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PlanetSide 2 Review

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Adam Barnes

Like FPS games? Then you’ll like PlanetSide 2. But will it last years, or is it little more than a quick skirmish over a weekend? Find out in our review.

planetside2-21.jpg

Published on Nov 27, 2012

PlanetSide 2 is - if nothing else - the perfect example of a PC game. It has a scale rarely seen in videogames, some of the best visuals yet and it's free-to-play. What's not to like?

For those unaware – despite it being popular, PlanetSide still had a degree of anonymity – PlanetSide 2 is a huge, open world FPS MMO where three factions vie for control over three different continents.

If you're in need of a comparison then Battlefield 3 is probably PlanetSide 2’s closest companion. Imagine the high-quality visuals, the huge battle arenas and the emergent vehicle-based combat all bundled into an ever-changing open world.

Sounds exciting? It is, at least initially.

After character creation you’re dropped into a battle zone almost immediately, and from then on you’re left to your own devices.

Unfortunately this is perhaps our biggest criticism of the game. Very little is explained in PlanetSide 2, and for the first couple of hours you’ll find yourself fumbling around the menus and figuring out exactly what you need to be doing.

Each continent is separated into individual regions. It’s your job, as part of your chosen faction, to take control of key structures throughout the world and to push on through into enemy territory.

Battles can become really epic, a side effect of the scale of the game.

Smaller bases and outposts are simple enough to capture. A la Battlefield, it’s little more than a case of stepping into the capture point, defending your position until the bar converts to your colour and the job is done.

For larger, more important structures the tasks are a little more convoluted, however. You won’t be able to just march through the many forcefields protecting the buildings, first you’ll need to take out the generators powering them.

These are staged battlegrounds, requiring a sizeable attacking force and more than a little bit of teamwork to succeed; it makes it all the more fulfilling when one of these bases are captured.

But as we say, none of this is really explained. What are resources? Why do I need them? How do I level up and where do I get Cert Points? All questions you’ll have while playing, we expect.

If you stick with it, however, you’ll soon discover PlanetSide 2 provides a very unique approach to FPS combat. If the Battlefield series is a regiment of soldiers, PlanetSide 2 is an army.

It’s all in the preparation, and it’s here that the multiplayer aspect of PlanetSide 2 really stands out from the FPS crowd. It’s hard not to feel a sense of excitement as your faction begins to move out onto the planned enemy base.

Check out our first confused steps in PlanetSide 2.

And when you’re knuckled down with your allies in battle, you’ll almost certainly feel a sense of camaraderie. There’s a genuine feeling of gradual progress in attacking a base, like some kind of sci-fi World War I.

There are natural pockets of resistance where large armies converge, though these seem to appear dynamically. Maps are designed in such a way to offer interesting combat situations, but they’re so open it’d be impossible to create specific bottlenecks.

Yet as gorgeous as the three distinct continents of PlanetSide 2 are, they do lack a little depth. Design wise they’re great, with careful terrain design to create natural defences both for attackers and defenders; it’s the lack of impact each area has that has us most concerned.

Capturing a base or outlying post will earn your team an extra bonus, whether it’s additional resources or added vehicles such as regenerating health.

You don’t notice any of these, however, limiting the desire to capture a specific location because of the boon it’ll provide for your faction, just as there’s little reason to defend a station for the same reason.

Ultimately it’s all quite shallow, leaving armies to fight over terrain simply because it’s there to fight over.

 

The visuals really are quite impressive. You'll need a decent rig to join in properly.

This doesn’t stop PlanetSide 2 being fun to play, it just casts doubts over its longevity and whether it’s worth putting the time in to power up your character.

Cert Points are used to unlock abilities, weapons, upgrades and anything else you might need. Whether it’s for one of five character classes, weapon unlocks or vehicle enhancements it all comes out of this single pool of CP.

They’re earned – as we found out courtesy of the PlanetSide 2 wikia – either through individual medal challenges or a single Cert Point for every 250XP points earned. For reference, a single kill will earn you 100XP.

But while early class upgrades only cost between 30-50CP later ones can cost in the hundreds, while basic weapon unlocks will set you back 700CP. 

That’s a large chunk of points and will take hours and hours of play before you’ve earned that many, and even that relies on you actually being having a degree of skill with the game.

Of course you can fast track all this by purchasing Station Points with real money. We’re not going to claim it’s pay-to-win – we have no issue with such a system providing the options are there for everyone – it just seems unnecessarily obtrusive to a player’s experience.

Sticking together in a team is important. Solo players will not last long.

Call Of Duty and Battlefield prove that if you want to keep players hooked you need to drip-feed them rewards, however minor, and this set up just turns PlanetSide 2 into an unnecessary grind.

It’s early days for the MMO, however, and no doubt tweaks and alterations will be incoming. There’s a lot of promise in PlanetSide 2 and at its very basic – in other words pointing guns at people and shooting – it’s extremely well made and highly enjoyable.

Most MMOs have a progression of sorts, but even if your faction overwhelms a continent – which isn’t uncommon – it simply resets to begin anew again. It’s telling that, when defending a location, it always feels like you’re battling against a stalemate.

The thrill in PlanetSide 2 is in attacking where you can see the progress that is being made. When defending it’s unrelenting – true of real war, we’d expect – but when there’s no real reason to stick around, often it’s best just to leave the enemy to it and return to recapture a little while later. And that’s a shame.

 

Score Breakdown
Graphics
9.5 / 10
Sound
9.0 / 10
Gameplay
8.0 / 10
Longevity
7.0 / 10
Multiplayer
8.5 / 10
Overall
7.5 / 10
Final Verdict
As with all MMO launches the real game has yet to begin and the potential of PlanetSide 2 is definitely here. Download it and give it a go, it’s free after all. If nothing else it’ll give you and your friends something new to play for a weekend. Anything after that is entirely dependent on SOE's future plans.
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Game Details
Format:
PC
Release Date:
21/11/2012
Price:
Free
Publisher:
Sony
Developer:
Sony Online Entertainment
Genre:
MMOFPS
No. of players:
MMO
Verdict
7.5 /10
There's a great FPS here with some really unique ideas, but unfortunately more effort needs to go into the long-game to make it survive longer than the initial launch.
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