It is no exaggeration to say that people who love video games and those that play paintball are often the same people. Players who have enjoyed shooting noobs in online Call of Duty matches often want to upgrade to actually shooting people in real life. With paintballs, that is.
That got me thinking about the opposite type of crossover. What about paintball video games? It may not be something you’ve thought of, but there have been a few interesting paintball games over the years, with varying levels of quality. Now, usually when I write this sort of article it would be to recommend some of the better games to try, but in this case the goal isn’t to highlight games I think you should play. Instead, this is more about the curiosity that paintball video games represent.
You have to ask yourself why anyone would want a paintball video game? After all, any first-person shooter game is basically a paintball-like experience. You get to shoot at people without anyone actually getting hurt. One argument is that paintball video games can be used as a training tool when it comes to things like teamwork and strategy. The truth is that there’s no game that I’ve seen which could be considered any sort of paintball simulator. More importantly, things like tactics and strategy might as well be learned through any multiplayer FPS.
One point in favor of paintball video games that sort of justifies their existence is how family-friendly they are. A normal first person shooter is inevitably quite violent and gory. Paintball games allow people to play a shooter without worrying about any of that. That’s probably why Nintendo’s Splatoon game is so popular.
For whatever reason we have paintball video games, here are some notable ones. Maybe you’ll like some of them, but even if none are worth playing they are interesting curiosities.
NPPL Championship Paintball 2009 (PS2)
The Playstation 2 is arguably the greatest console success story of all time. No modern console has sold as many units and it has literally hundreds of classic games from its total North American library of 1850-ish titles. I’m talking about games like Shadow of the Colossus, Metal Gear Solid 2, and Final Fantasy X, to name but a few.
NPPL Championship Paintball 2009 is not one of these games. It is, however, a surprisingly competent paintball game that does an OK job of replicating the feel of paintball – at least given the limitations of PS2 hardware.
As it’s a licensed game, you get to choose real players to act as your avatar in the game. There’s a career mode where you move up the ranks to become the greatest paintballer of all time, at least within the game world. As can be expected of a game of this era, the AI is pretty dumb and you can take them out pretty easily. Hilariously, the game has an official cheating minigame where you can wipe the paint off yourself. It’s one of the better paintball games out there although, sadly, it’s not available on PS4 as a PS2 Classic because, well, it never was a classic.
Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball (Original Xbox)
This game was exclusive to the original Microsoft Xbox as far as I know, which meant it wasn’t released on a console with a huge install base like the PS2. Still, it managed to become quite a respected game in the rather niche genre of paintball video games. The game presented players with three different game modes: elimination, capture the flag, and center flag. It also featured the whole cheating mechanism and, honestly, I really don’t like that. It’s normalizing the idea that cheating is part of paintball. It’s like those hockey video games that turn into Street Fighter when two players start to face off. Yeah, it’s pretty funny but also sort of disturbing.
This game is also licensed, obviously with a sponsorship deal featuring Greg Hastings, a now very former player who was with Sacramento XSV. Including Greg, you can choose between a total of fourteen real players to act as your player character. The playing fields and tournament locations are all also authentic.
If you take on the single player mode you’ll play through 19 tournaments, almost 100 field layouts, and 80 opponent teams, of which 69 are real. So this is pretty much one of the best paintball games out there, yet it looks like butt and, besides, there’s the matter of the sequel.
Greg Hastings Paintball 2 (Xbox 360 & Xbox One)
Yes, this is the second game in the Greg Hastings series and was originally released for the Xbox 360. Now, not only are people still playing their 360s, the game has recently been made backwards compatible with the new Xbox One. Which means it’s the most accessible game on this list for the modern audience. It also looks pretty acceptable, since the Xbox 360 generation ushered in what we think of as modern HD graphics. Yes, it still looks dated, but way better than stuff from the previous generation. The game is basically more of the same, but with better graphics and expanded content. This is the closest to a recommendation I can think of and if you own either a 360 or Xbox One you might want to give this a go.
What about a modern Hastings 3? Well, the website still says it’s coming for modern consoles as well as the previous gen. However, I’ve seen rumors that the game is effectively canceled. Apparently there was also some sort of VR game in development, but who knows if that’s going to happen.
Digital Paintball (Half Life Mod)
If you’re even a little into video games, and you’re reading this after all, then you’ve probably heard of a little game called Half Life. This revolutionary first-person shooter didn’t only rewrite the rule book when it comes to the FPS genre, it also spawned a massive number of mods. The most famous of these were things like Counter Strike, but there was also plenty forgettable trash.
Digital Paintball was a 2006 mod which used the Half Life engine to create a multiplayer paintball game. It claimed to be the most realistic take on the game at the time and, well, they might have had a point. This game was quite popular at one time and there’s still a small community today, although the servers seem to be mostly empty.
In 2017 there was talk of a new game called Digital Paintball 2.1 Redux. This is an overhaul of the old mod with modern graphics and much more. The developers are going to put it out on Steam and, at the time of writing at the end of 2018, they were very much on track for a release.
Extreme Paintbrawl (DOS & Windows)
This is one of the oldest games on the list here and pretty much the oldest example of a paintball video game that I could find. Released in 1998, this was actually based on a modified version of the Duke Nukem 3D game.
Is this a good game? No. Is it a good paintball game? No. In fact, this is widely considered to be one of the worst games ever made. You see, by 1998 the Build engine from Duke 3D was pretty archaic already. Paintbrawl didn’t even make the most of it, either. It was ugly, clunky, buggy, and no fun. For some reason there were several sequels, all very nearly as bad as this one. Avoid it, or watch a Let’s Play on YouTube.
If you really are so into paintball that you need a digital fix when not on the field, then I guess some of the better titles mentioned here are worth trying out. In general, however, you’re probably better off spending your video game time playing Halo or Call of Duty.