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The Firing Line: This is not a PlanetSide 2 NDA violation edition

Jef Reahard

For the record, I really, really wanted to write about PlanetSide 2 for this week's Firing Line. Alas, NDAs or some such. Blargle, bollocks, and boo-hiss on all of that.

Anyhow, there is more to the MMO shooter space than Sony Online Entertainment's sci-fi sequel, right? Guys? Yeah, OK, as intros go, this one is pretty weak. But like I said, I'd rather be talking about that time when I [edited] a Terran Republic [edited] outside of [edited] but it was [edited] [edited] [edited] Mosquito. That's not all, as we also [edited] and then [edited] [edited] by some [edited].

Oh, right. We can't talk about that just yet, so join me after the cut for this week's most interesting non-PlanetSide 2 shooter news.

PlanetSide 2 - NC Galaxy
PlanetSide 2
Whom am I kidding? We're still going to talk about PlanetSide 2 because there have been some noteworthy happenings that aren't muzzled by the NDA or SOE's stifling blanket of secrecy (and because I just don't want to talk about much else when it comes to shooters).

Company prez John Smedley took to Reddit earlier in the week for an Ask Me Anything session that shed a bit of light on the new MMOFPS. Smed said that he's playing the PS2 beta "three to four hours a day now," which is both a good sign and exactly what you'd expect to hear from a marketing-savvy bigwig. Smedley has more gamer cred than most of his industry executive peers, though. He's well-known for actually playing a ton of games, and he hasn't shied away from interacting with the worst that the MMO community has to offer.

So while we could take his enthusiasm with a grain of salt (PS2 is "rough but fun as hell," he told Reddit), chances are he's being honest.

Beyond the start of the beta this past Monday, PlanetSide 2 also made waves with a coming-to-Steam announcement (again via Smed's Twitter) and a new dev diary video that featured a brief look at some Light Assault gameplay footage. Granted, this last was about 30 seconds of awesome sandwiched between 10 minutes of Matt Higby and Trammel Isaac mugging for the camera and going on about faction-colored sneakers (as in shoes, not Infiltrators), but I'll take all the little nuggets I can get at this point.

DayZ - zombie dudes
I do have to move away from PS2 for a little bit, and one of the other things worth mentioning this week is DayZ's continued assault on the collective gamer consciousness. The zombie-driven Arma II mod topped one million unique users less than a month after topping 500,000, which makes it a bona-fide phenomenon in my book.

I finally got to log a few hours with the game last weekend, and while I'll stop short of a full review this time around, I will say that it's well worth playing if you're even a little bit intrigued by sim-style shooter gameplay. I've never been a huge fan of the Arma series mainly because real-world game settings bore me to tears, but Dean Hall's brilliant decision to add a bit of post-apocalyptic horror and unforgiving gameplay into the mix has won me over.

Fair warning, though: The schadenfreude is strong with this one, as DayZ's persistent-world setup and anonymous player community occasionally make EVE Online capsuleers look quaint and exceptionally well-behaved by comparison.

If you're not interested in dropping 30 Steam bucks for Arma II and the Operation Arrowhead expansion pack (both of which are required to play the current version of DayZ), you can hold out for Hall's stand-alone project, which was officially announced earlier this week. There's no release time-table yet, and interestingly, Hall says that he will develop the new project in tandem with the current mod.

Now that I think on it, the thing that excites me the most about DayZ isn't the mod itself, although it is quite enjoyable in its own right. I'm more interested in what the mod's success portends for the industry as a whole. One million uniques would seem to indicate that there is in fact a market for persistent-world games designed for hardcore sandbox fans, despite what passes for conventional wisdom in MMO circles nowadays.

DayZ's success should also open some developer/publisher eyes as to what's possible when you don't drown your titles in restrictive DRM and instead open them up to the modding community. DayZ has single-handedly made Arma II relevant (I hesitate to say relevant again because honestly it was a niche title prior to Hall's grand experiment).

Firefall - Jet boots
Finally, it's time to delve back into the world of Firefall. I played the beta a few months ago and generally had a ball, but apparently Red 5 has thrown the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to the game's combat system.

In the interests of full disclosure, I must note that I played the game for only a few days, and so I had a great time tooling around in Rio, queuing for some instanced PvP, and doing the things that Firefall newbs typically do. Apparently there was a fair bit of dissatisfaction with the game's core combat among everyday-players, though.

Red 5's
latest video diary acknowledged this and laid out all of the changes that came about in this week's gargantuan patch. Combat is by all accounts faster and more fun, and there's even a new class up for grabs (the Biotech).

I'll be checking all of that out in the coming weeks, and yes, if I get any friend codes, I will post them in a future column. So don't say I never did anything for you (even though I haven't, yet). 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.

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