PlanetSide 2 – E3 Preview
About eight years ago Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) rocked the newly forming massively multiplayer online world with PlanetSide, the first and only MMOFPS. PlanetSide delivered ground breaking scale in the FPS genre, bringing together hundreds of players in the same space to battle it out on ground and in the air. Okay, fair enough, compared to today – and maybe even at the time - the game didn’t deliver in the visual department, but you have to remember that it was using technology from years ago. It was also hit with a number of server issues, causing players to experience lag and have a number of problems.
Luckily, this year at E3, SOE gave Chris and me the chance to check out PlanetSide 2. PlanetSide 2 promises gamers the next generation in MMOFPS, bringing with it visuals that would not look out of place in Call of Duty or Battlefield. Using the new Forge Light engine, SOE have managed to up the scale of the original game from the hundreds to the thousands and create fantastic visuals. The day night cycle is something that truly stands out; tracer fire and explosions really pop at night and draw players to the battle. Bases dotted around the world are lit in incredible neon light and stand as beacons in the darkness to the players.
As with the original there are three player factions: the Terran Republic, Vanu Sovereignty and New Conglomerate. The factions have arrived on the planet Auraxis under the banner of the Terran Republic, only to splinter and battle with each other. Each faction has its own unique look and gameplay mechanics:
- Terran Republic troops can look forward to fast paced action, weapons that can deliver a huge number of rounds and a slick smooth look and feel. The faction fights to maintain its control against enemies that it sees as traitors and rebels.
- The New Conglomerate broke away from the Terran Republic first and are the faction seen mainly as the rebels. They won’t have the Terran’s controlling them anymore and have decided to rise up. This shows in their gear, much of which is converted from civilian use. Their weapons and vehicles are slower, but they pack on the armour in many cases to make up for it.
- Finally, the Vanu Sovereignty broke away from the Terran Republic to pursue their interest in alien technology. Much of this is shown in their look, many of their tanks and weapons use energy rather than the standard gunpowder fare. Vehicles have a very sleek, alien look and they seem to find the balance between the armour of the New Conglomerate and the speed of the Terran Republic.
Much of the combat is based around the capture and holding of basses and the management and control of resources; resources which are then spent to buy vehicles. Where PlanetSide 2 differs from other FPS games is in its level of customisation. Everything can be customised, from armour colour patterns to the scope on your rifle and the hood ornament on your car. From what we have seen, SOE will be making the game free to play after purchase and will be running a micro-payment system for these upgrades, but we have been promised that there will be nothing that can be purchased which influences gameplay balance. I personally loved this; it made the player’s character so much more unique and even whole squads could be customised to have the same paint job, making them easier to spot on the battlefield.
When you join the server you will be automatically placed in a squad, which you can then opt out of, and SOE have confirmed that outfits will be back in the game in the place of regular clan or guild mechanics as a way to keep in touch with friends and forming effective fighting groups more quickly. Outfits will lead into the ‘beyond the game’ features of PlanetSide 2, which will have a stats and communications pages online, similar to the way that Battlefield 2 works. Players will be able login to the website and check kill stats, world stats and, surprisingly, communicate with players inside the game. This should mean that if you need support and your friend is outside the game, you can call for it, but it’s not all that clear at the minute – more details will hopefully emerge soon. What really impressed me, however, was the mobile app that is in development, allowing players to communicate over the inbuilt VoIP system in-game with friends outside of the game and vice versa. This is a unique feature that I don’t think has even been considered in games like Battlefield, but is more suited to PlanetSide 2 because of its persistent gameplay.
We did eventually get some hands on time with the title and it is everything I personally hoped it would be. It’s faster paced, possibly a little less tactical, but even with the limited numbers in this preview, incredibly fun. Flying is great – very difficult to pick up (especially when you are standing at a booth with inverted controls) – but incredibly rewarding. I also managed to pick up a tank and shoot a galaxy drop-ship out of the air. SOE hasn’t announced a release date for PlanetSide 2 yet but are in closed beta. Personally, speaking as both a fanboy and a keen FPS player, I’m happy to report that the game is progressing well. Its mix of massive open worlds and intense first person shooter action is something not seen in eight years in gaming and I for one am glad to see its return.
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