The Firing Line: Getting into Global Agenda

The Firing Line - header with various shooter avatars
OK, so you've heard about this whole Global Agenda thing, and you've talked yourself into giving it a shot. It's completely free-to-play from start to finish these days, and the Unreal graphics, sci-fi setting, and strange mixture of hyper-competitive PvP and ultra-accessible PvE have always held a certain appeal.

You're not sure, but you think it's kind of an MMO, given that it has persistent territory control, lots of quests, and plenty of progression-based gameplay. Maybe you're a pro skillz baller, or maybe the extent of your shooter knowledge is which end of the gun gets pointed at the bad guys.

Either way, you'll likely have a good time in Hi-Rez's spy-fi action title, and you'll have an even better time if you understand a few key points about the game prior to diving in.

Global Agenda - Medic in the Sonoran desert
Man, that tutorial sucked
First off, with apologies to the devs, that intro section has got to go. Whether we're talking about the horribad animations or the way it keeps going (and going), there's got to be a better way to ease folks into the world of Global Agenda.

The requisite this-is-how-you-use-your-jetpack stuff is there, and while Hi-Rez gets points for doing the whole thing "in-character" (yes, folks, Global Agenda does have lore and a backstory that's pretty interesting to the three people who have read it), I shudder at the number of new players who have gotten a few steps into this nightmare and promptly uninstalled without looking back.

So, yeah. The tutorial isn't representative of the game at all, thankfully.

Global Agenda - Medic on point, get off the point silly Medic!
Do your research
This may be a no-brainer if you're already a competitive gamer, and if that's the case, you can skip this section. If you're the type of player who simply does whatever, whenever, with no thought as to how skills and gear affect your performance (and more importantly in GA, the performance of your team), then this bit is for you.

First off, you can enjoy the game while remaining completely ignorant about how to play it. I did, and my self-imposed dark age lasted a good eight weeks and well past my first level 50 character. The fact that it's possible to be clueless and still enjoy yourself is a testament to Hi-Rez's solid grasp on what makes games like this fun. If you play Global Agenda long enough, though, you may surprise yourself by discovering a heretofore non-existent competitive gene that whispers sweet you can do better nothings in your ear.

Or you may just get tired of being yelled at in merc matches.

Either way, if and when you decide to play well as opposed to simply playing, there is a McShizzle-ton of info out there to help you on your way. All of this knowledge resides on the GA forums, and the vast majority of it lives in the class section (which is for registered users only, in case the link doesn't work for you).

Did you know that alt-firing with your right mouse button as an Assault will drain a lot less of your power bar, thereby allowing you to consistently mow down newbs and rack up ridiculous stats? You'd know if you read the Assault boards (or the in-game mouseovers, to be honest).

Did you know that some Medic off-hands are sphere heals, meaning that releasing one on the ground (as opposed to in the air with a friendly above and below you) is an inefficient newbcake move that will get your buddies killed and keep your healing numbers at the bottom of the scoreboard? You'd know if you read MikeHywk's invaluable heal Medic guide.

There are tons of tips, tricks, and minutiae like these scattered across the GA forums, and if you truly want to see all the game has to offer, I encourage you to spend a few moments on your next lunch break getting smart about your class, the opposing classes, ad nauseam and etc. It's totally optional, and like I said, I'm the poster boy for enjoying the game in spite of being pretty awful at it, but it doesn't have to be that way (on the other hand, it's occasionally hilarious to see uptight vets rage about "baddies" who just cost them a merc match, so you decide).

Global Agenda - Scramble mission
About that 5-star combat rating
Speaking of minutiae, I think one of the curious things about GA's stat system is how the combat rating works. I wondered about this for many moons, particularly when I achieved a 5-star rating on my second character despite being an average player. Fortunately, I've done the research for both of us, and the skinny on 5-star combat ratings is that they don't mean a whole heck of a lot.

First of all, you get two stars simply for achieving level 30, and whether you're grinding it old school or giving Hi-Rez a little scratch in exchange for an XP booster, leveling in Global Agenda doesn't take very long.

Secondly, the combat rating is largely a reflection of your PvP won-lost ratio. It's based on Microsoft's Trueskill system, and it's also worth noting that the algorithm doesn't care about your actual stats or performance in a PvP match. It only cares whether your team won or lost, and it also factors in the combat rating of the opposing team (meaning you get more credit if you prevailed against a team peopled with 5-stars, assuming you're not a 5-star yourself). Finally, rewards and loot are also based on your star rating as opposed to your actual match performance.

As you can see, it's not a direct measure of player skill per se, though skill does factor into it. And that philosophy is in keeping with my read on Global Agenda's, er, agenda: reasonably fun for hardcore types and a lot of fun for more casual or less skilled players.

Of course these are just a couple of things to keep in mind if you're taking the Global Agenda plunge. The usual recommendations like avoiding general chat and finding an agency (i.e., a guild) as soon as possible still apply, and I hope you end up enjoying the title as much as I have. Until next time.

The Firing Line's Jef Reahard has a twitchy trigger finger, a love of online shooters, and an uncanny resemblance to Malcolm Reynolds. OK, maybe not, but at least if he ever kills you, you'll be awake, you'll be facing him, and you'll be armed.
This article was originally published on Massively.