PlanetSide 2 Review
A rough but competent combined-arms shooter made remarkable by unparalleled scale
Each different base type has a unique but equally complex capture method, and the complexity makes for rich gameplay that requires some strategy and coordination on the part of squad leaders. Capturing a base results in a juicy experience reward for the attackers, while defenders are given smaller but more regular bonuses for sticking around and killing attackers or repairing generators. While a significant headache for new players, these varied objectives ultimately grant purpose to Planetside 2, which will be appreciated by players who are more used to a shooter where matches have time limits and clear winners and losers. When it comes to playing the game, there are six classes that all play different roles quite similar to those in the old Battlefield games. Light assault troopers have jet packs and assault rifles, heavy-assaulters have anti-vehicle weapons and a temporary shield, infiltrators use sniper rifles and can briefly deploy a stealth cloak, engineers repair vehicles, medics heal and revive while the 'max suit' wearer is a heavily armoured beast that can only be healed by engineers.
The infiltrator's cloak makes him ideal for sneaking into enemy bases
As per the standard of today, there is a comprehensive leveling and unlock system that serves as a form of character progression. As a free-to-play game, you can opt to pay money and skip some of the grinding to acquire unlocks, but they are side grades rather than direct upgrades, and this largely prevents imbalance. Everything you can get with real money can also be attained using 'certification points' (certs) which you earn by playing, while some upgrades can only be attained using certs. Right now it feels like it takes a bit too long to gain these without paying any money compared to the cost of unlocks, although it is possible to buy a booster that increases the rate at which you gain experience and certs. At this point, it would take a huge amount of time just to unlock everything for a single class without paying money. As far as free-to-play games go, the balance is fairly good, although a new player coming up against a fully-geared player who has invested some money is likely to lose in a head-to-head battle. The massive scale and myriad of targets tends to water down these small imbalances however, and as someone who never paid a dime, I never felt at a disadvantage and even maintained a kill/death ratio much higher than I traditionally do in shooters.
The gunplay itself is also fairly good; weapons have a lot of recoil and bullet physics mean that shooting requires skill at anything more than point blank range. Many of the weapons within the same class of a faction look and feel extremely similar which reduces the incentive to unlock new guns, although the ability to try a weapon before you invest hard-earned certs to unlock it is a welcome one. Finding the right load out for your favourite class is gratifying, but like the best shooters, character customization is secondary to the gameplay. If you tire of hoofing it on the ground, you can spend some of your resources on vehicles or aircraft. Each faction has four different ground vehicles, a dirt-cheap ATV for getting from place to place, a big people-carrier that can be upgraded to serve as a mobile spawn point, and two different types of tanks. There are also a number of different air craft ranging from the fragile but nimble mosquito to the hulking Galaxy that can carry a huge number of people. Each vehicle can be upgraded with various weapons and perks, serving as yet another drain on your certs. Vehicle handling is a bit floaty, especially when trying to drive over the abundant uneven terrain, but once you get used to it the tank battles become thrilling and make for a good change of pace.
So that's where I parked my Sunderer
The biggest potential issue with Planetside 2 is that due to its scale you might become stranded and have to hoof it for long periods of time over desolate terrain. This problem is largely avoided thanks to the ability to re-deploy whenever you want and to hot-drop in to battles every twenty minutes or so. Hit insert once when you join a server and you are placed into a squad, hit insert again and you will be spawned near your squad leader. There are still times when you just can't seem to find the action, or where you get stuck trying to navigate the sometimes glitchy terrain trying to get to a seemingly nearby outpost, but downtime in Planetside 2 is largely kept to a minimum. Playing with a co-ordinated squad that assigns objectives is the best way to have fun, and I have noticed a marked increase in faction-wide teamwork as people figure out how the game works.