In the gaming industry, the problem with a groundbreaking design is that it inevitably spawns an entire series of like-minded products, sometimes pushing the genre in new and utterly refreshing directions, but oftentimes down the same beaten path. In the case of Activision's Sheridan Extreme Paintbrawl, this disappointing first-person combat game pushes the genre one step too far, attempting to wed a tired game engine with the paintball phenomenon.
Developed by Head Games, Extreme Paintbrawl is based upon the antiquated Build engine, the very same engine used so successfully in Duke Nukem 3D. Unfortunately, Paintbrawl's environs are nothing like those found in Duke Nukem, by and large composed of bland corridors, uninteresting rooms, run-of-the-mill playing areas, and poorly designed maps. Although five so-called "fields" are included in the game - urban assault, deep space ninety, haunted forest, paint keep, and desert of death - no attempt has been made to actually model the prototypical paintball field, which is usually strewn with log dugouts, bunkers, trenches, and other assorted obstacles. Sure there's an occasional tree and the obligatory low wall to provide some cover, but you never actually get the sense that you are working up a sweat rolling about on a muddied paintball course.
As if that weren't enough, the AI is a mess, perhaps one of the worst attempts at modeling a team sport that I've ever seen. Team members seem to dance in place, stuck against walls or caught behind open doors. Others stand idle in the middle of open areas, exposed to enemy fire whenever they come into contact with the opposing team. And, apart from switching places with other team members, frankly a rather absurd and archaic tactic to say the least given the nature of paintball combat, there doesn't seem to be any way to develop and implement a cohesive plan of action short of controlling each and every team member. Next, there's the business of telling friend from foe. It's far too difficult to tell one side from the other, and, under the best of circumstances, your only recourse is to duck and hide, then wait to see if the other guy starts shooting at you first.
The practice mode is downright laughable. Even to a layperson, it would have made sense to include a target range, whereby you could shoot at a variety of stationary or moving targets with various weapons to test and improve your marksmanship. Instead, you must pick one of five fields, then wander about the course without so much as coming into contact with the opposition. The season mode is equally appalling. You must "hire" your team members from a cast of ill-defined characters, spending whatever funds remain on the purchase of guns, CO2, and ammo. Mind you, there's no way to change the camouflage clothing for each team member for the different types of terrain in the game, pass out more ammunition should they run out of paint pellets, or assign them individual orders prior to the start of play.
To make matters worse, Extreme Paintbrawl is, if anything, extremely buggy, crashing more times than I care to remember whenever one of my warriors was hit. At times, it also appeared as if splotches of paint were hanging in midair, waiting for someone to just walk into them. Frankly, I can't help but wonder how this game ever passed its beta test. All things considered, Extreme Paintbrawl is perhaps one of the worst games I've seen in years, as much out of touch with reality as it is out of step with the gaming world at large.