[one_third]I have the power, to take everything from you… including your Flag.[/one_third]
The Cloak Pack darts its way back into the Tribes series through one of Tribes: Ascend’s new classes, the Infiltrator. Sowing chaos and uncertainty as they jetpack over peaks and valleys, the Infiltrator is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable classes in the game. This comes with a caveat, however: mastering your composure during the hectic speed of Tribes is something that takes practice, willpower and a swift sword arm.
The Infiltrator defines himself by his his ability to cloak at will, becoming but a shimmer that stalks the battlefield without contest. While this might sound too powerful on paper, the chaotic nature of Ascend ensures no one player is able to turn the tide on his own, and the Infiltrator is no exception. Given the open map design, a cloaked class has no problem going from base to base without being attacked. This allows the Infiltrator to bypass large amounts of combat on the midfield and quickly strike points of interest such as Generator rooms, base defences and flag zones. However, once there, it only takes a single alert player to put an end to the Infiltrator’s subterfuge.
Just as players adapted to the Spy in Team Fortress 2, Ascend’s troops have equally evolved beyond the scattered paranoia of reactionary rookies into an almost unbreakable forcefield of anti-Infiltrator technology. Players are aware of the places an Infiltrator can do the most damage and are likely to set up turrets, choke points and signal jammers with the sole goal of stopping them. This forces the Infiltrator to constantly be aware of his environment, his energy consumption (of which the jetpack and cloak deplete the same reserve) and every enemy around him. This isn’t easy, but he does have the tools to get the job done – so let’s take a look inside his armoured tuxedo.
SN7 Silenced Pistol
One of the most situational weapons in the game, the SN7 is best used for finishing off enemies at medium to long range. The pistol does fairly significant damage, but its slow bullet travel time makes it hard to aim reliably with, despite almost pinpoint accuracy. Swatting Light Armour types from the air takes a mere handful of shots – if you can hit them. Alas; for the most part, you’ll want to ignore the SN7.
This is the Infiltrator’s bread and butter and the weapon, one you’ll absolutely need to get the hang of to be effective. Able to almost kill a Heavy in a single clip, and a Light in under a second, its versatility is daunting. This is countered by the difficulty of actually landing a shot: bullet speed is awkwardly slow and the slightest of movements from your target takes a not insignificant amount of time to adjust to, especially at high speeds. Once you’ve figured it out, the Rhino cuts almost anyone to ribbons without giving them any real chance to fight back. Combine that with the Infiltrator’s ability to cloak and the Rhino’s lethality is almost second to none.
Once upgraded, you’ll carry four Sticky Grenades on your belt. That’s enough to turn the highest-level generators into scrap in about three seconds. No other class can do this. Sticky Grenades are also invaluable against vehicles, if you get lucky enough to land one. For some inexplicable reason, the arc of your throw is slightly randomised, resulting in some aggravating misses even though you aimed perfectly. You’ll have to judge the moderate explosion radius properly too, as getting close enough to be sure the grenade will land puts you in slight danger of being hit by the blast.
Due to a short proximity-based detonation timer, the Sticky Grenade does not detonate instantly. This makes it a great escape option – throw one in front of your enemy, and they’ll give up the chase if they’re smart. Unfortunately, your cloak shimmers before the throw animation finishes, so be sneaky about it.
In Ascend, melee is typically used as an insult more than anything else. Unlock the Infiltrator’s Backstab perk that gives you +50% damage from behind, however, and your melee power almost rivals the Rhino SMG for pure bloodletting. You’re able to take out a Medium class in a single strike from behind. This makes the Infiltrator one of the best indoor fighters in the game when utilising cloak.
Unlike previous Tribes games, the melee attack in Ascend has been given a modern touch. Rather than a separate weapon that needs swapping to, it now has a dedicated button. This means the Infiltrator is able to shoot and swing without pausing, giving you access to some seriously damaging shooty-stabby combos.
With our loadout equipped, it’s time to talk strategy. What is the Infiltrator capable of? What is his role? First and foremost, the Infiltrator needs to sneak into the enemy’s Generator Room. The Generator supplies a base with its energy, powering turrets, sensors and deployables. Its importance is still undecided in Ascend’s current metagame, though taking out the enemy’s Generator unquestionably makes an Infiltrator’s life easier. Handily, you’ll have a few Sticky Grenades at your disposal that make short work of them in the early game, whilst the Rhino SMG does decent damage as well.
Later on in the match, most experienced teams will have at least one Technician deploying turrets around the Generator. This is the perfect time to stay quiet and take stock of his patterns. Does he run to and fro constantly, giving you openings to land a few Sticky Grenades on the Generator? Or does he linger slowly, providing a nice and stationary spine to thrust a blade into? Either way, your first mission is clear – continue harassing the Generator room until it has been leveled up to maximum.
Being invisible essentially allows the Infiltrator to go where he pleases, and this can make him a constant annoyance. Once you’ve made yourself known in the enemy’s Generator room, next you’ll want to prowl the field. The cloak allows you to poke and prod an enemy base, dancing on the edges until you’ve pulled enough threads to make a hole to squeeze through. While maintaining a busy Generator room, you’ll want to harass the enemy base as much as possible. This means backstabbing lazy players, destroying deployables from a distance, spamming bullets towards Heavies and cloaking away… even killing enemy flag carriers in their own home.
Cloaking allows the Infiltrator to bypass large amounts of combat on the midfield and quickly strike points of interest
Do anything you can to take their attention away from what they’d rather be doing. It’s in this way the Infiltrator does the most damage. Simply knowing a capable player is snapping at their heels, their attention diverted at a critical moment, is enough to blanch even the most stern combatant. Finally, seek out Sentinels (snipers) and make their life miserable. You’ll know you’ve won when they give up and change class.
There are a number of subtleties to the Infiltrator that must go undiscussed, for it is only through intense situations that you forge a distinctive Infiltrator playstyle. Additionally, considering that the game is still in its beta stage, it wouldn’t be surprising to see current Infiltrator analysis overturned with a new patch. That said, we must ask whether stealth has a place in Tribes: Ascend. The answer? Of course! It injects a new layer of strategic and tactical depth into battles that might otherwise quickly become stale. Being forced to use all of one’s senses teaches players an awareness that stealth-less games can not. For it isn’t what comes at you that you must prepare for, but what doesn’t.
The Infiltrator is an extremely difficult, yet extremely satisfying, class to play. Its appeal is unique amongst the rest of Ascend’s lineup, who must content themselves with singular goals like base defence, midfield defence or flag capturing. With an Infiltrator’s Cloak, you’re capable of all these things, swapping from role to role at a moment’s notice, without compromising your time or effectiveness. The penalty for being seen is severe, as once you take damage you’ll shimmer for a couple seconds, and your light armor offers little defence. However, it’s an exciting playstyle that rewards patience, cunning and boldness in equal parts. Hi-Rez has done us a service by bringing it back.