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The Firing Line: Nope, your FPS can't do what PlanetSide 2 does

Jef Reahard

Earlier this week, SOE released a cocksure trailer that asked viewers whether their FPS did all the things on display in PlanetSide 2. If our comment section is any indication, the clip was perceived as over-the-top and a bit premature due to the game's various launch issues.

In my mind, though, it made a legitimate point, and while it's clear that the devs have a lot of work ahead of them, it's also clear they've already managed to create one of the year's must-play MMOs. They've also made this long-time shooter fan question the need to play any other shooter.

The Firing Line Nope, your FPS can't do what PlanetSide 2 does
One of the more surprising things about PS2 is how accessible it really is. I generally don't like the word "accessible" as it relates to video games because it's a politically correct way of saying we're-catering-to-those-with-short-attention-spans-and-or-limited-time, neither of which is laudable if you're making a virtual world.

With PS2, though, you can actually get something done if you've got only 30 minutes to play. This is largely because of SOE's decision to allow you to deploy virtually anywhere on Auraxis with the push of a button. If you lack a dedicated outfit and you pop into PS2 solo at various times throughout the day, you can similarly pop into various battles throughout the world, lending a hand as needed and soaking up sweet, sweet certifications and XP in the process.

In this way, PS2 functions much as does your standard lobby shooter. But here, you always have the option to stay awhile and change the map. SOE also rewards the time-rich folks with a fascinatingly tactical metagame that is much more than the sum of its many parts. Sure, it's ultimately still a shooter, and the basic gameplay will always revolve around blowing stuff up, but there truly are a million ways to do that.

On the ground, I tend to favor the Engineer, as my reflexes aren't what they used to be and I like being an ammo-flavored Pez dispenser as well as a wounded MAX's best friend. It's also fantastic to be able to field repair the flak damage and sniper pot shots on my Mosquito without having to put her down on a dedicated landing platform. Just this morning, though, I slipped into the Infiltrator class for the first time and proceeded to play a thrilling game of cat-and-mouse around the outskirts of an enemy base. I mean, I took a bullet in the face at the end of it, but getting to that point was a case study in why I play video games.

The dynamic rendering problems made long-range aiming a frustrating experience, one that reminded me of the way houses used to pop up in front of my speedy speederbike in SOE's late great Star Wars Galaxies (here, though, it's enemy armor and infantry and obviously more problematic), but the sniper loadout is nonetheless tons of fun. And since I'm speaking of loadouts: Good grief there are a lot of choices across PS2's six infantry classes -- nano armor and scopes and grenades and anti-vehicle mines and a bunch of other stuff that I haven't even gotten to yet.

The Firing Line Nope, your FPS can't do what PlanetSide 2 does
I messed around with Heavy Assaults, too. Now there's a cathartic experience. Strap on some beefy armor, shoulder your anti-air launcher, and make those pesky Reavers drop right out of the sky. Good times, and all it takes is a quick trip to a supply terminal and a class-changing key press.

I should also point out the game's appeal beyond the typical shooter audience, even though my evidence is decidedly anecdotal. Any FPS that manages to hook my girlfriend, who normally prefers traditional RPGs, is doing something right. It's a joy to share PS2's freeform gameplay and seamless world with the uninitiated, as even simple things like driving a tank one way while swiveling the turret another turn into a laugh-a-thon that's highly memorable even before you manage to waste an enemy Sunderer and all of its hapless occupants.

And as always, riding a Galaxy through a flak cloud while swatting at Vanu gnats with the ball turrets before hot-dropping into an enemy base backlit by occasional explosions and muzzle flashes is a visceral experience you simply can't get in other games.

As for negatives, there are plenty of them, depending largely on your playstyle. As I mentioned on this week's podcast, I feel that PS2 released a bit earlier than it should've, which seems to be an MMO industry norm that we'll never be rid of. My biggest pet peeve isn't falling through the world or aimbots or any other bug, though -- it's the obfuscation inherent in portions of the game's progression system.

The in-game certification screens don't supply useful information across the board, so it's sometimes a crapshoot when you want to spend your hard-earned cert points in a manner that optimizes your preferred role. What does the Fire Suppression System do for my Mosquito, for example? The tooltips say that spending cert points on it makes it usable more often, but whether it's a repair mechanism or some sort of damage shield isn't readily apparent.

As of press time, I've sunk around 40 hours into PS2, and my opinion is that SOE has raised the shooter bar considerably. Yep, it's buggy at the moment, and it relies almost exclusively on player-driven context for what some are calling repetitive, pointless capture mechanics, but it's such an ambitious game that I find myself putting objectivity aside and hoping for its long-term success.

Unless you want to go old-school with the original PlanetSide, or even older-school with 2001's Battleground Europe, the closest you'll get to PS2 outside of an actual warzone is Battlefield 3, and the latter is absolutely dwarfed in both scope and scale by the former. Crucially, SOE managed this alongside a decent balance between accessibility and depth for both ultra hardcore military types and guys like yours truly who either don't have a lot of time to play or play three other games in addition to PlanetSide 2.

So, taken together with last week's initial impressions piece, it's clear that SOE has a winner on its hands. Is PlanetSide 2 perfect? Hahaha, no. Is it fun and overflowing with the potential for even more?

I think so.

The Firing Line Nope, your FPS can't do what PlanetSide 2 does
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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