paintbrawl 4 lets you run, walk, or "sneak," but since running doesn't make much noise, it makes no sense to do anything other than run all the time. Extreme Paintbrawl is modeled after an exciting pastime, so you might expect to hear lots of excited, breathless chatter from your teammates and opponents. Instead, all you'll hear is an occasional grunt and, whenever you or anyone else gets tagged, about two or three variations of a guy saying "I'm out," or "Hit." These unexciting sounds don't seem to fit with the game's loud, guitar-wailing soundtrack, which might've helped provide some real atmosphere in a different game--one that doesn't have blocky stick figures alternately running around or standing stock-still, raising their hands while dispiritedly saying "Hit."
The best thing you can say about the game's poor graphics and sound is that they weren't wasted on an otherwise great game. Extreme Paintbrawl 4 doesn't have the kind of fast-paced, arcade-style pacing of a traditional first-person shooter like Unreal Tournament, nor does it have any of the interesting tactics of a real-world shooter. It plays something like an unrealistic arcade shooter in which you have a single, frustratingly weak weapon and are teamed up with fairly dumb computer-controlled teammates. Most of the game's weapons shoot minuscule paintballs that float and whiff like spitballs--you can upgrade your weapon to a larger, more-powerful paintball gun, but although this can help by increasing your rate of fire and accuracy, it also gets bigger onscreen, and blocks more of your view. This problem is made worse by the fact that Extreme Paintbrawl 4's guns don't actually have a heads-up display to help you target your opponents, presumably to help make the game seem more realistic, though this makes the game a lot more frustrating than it should be. The game also has excruciatingly long weapon reload times, another "realistic" feature that sometimes causes you to run out of ammo just as the game is getting interesting, forcing you to duck out of a confrontation and wait several seconds until you've reloaded.
You can play Extreme Paintbrawl 4 in a quick skirmish mode on any of the game's 12 maps, or in tournament mode, in which you draft a set of teammates and play through different matches in search of cash to recruit better teammates and buy better gear. You also have to make sure you buy enough ammo, because if you don't, you'll be a sitting duck. Your teammates in both skirmish and tournament mode just aren't reliable--very rarely, they'll fan out and win an entire match for you before you can even find your enemies, but more often, they'll block your path in a narrow corridor and may even accidentally shoot you. There's no way to set any kind of behavior patterns for your teammates, or give them any orders. Just like there's no way to adjust your mouse sensitivity past "medium/fast" or "fast" to be able to turn quickly, there's no way to accurately draw a bead on your opponents, and there's no way to make Extreme Paintbrawl 4 enjoyable. You might conceivably find more of a challenge in multiplayer, except that no one plays Extreme Paintbrawl 4 in multiplayer.
It almost seems like the developers missed the point: there are certain liberties you can take with real-world conventions to make a game fun--Extreme Paintbrawl 4 doesn't really take any of them, and instead keeps most of the unenjoyable stuff in. If you're really looking for a good game of paintball--get up from your computer, rustle up some friends, and go outside.