Long story short: it’s a success!
PlanetSide 2, the Sony Online Entertainment sequel to PlanetSide, is a free-to-play MMOFPS that that we can finally be proud of. After games like Hellgate: London came and went I began to lose faith, but SOE has managed to make an MMO out of an FPS while, and here’s the important part, managing to keep it an FPS. Hellgate was classified as an MMOFPS, but it came with armor drops, boss mobs, spells, and all those other goodies we turn to RPGs for, while the only thing that was FPS about it was the first person view and the gun you had. PlanetSide 2, on the other hand, succeeds where others have failed.
The story, which is not very present, is simple: three factions of humans stranded on the planet Auraxis are fighting for land conquest. These three empires, as they are called, are the Vanu Sovereignty, the Terran Republic, and the New Conglomerate, and the only major difference choosing a side makes is the color of your armor and a few vehicle choices, of which there are eleven in total. Like an MMORPG, you are first asked to make a character by choosing a name, sex, ethnicity¡ªof which there are four of: Caucasian, Black, Asian, or Barack Obama (seriously, there’s a fourth that looks just like Obama)¡ªand an empire to side yourself with. You can make as many characters as you want, but each character can only be associated with one empire. Once that is taken care of, you’re ready to join the fight.
Once you select the server you wish to play on, you are taken to a screen where you choose between several classes:
Light Assault: Fast infantry with medium armor who can use jet packs to get around much faster than any other class.
Heavy Assault: Armored infantry with heavy assault rifles who can activate an energy shield to absorb some incoming damage. Also have heavy guns to take out armored vehicles.
Infiltrator: Snipers who have sacrificed armor for mobility. Come equipped with a sniper rifle, a pistol, and a pistol that shoots light explosives that can damage armored vehicles. Can go invisible for fifteen second.
Engineer: Although not well equipped for mobile combat, engineers can repair vehicles and broken machinery as well as lay down ammo and a deployable turret.
Medic: Armed with an assault rifle, medics run around the battlefield healing and reviving fallen soldiers.
And then you are tossed in the middle of the biggest gun fight you’ve ever seen. You have a battle arena that spans thousands of meters with strategic holding points as well as main bases that you both try to capture and defend from the other two teams. There is no countdown, you are dropped in and you start playing. Why? Because this fight has been going on for hours and hundreds of player have already come and gone even before you logged on.
Armed with nothing but your weapons and a mini-map that–like Call of Duty–only displays enemies while they are firing, you try to work with your team of several hundred people to eradicate hostiles in one of the dozens of bases strewn about the map and take over the control panel there. Once done, that region (and several connecting regions, depending on the size of the base) come under the control of your empire.
By controlling regions (as well as eliminating enemy players) you gain three different currencies. Each currency is used for different purchases, varying from vehicles to weapon upgrades. Some currencies you earn much quicker, such as the ones used for buying vehicles because ‘buying’ a vehicle merely means ‘generating’ it at a vehicle station, and you can do this dozens of times in a single play session. This negates the ‘wait for an unused vehicle to respawn’ mechanic in Halo. Can you imagine thousands of people trying to get their hands on a finite amount of vehicles? It’d be bedlam. But in order to keep the game from becoming a giant graveyard of unused vehicles, each vehicle is destroyable and grants the destroyer experience. These vehicles span from a weaponized ATV to a combat plane, or even a Mechanized Assault Exo-Suit (MAX). The MAX used to be a starting class that could be chosen, but after a few matches of an entire team choosing MAX suits and decimating the competition, Sony patched an update.
But this game is so big, how can I possibly cover the whole map? That’s where dying comes into play. Vehicles, like the Flash ATV, can get you around fairly quickly, but nothing beats choosing a good old respawn point at the opposite end of the map. When you are killed, you can choose a respawn point from the ones your empire has available. These range from main bases to mobile Sunderers, which are armored war convoys you can purchase for the rest of your team to use. There is also a re-deploy option in the main menu which can be used once every twenty minutes. What this does is immediately send you to any place that members of your team are having a large fight at, without killing you. But since this is only usable once every twenty minutes you better be sure you’re being sent where you want to go.
The beauty of this game is that you can just log on and play for five minutes if that’s all the time you have and build your character up. There are no official ‘quests’ other than take over every enemy base so the entire game is just shooting and earning experience and currency in order to level up and upgrade your classes. For those who do not like taking the long route, you can always pay a little extra money to speed things up. SOE said that they were very impressed with the League of Legends ‘freemium’ method of playing and wanted to adopt it into their game. What this means is that you cannot actually use money to get otherwise unobtainable perks and advantages. Instead, money will get you EXP and currency boosts, unlock weapon upgrades instantly, or change the appearance of your character.
But being an MMO it means that there is A LOT of grinding involved. The first few levels come easily, but you can only unlock an extra loadout slot after a few hours of gameplay. It will take many, many hours of playtime to get all weapons and upgrades for your character, but once you start unlocking you will be sent into higher skill brackets and play with players with similar upgrades, making the game balanced.
Aside from the grinding, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there is one other problem that needs to be addressed. Being an MMO, there is supposed to be a lot of teamwork and player communication in order to achieve joint goals; however, the chat screen is difficult to read at times and easy to miss, considering that you are shooting nearly 90% of the time you’re playing. Luckily once you enter you are put into a team of 12 players so chat doesn’t get out of control and you can’t always hear 1,000 players talking at once on the microphone, but there still needs to be some work done.
All in all, this game is the perfect MMO for the casual FPS player. You can log on to play for however long you want and be able to accomplish something, since the only thing to unlock are different loadouts and not instances or anything. No matter what level you are you will still be shooting. A lot. So, your level doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of pwning. If you have been looking for a new FPS to play, I highly recommend PlanetSide 2. Besides, it is free, after all.