“Planetside 2” is the sequel to the immensely-successful “Planetside,” a massively-multiplayer first-person shooter and the bastion of its kind.
The past decade of gaming has taught Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) a good deal. Perhaps more importantly, the technology caught up to its vision. Less limited by processing speeds and network capabilities, the developers have managed to move from a somewhat clunky shooter-MMO (massive multi-player online), that limits the quality of the controls and gameplay to something that actually feels and plays like a proper first person shooter.
On a small scale, the core gameplay of “Planetside 2” is quite similar to “Battlefield 3,” except there are three sides all fighting one another for the same territory. There’s the New Conglomerate, a rebel faction focused on slower, heavier firepower and long-range weapons; the Terran Republic with its fast-firing, fast-moving, fast-swath-cutting hardware; and the Vanu Sovreignty, the high-tech faction with lasers and hovertanks.
The large scale is a meta-game that takes place on three enormous continents, each approximately five kilometers across, encompassing continent domination. Game play consists of managing what resources or technologies are available due to holding certain territory and commanding the entire faction around.
Instead of guilds, as in traditional MMOs, there are outfits, a similar but often much larger system wherein a select few outfits from each faction on each server become massive and gain reputation for certain styles of fighting.
Additionally, there’s a familiar system of squads of up to 12 people in platoons of up to four squads that allows for easy, large-scale organization of hundreds of people at once. There’s not a feeling anywhere else in video games quite like that of flying in formation with 16 other fighter jets all racing to provide much-needed air support to a platoon that’s being overrun by an unexpected counterattack as someone plays heavy metal over the local radio broadcast.
There can be hundreds of people fighting one another at the same time on huge maps.
Say the New Conglomerate are simply defending a base from a small Terran Republic incursion. The situation seems stable but quickly spirals out of control when the Vanu lumber in with three huge dropships, each laden with a dozen-odd soldiers who are dumped into the fight from 400 meters above. Before long, hundreds of people are tussling over a scrap of land in the desert.
The result is a game that has impressive ebb and flow. Early in the day, things are quiet. However, as the evening progresses, large events often get organized by outfits or the community and lead to huge campaigns across enemy territory.
“Planetside 2” was technically released in December 2012, but that was only because Sony promised a 2012 release. Considering that a great deal of content was added only weeks before the launch — including one of the three continents — the past months have been treated as more of an extended beta test than a real launch. The amount and speed of updating, overhauling and perpetual jamming of new content into the game has echoes of beta testing in everything but name. Nevertheless, SOE has been quite responsive to community feedback. The result is a game that is rapidly developing into something quite astounding.
There are still issues that plague the game at large, though. There can be long periods of doing nothing but sitting on a capture point and waiting for the territory to switch faction control. But those moments make up the minority of playing time.
Ultimately, the point that needs to be made here is that “Planetside 2” is utterly enormous. Between the amount of content and weapons, the constant reworks and changes by the developers and the immense size of the battles themselves, it’s impressively fast. And hey, it’s free to play, too. Why not try it out? Just don’t play Vanu. They’re jerks.