Editor-in-Chief Chris "Pwyff" Tom went spelunking in Tribes: Ascend to discover that this might not be the Tribes some veterans want, but it's the Tribes we all need.
When it comes to Tribes, there are two camps of people: those who reminisce fondly about playing thousands of hours of Tribes 1 & 2, and those who sit at the feet of our nostalgic brethren, prodding them to tell us more. I've only played twenty minutes of Tribes 2 - offline, by myself, when I was 13 years old - but because I've constantly heard how incredible Tribes was, I've probably been afflicted with some sort of contact nostalgia. Maybe one day I'll look back and think that those were the best twenty minutes of my FPS career. Maybe.
Regardless if you liked Tribes or not, there is no denying that those older games had a vision and flavor that modern FPSes haven't even come close to touching. Perhaps the closest current-gen comparison would be Global Agenda, also created by Hi-Rez Studios, but the similarities pretty much end after jetpacks and objective-based gameplay. Still, as a huge fan of Global Agenda (5 stars across all classes!), I was eagerly looking forward to Tribes: Ascend, if just to catch up on memories I didn't really have.
As of this writing, Tribes: Ascend features two unique gameplay modes: Capture the Flag and Rabbit. I believe Hi-Rez has also confirmed a Team Deathmatch mode would be implemented, but CTF and Rabbit were the only ones available. Capture the Flag is fairly easy to understand as a game mode, but Rabbit is basically an enormous game of tag. One player gets designated the "Rabbit," and the longer he can escape being fragged by his peers, the more points he builds.
In Tribes 1 & 2, I've been under the assumption that players could devise their own custom equipment load-outs, to tailor to their strengths and weaknesses, but this is not so in Tribes: Ascend. Players will need to choose specific classes, like the Brute or the Pathfinder, with each class having a specific equipment load-out that cannot be changed. Basic accounts start with the Soldier and Ranger classes unlocked. The Soldier is a medium-armor class with access to a Spinfusor (think Disc Launcher) and Pistol, while the Ranger is also a medium-armor class, but he boasts an Assault Rifle and a single-shot Grenade Launcher. In total, there were 12 classes to choose from, each with a unique load-out. New classes can be unlocked either by accumulating tokens from playing games, or through direct cash purchase for about 520 Gold (about $6) per class.
On the gameplay side of things, the Tribes series has always been known as a movement-based shooter rather than a twitch-based shooter. Twitch-based shooters are ones that rely heavily on reaction speed and mouse accuracy to get instant-kill headshots (think Battlefield 3 or Counter-Strike), while movement-based shooters (otherwise known as "tracker-based shooters") rely on evasive maneuvers and a steady aim to "keep track" of opponents; either with a long stream of bullets, or by predicting their movements to lob explosive discs at their feet. In Tribes: Ascend, players must learn to manage their momentum by "skiing" down slopes while efficiently managing their jetpack energy when they want to take to the skies. Momentum plays a huge role in Tribes: Ascend's fast combat, as it is nearly impossible to turn around and go in the opposite direction without completely losing your speed.