Review

PlanetSide 2 Review (PC)

When the original Planetside came out, many said it was ahead of its time. The technology, both in terms of how games are made and the internet infrastructure of the day, wasn’t really as widespread as it needed to be. Nearly ten years later though, and its sequel – Planetside 2 – couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only does it now have the benefit of seven years’ worth of evolution in the MMO space, it’s made the smart move by going Free-to-Play, something that as a model wasn’t really understood back then. More of a ‘reimagining’ than a true continuation as far as the ‘story’ goes, Planetside 2 once again returns to Auraxis where three factions are fighting a constant war for dominance.

Planetside 2 is a very simple game to just jump into, but it’s when you’re actually on Auraxis that you may find things a little daunting. The three factions – New Conglomerate, Terran Republic, and Vanu Sovereignty all have their own aesthetics and political background (you should care about such things), but as far as actual ‘balance’ goes, there’s no real advantage to either side. To make things easier on yourself, find out which faction your friends are on, and join that. You can always make another character in another faction on the same server. There are five classes that cover a range of specialities, plus a sixth ‘Super-heavy’ class that stuffs your soldier into a powered exo-skeleton, which can be customised for a variety of roles from mobile-AA, to a kind of mini-tank. Classes can be changed at will from special consoles you can find at spawn points, and classes can be customised with load outs with different weapons and gear.

Galaxy’s, along with the Sunderer APC, act as mobile spawn points

There are two main elements of progression – your Battle Rank, and Certifications. Your Battle Rank increases like any other ‘rank’ system every time you meet the XP requirement. Not a lot is tied to Battle Rank, but it does affect the rates of certain things, like Certifications Points. These points are used to unlock ‘certifications’. These are the same as skill trees and unlocks – each class has certifications relevant to that class, as does each weapon. There are some more generic ones as well, like a ‘Command’ tree. Certification points are by-and-large earned separately to your battle rank, but you do get points every time you get a certain amount of XP, but you also earn points at a slower rate while offline. Certification points can also be used to unlock brand new weapons, skins, add-ons… and everything can be unlocked using Station Cash instead of certification points. This is where the main monetisation comes in. Station Cash is Planetside 2’s in-game currency, and everything can be unlocked with Station Cash or Certification points, although with current weightings, it could take you a while to save up for that weapon you really want.

But now that you’ve chosen a class, maybe outfitted it with some cool gear, what do you do now? Well, at the time of writing, Planetside 2 has three continents active on the planet of Auraxis that you can fight over. Each continent is divided by zones, with each zone featuring a base. These can vary from small outposts to massive industrial complexes, and each ‘base’ has one or more control points that you need to take and hold in order to win the zone. Take all of the zones on a continent, and you ‘conquer’ that continent for your faction, which nets certain bonuses. Controlling zones and certain bases also nets bonuses and resources to everyone in your faction. Resources are used to spawn vehicles or aircraft, and resupply, and are divided by Infantry, Aerospace and Mechanised resources.

If you don't have a rocket launcher, you might want to hide right about now...

The best thing about Planetside 2 though is the atmosphere. Simply taking a walk through one of the continents in Auraxis has more tension and suspense than a Die Hard movie. Picture this – you’re on foot, walking through a narrow valley. You look up and you can see aircraft flying overhead, dogfighting. You see the odd burst of tracer fire lance up into the air, and you can hear muffled explosions in the back ground. As you get closer to your destination, all this ambient noise and activity gets louder and louder. Eventually you climb out of the valet, and before you is hell on earth – tanks will be duelling other tanks across the plains, infantry will be moving up to try and take the base before, which is swarming with defenders desperately trying to hold off your advance. Either side you move, more tanks, infantry carriers and buggies are bouncing along to join in the fight. And this is before you even get into the fight yourself.

The combat in Planetside 2 can be a little bit of a meat-grinder – which fans of Call of Duty and even Battlefield will be used to. A lot of spawning, running, maybe getting a shot off, dying and spawning again. It’s not ideal, and eventually you start learning how to keep yourself alive longer – obviously this get better when you start introducing squads and real team-work, but that’s true of any FPS. Planetside 2 is a little bit light on grouping and squad features at the moment, and more could be done to promote more genuine team work, but the great thing about this game is that there’s a lot of feedback, both naturally and mechanically, to help people figure out where all the action is. Since you’ll all end up in the same place anyway, helping to achieve the same goal, there’s a lot of instinctual teamwork.

Dogfighting in Planetside 2 is hard to master. I'm more of a foot-slogger myself

At the moment, the only true weak point of Planetside 2 is the meta-game. Sure, when you first start playing it’s all new and exciting, but even across continents all the different building types look the same, and eventually you find yourself going places just because everyone else is. Resource management is never really an issue because you earn resources while logged off, and so far we’ve never really used too many resources that stopped us doing anything. Sure, vehicles are expensive, so you can only really spawn so many tanks or Galaxy’s in one go (and that’s not even taking into account the cool-down timer), but you’ll always be able to fight on foot and hitch a ride with someone who has spawned a vehicle. The continents are all visually diverse though and there are a few unique locations that are always interesting to fight in. Depending on your machine’s specs and your internet connection, you may also experience some lag in high population areas. Whilst SOE have been working to improve on this since launch, there’s only so much you can do. We’d recommend turning your settings down. Which is a shame, because cranked up to max the game looks gorgeous.

Planetside 2 is off to a cracking start, and judging by some of the musings that are coming out of SOE it’s a game that’s only going to get better. Apart from the micro-transaction store, there is the option to purchase a ‘premium’ membership, which gives you priority over queuing for servers if they get full – if you’re going to spend any money on Planetside 2, that might be a good place to start. But really, it costs nothing to give the game a go, so if you’re a PC Gamer who likes shooters and wants to try something truly different, you owe it to yourself to drop onto Auraxis. You won’t regret it.

Top Game Moment: This game is a bit like DayZ in the sense that there are just so many stories to tell. I’ll never forget the sight of an entire squadron of Galaxies coming at my position to bring death from above, though.

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Comments

By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jan 07, 2013
herodotus
Decent score Joe and fair, and an even handed review (more detailed than the gushing and over enthusiastic ones I've read). I longed for "QUAK: Enemy Territory" to succeed, and while this is not a true successor it's close enough keeping up the hectic action of "CoD" and "BF" combined. I still get the feeling it's more a "go-it-alone" sort of MMOFPS than "Enemy Territory" but with clans and guilds kicking off everywhere that might change soon enough.
Now I just need some fresh bandwidth and time to properly immerse my aging FPS skills into this, what is has become, popular new MMO.
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Jan 07, 2013
nocutius
Have yet to play this one.
I wanted to play it but the account I created for the game trough Steam "didn't work" and that's because you need another separate account created on their site, I don't remember the exact details anymore.
Anyways, my friend gave up before we found the issue and I have no interest in playing this alone.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jan 07, 2013
Kres
I played it for 10 minutes. So didn't gave it much chance I guess, but didn't liked it too much. Though that is probably because I don't like sci fi shooter too much.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jan 08, 2013
herodotus
"Don't like Sci-Fi..."!?! Hang your head head, Kres if it is just Sci-Fi shooters. "Aliens: Colonial Marines" is on the way....
By Paceydre (SI Member) on Jan 09, 2013
Paceydre
I've played the game for 24 hours on 3 different servers and then I removed the game from my computer. For me it's not fun enough since I encountered too much pay 2 win players.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jan 09, 2013
herodotus
Ouch! I thought the paid weaponry weren't game-changing in any way, at least that's what reviewers have been saying. Obviously it's a bit different when the rubber hits the road.
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Jan 09, 2013
nocutius
If the payed for weapons really make that much of a difference then I'm totally out. I know grinding for them is possible but when that takes too long then it's just not fun.

Same reason I have little interest in playing regular FPS games with unlocks, unless you're there from day one you're just cannon fodder when you finally start playing.
By Paceydre (SI Member) on Jan 09, 2013
Paceydre
I have been reading the same things in reviews, and that is why I started playing, because there were some good reviews. But all those reviews were made at the start of the game when there were not that many pay 2 win players. Do you want a good time with this game (which you can have) then team up with pay 2 win players, even if you are F2P yourself.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jan 11, 2013
herodotus
Sounds too much like the elitists, or as I call them "those without lives", in "Battlefield Play4Free".
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jan 11, 2013
herodotus
Okay took the plunge and installed it. Now to find out for myself if I am a Sardaukar or a Fremen without his stillsuit in a desert wasteland of run'n'gun twitch shooters with gold-plated weapons they've bought.
By Simos (SI Newbie) on Jan 13, 2013
Simos
I like it that you can play as much or as little as you like and still enjoy it. And the graphics are great.