E3 2009: Global Agenda impressions, continued

My "Engineer" equipped, we ran over to the PvE mission master, grabbed a mission, and then got a cinematic of a dropship taking off and landing in the zone. After a little experimentation with the force fields and turrets (Robotics characters put down a marker which then needs to be repaired up to full strength with a special weapon), we dropped into the building, and were instantly confronted with some Star Wars-style droid robots. With the character at mid-level already, they were a little tougher than beginners will find, so at first, when we tried just a straightforward assault with the "flubber" gun, they got the better of us. But after a short delay (death brings just a few seconds' respawn time, and then you can respawn and warp back into the battle through a respawn beacon), we went back into the fray, and when we used our special skills (put up a one-way forcefield and created a turret and a robotic pet to help us fight), we finished off the robots (including a "worker," who served to bring in reinforcements and had to be taken down first, and a bigger ED209-esque boss robot).

Next up, we tried jumping in to some PvP. Players in Global Agenda will be able to level up via either PvE or PvP -- PvE missions will accept 1-4 players, and while the enemies may be the same (though Harris said they were experimenting with putting players in at different spawn points or switching up enemy spawns a little bit to give the levels some more variety), they'll scale in difficulty depending how many friends you bring along. PvP missions are more common shooter settings (Attack and Defend, Capture the Flag, Escort), though sometimes with a special twist: The CTF maps are actually "capture the robot," where the flag is actually a giant mech that players need to jump in and return to their side to score.

This time, we specced a medic together, and saw a few of the different ways you can play that class: you can make it very much like a TF2 medic with just a single target healing gun, or go with a chain-healing gun (that can hit multiple targets with the tradeoff of being weaker), or you can choose a "nanite" weapon, which hits with single shots rather than a channeling stream, and provides a heal over time when they hit. All weapons and abilities are governed by an energy stat, which works like mana in other MMOs -- there's no ammo, so if you have energy, you can fire, otherwise you'll have to seek cover and rest. Lower level guns can be fired indefinitely, but more powerful guns have a rate of fire just limited by how much energy you use with each shot.

Turns out our medic did pretty well -- not only did we keep up some friendly players in the Attack and Defend map, but with the medic's boost ability (all classes also build up "boost" as they play, and when you fill that meter, you can use a special move that usually affects the whole team, very much like Call of Duty 4's perks), we laid down some great AoE healing that turned us into a pretty powerful force on our own, too. PvP was actually lots of fun -- given that the game is still in alpha, it wasn't completely balanced yet, but the feeling of a good shooter is there: we took attack points, Robotics turrets defended until they were overpowered, medics held up tanks through enemy assaults, and Recon characters snuck around with stealth and tried backstabbing with melee.

But while the action is in a good place, the rest of the world still needs work. Harris says that outside of battle, there will be similarly instanced social areas to go through, but the places we saw were still pretty generic: you can visit mission givers, buy armor in an auction house, and buy dye to customize that armor, but otherwise the social areas were pretty lifeless. There were still people running around -- the game is currently in an alpha, and is starting up a closed beta this summer -- but there's no open world, no place to watch matches in action, and no real social mechanics to tie people together. At the highest levels of the game, the world depends on huge guilds working as a team: players will be competing for hundreds of different maps to try and advance their Global Agenda (see what we did there?). But while there will be a pickup matchmaking system in place, with no open world, it'll be interesting to see how players find each other. A little social boost might go a long way.

But other than that, Global Agenda is shaping up well -- Hi Rez is doing a great job of mixing in some uncommon influences and combining them with the persistent MMO genre. We'll definitely be on the lookout for the beta later this year.