Developer: Sony Online Entertainment
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Release Date: November 20, 2012
Planetside 2 is a Free-2-Play MMOFPS. It is perhaps the first to truly do this moniker justice. Firefights are wildly chaotic with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of participants on a battlefield simultaneously. Sony Online Entertainment has managed to create a massive space for players to fight over in a persistent universe where the more you play the more you have a reason to keep playing.
Graphics and Controls
Planetside 2 looks great and plays great. The environments are gorgeous, believable and simply vast.
Planetside 2 looks great and plays great.
Sometimes when you find yourself 400 m from the next nearest objective sprinting through lovely but lonely terrain you almost wish the world were smaller. But then you’ll hop into the cockpit of an attack fighter and you’ll be covering vast swaths of land in a matter of seconds. Because of their shear size and the need to optimize the game world for massively multiplayer gaming some of the smaller details are absent. You won’t find any huge fields of real-time wind rippled grass here.
Gun play is excellent. I adjusted my mouse speed down to 0.30 (from the default 0.50) and found that I could track a moving target with almost pixel perfect precision. Except when I’m carrying a sniper rifle…then I can’t seem to hit the broadside of a barn. Grr!
Beware the Learning Curve
I almost wrote Planetside 2 off as just another twitch shooter after repeatedly spawning and being killed over and over in a matter of seconds. While killing another player was a rare experience.
Being an avid FPS player I started to suspect AimBots or maybe it being a necessity to be in a constant crouch state and creep along while locked into your iron sights. Then I rolled a character for another faction, which also requires you to select a different server, and it changed my opinion of the game instantly. Suddenly instead of spawning in some barren desert with very few people and everyone of them seeming to be better than me, I found myself on a frozen continent with hundreds of compatriots.
Planetside 2 benefits from it’s massive user base.
I was charging up hills, throwing sticky bombs onto tanks and making long distant burst fire kills. All while a dozen other players surrounding me took much of the enemy player’s deadly attention off me.
Planetside 2 benefits from it’s massive user base. On the first server I tried (Helios) it seemed like it was every-man-for-himself but on the other two (Jaeger & SolTech) being rezzed by a friendly Medic was an almost assurity.
Planetside 2′s combat is more tactical than arena based deathmatch shooters like Call of Duty or to use another Free-2-Play example: Blacklight: Retribution. But it is less strict and unforgiving than the likes of APB: Reloaded where the only way to survive any encounter was to lean around corners for stints measured in milliseconds.
You can run and gun to some degree, but eventually you will find more success by employing a more considerate approach to combat like firing in short bursts, using terrain to your advantage and relying on your class’s strengths while doing your best to mitigate it’s weaknesses.
How to Play
You aim at stuff and press the left mouse button, jeez.
All joking aside after the first few hours of Planetside 2 you will be fragging noobs like a pro but the learning curve can be an obtuse and frustrating experience.
…the learning curve can be an obtuse and frustrating experience.
The game does almost nothing to prepare you for the world it throws you so callously into. No tutorial or onscreen hints. Though they do offer a nice selection of tutorial videos outside of the game if your willing to do your homework (highly recommended).
You simply need to do what gamer’s used to have to do in olden-times and experience it for yourself and slowly become familiar with it’s mechanics.
Some Preliminary Configuration
The following is a list of tweaks I made to the game’s default configuration that I recommend:
- Turn on Zoom Toggle, so your not straining yourself to keep right mouse button depressed when trying to use iron sights.
- Turn on Sprint Toggle, this is useful when you need to make those long dashes to distant locations.
- Rebind your Toggle Crouch key to Left Control (default: C)
- Rebind your Use Skill key to E (default: F) swapping Interact (default: E) with Use Skill. You only use a console once every few minutes, but you use your class skill every time you enter combat
- Unselect “Fixed Minimap” in the game settings. While I normally prefer to just be presented a view that persistently shows north as up and doesn’t rotate around the player, in this case, because of the fast paced nature of the gameplay it’s a lot more useful being able to refer to the same position on the mini-map (the wedge created between the center and “10 and 2″) without first having to get your bearings and then determine your current orientation and how the currently displayed data relates.
- Select “Centralized Hud”, so that you don’t have to sweep your eyes accross the entire bottom portion of the screen in order to read the information.
With that out of the way open the Map interface (default: M) and you will be presented with a hex-map showing the world and it’s current activity. Hopefully it will have many color derivations and several buttons marked “Deploy”.
My first server was apparently completely dominated by my faction and so there was virtually no meaningful firefights available (see side image).
Assuming your server is a competative one, a number of “Deploy” buttons will appear over certain hot spots which are areas currently being contested.
This is where you will want to head to find teammates to fight along side and enemy players to kill. Once you select a Deployment location you will be transported there after a 10 second cool down. Then you will be dropped in from orbit in a sequence that is just totally bitchin’.
Once on the ground press the Auto Join Squad key (default: Insert) and you will be added to a group of players in the same vicinity who simply by having their names printed in a different color above their heads will make them more likely to fight along side you and assist you. Now your ready to kick butt.
Whatever area your in there will be some sort of objective displayed above the mini-map on the left hand side of the screen, you can use this as a guide or you can just follow the (hopefully) droves of people pushing their way towards an objective.
Heavies will be firing off rockets at tanks, Infiltrators will be taking long range shots at distant infantry and Medics will be healing players with a tool that operates unabashedly like the Medic’s Medigun from Team Fortress 2.
When you die you will be able to choose a nearby facility controlled by your faction to respawn at or alternatively you can also respawn next to Sunderers, a special type of troop carrier and mobile spawn point that can be purchased and driven to a desired location before become static equipment dispensaries and spawn points.
Progression comes in the form of Certification Points which you earn for every 250 XP you wrack up (a solo kill is worth about 100 XP). After you’ve played for awhile you will have accumulated enough points to unlock additional modifications for your gear as well as new weapon load-outs which allow you to fine tune each class to your liking. You also gain “Cert Points” passively even when your not playing at an estimated one per hour, so the longer you don’t play the more you’ll be rewarded when you do finally login!
Planetside 2 utilizes a very standard class based system similar to Team Fortress 2. Here is a brief overview of the classes and my impressions of each.
The sniper class comes equipped with the zoom-able sniper rifle and can cloak itself for a surprisingly lengthy period of time. As far as I can tell, you can’t fire while cloaked, just like a Romulan Warbird.
The default class has access to a jet pack that any player of Tribes: Ascend will immediately be familiar with it. It even has similar physics (boost ratio, duration, etc.)
The demolitions class can shield itself for a limited time to decrease incoming damage. They also have access to the Rocket Launcher tertiary weapon which is basicaly a requirement if you want to take out tanks and flying units.
The healer class is (surprisingly) my favorite class to play. Your initial weapon is accurate and your class ability is to heal others and yourself is infinitely useful. You also provide resurrection to downed faction members.
This class I haven’t used as much but they are the only class capable of healing tanks, base components and defenses as well as MAX units. They can also drop static turrets.
A versatile unit that can dual equip powerful weapons, this class is unique in that it can only be obtained via an equipment terminal. A MAX can only be “healed” by an Engineer’s repair ability, however they can be resurrected by Combat Medic but they regain significantly less health.
The Three Factions
Each faction has access to the same classes, but each has a slightly different variation on a common theme.
The three factions available are as follows:
|Terran Republic – The “Man”, authoritarians
Red and White color scheme, the Terran Republic’s weaponry has a higher rate of fire and their vehicles will use their speed and rate of fire in the hands of a skilled gunner to overcome their enemies.
|New Conglomerate – The Rebels
Blue and Yellow color scheme, The New Conglomerate has higher base damage but lower fire rate. Requiring more accuracy (in my experience this has cultivated a feeling of ‘superiority’ amongst it’s members)
|Vanu Sovereignty – The Alien Tech lovers
Purple color scheme, The Vanu Sovereignty has the highest mobility in their vehicles and energy weapons that disregard bullet drop over distance (albeit with reduced stopping power over distance)
On Land and in the Air
Separate currencies accumulate during your playtime which grant you the ability to spawn ATVs (used primarily to cover terrain more quickly), Tanks, Sunderers (troop carriers/mobile spawn points) and Aerial Vehicles.
Tanks dominate the battlefield. They are heavily armored, can kill multiple infantry units in a single volley and often allow an additional player to man the second cannon. They are controlled with a style similar to tanks in the Halo series.
Only the Heavy class is really equipped to deal with them so if you have a penchant for heavy explosives you’re services will be in great demand.
Aerial Vehicles are also vulnerable to rockets, but only after the Heavy has unlocked some Surface-to-Air lock-on capabilities. The Aerial Vehicles use a more “flight simulation” control scheme in order to operate as opposed to Halo’s Wraiths. In order to turn quickly you must rotate your view around the Z-axis (Barrel Rolling) and then aim up or down. You can still turn using the A and D keys, but it’s much slower and used mainly for lining up shots. It’s a more difficult scheme to get used to but does create the ability to perform much more complex aerial maneuvers once you get the hang of it.
The Cash Shop
Yes, Planetside 2 has a cash shop. *Groan*
But luckily you can also use in-game currency to purchase items, so it can be argued that it isn’t “pay to win” because all players have access to the same items, it’s just that paying customers will be able to access them with the speed of a credit card transaction.
What Doesn’t Work
Currently, Planetside 2′s network architecture isn’t quite up to snuff just yet.
Planetside 2′s network architecture isn’t quite up to snuff just yet.
There is considerable lag when you are in a firefight against a large group of people. I was not able to find anywhere that displayed my latency but the game’s FPS plummeted to around 10-15 FPS when in battle near large intricate structures with lots of player’s onscreen.
Your ability to customize your avatar is also extremely limited. Its almost a moot point though considering the game takes place in a first person perspective and you never actually even see yourself except when you select whom to play when you first login, but part of the fun of a persistent character isn’t just having a stronger build, it’s also the ability to personalize your avatar.
Planetside 2′s gameplay is addictive and it’s environments are vast and beautiful.
Planetside 2′s gameplay is addictive and it’s environments are vast and beautiful.
The gun play is tight and responsive and all six classes serve very useful functions with none dominating over another’s usefulness. While lag is a problem, in the week or so I have been playing it has decreased considerably. In time, I expect, the the population on each server will stabilize which should lead to better performance for all those willing to stick it through.
|Bag of Games’||9.0|
|Planetside 2 Review Score|
Why so high? It’s Free. Quick, fun, skill based combat and truly massive battles keep you coming back for “just one more life”.
Why so low? Lag is definitely an issue, lack of personalization outside of weapon modding, no story to speak of, outside of squads there is very little command structure.
Note: The screenshots are not the best quality (taken with Medium settings) because as a competitive game I wanted to eek the most performance out of my rig. Rest assured you can push the graphics to GPU crushing levels with all the fancy bells and whistles if your so inclined.