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First Person Shooters (Games)

Video Game Review: Planetside 2 (video) 157

In this video (with transcript), we review Planetside 2, a new MMOFPS game from Sony Online Entertainment. The game is a true first-person shooter, using its MMO nature to bring a persistent world into play, with battles sometimes involving hundreds of players, and it does so without trying to shoe-horn in ill-fitting MMORPG tropes like questing, story development, or insurmountable gear disparities. The combat favors relative realism (you won't be rocket jumping around, and nobody gets to be Rambo), but it's mixed with vehicle combat in a way that manages to be entertaining without being unfair. Planetside 2 is free to play, using microtransactions to support itself. It wisely avoids selling gear you can't acquire in-game (aside from cosmetic stuff), and doesn't require purchases to be competitive. Hit the link below to see/read our review.


Welcome to Slashdot TV. Today we're reviewing Planetside 2, a massively multiplayer online first-person shooter from Sony Online Entertainment.

First, it's important to gain an understand of what this game really is. The MMOFPS genre is still a relatively unexplored one, and the games that have been called such in the past haven’t all been alike. Plus, when you call something an MMO, people tend to get certain expectations. Put simply, Planetside 2 is a first-person shooter set in a persistent world. When you fight, you do so to capture enemy bases or defend your own, and you do so against other players. That’s it. There are no quests, no dungeons, no resource farming — there aren't even any NPCs. You’re dropped into a firefight, you try to kill other players, and that’s it. Don’t go into this game expecting it to be World of Warcraft with guns.

Planetside 2 is based on relatively realistic warfare — the Counterstrike school, rather than Quake. You have limited ammo, long reload times, and falling damage that can easily kill you. Your enemies aren’t dumb enough to paint themselves in bright, fluorescent colors, so it’ll take some practice before you can reliably pick them out from your teammates. It can be frustrating at first, before you've trained yourself to see the icon above allies’ heads. You’ll squint and wonder, “Is that a bad guy?” It becomes much clearer when they open fire on you. There’s good reason to make sure you’re lining up your shots correctly, though: friendly fire is enabled. You will accidentally shoot teammates, teammates will shoot you (accidentally or otherwise), and you will be killed by teammates running over you with tanks. It can be an annoyance. In fact, if you’re more a fan of unrealistic shooters, the whole experience will probably be frustrating, and Planetside 2 probably isn't for you.

So, does Planetside 2 have different classes? Yes. How many? Well.. that’s a tough question to answer. You could say five, you could say six, you could say over a dozen. But let's keep it simple for now and say five. I’ll give a brief description of how each of the classes play.

The first, Light Assault, does well at short to mid-range combat. It's fairly weak, defensively, but it has an advantage over the other classes in mobility. Where the rest are confined to running around the ground, Light Assault gets jump jets. Their range is short, but it allows players to get on top of buildings or big rocks, and to sneak into positions the enemy doesn't expect.

Heavy Assault is just what you would expect from the name. They're tough to kill, they have good short range damage, and they're the best at taking out tanks and other vehicles. The downside to Heavies is that they're weak against long range targets and often find themselves the target of many enemies close up, and they're dangerously vulnerable whenever they need to reload.

Infiltrators are snipers. They get a cloaking device and a rifle with a powerful scope, and they can do very high damage if they land headshots. They can one-shot some of the other classes, with good aim and good luck. As I mentioned earlier, it can be tough to distinguish friend from foe in this game, and a well hidden Infiltrator can be a real pain to deal with.

Engineers are a very non-standard class. They can drop turrets that can put out a lot of damage, they can repair machinery that’s taken damage, and they can drop ammo packs for other people -- a useful thing to have around, since if you survive for more than a little while, you can quite easily run out of bullets.

Combat Medics can heal injured players and revive dead ones, but those of you coming from an MMORPG background should hesitate to think of them as healers. Your heals don’t match incoming damage -- not even close. The Medics carry powerful assault rifles, and can definitely hold their own in short and medium-range combat, so it's better to think of them as a combat class that brings utility.

All of these classes are useful, and all have strengths on the battlefield. That said, they all have significant weaknesses, too. A Combat Medic can't do much against a sniping Infiltrator at long range, and the Infiltrator doesn't have much hope against a Medic at short range. Light Assault are great at sneaking up behind people who aren't expecting it and scoring some easy kills, but they aren't worth much without the element of surprise. Heavies can be alternately monsters or completely useless, depending on how an enemy faction’s class and vehicle balance is. On one hand, this is good, because nothing is overpowered. On the other hand, combat frequently felt to me like Rock, Paper, Scissors. Given roughly equal skill levels, your chances in a 1-on-1 encounter have more to do with what classes are involved than on how you play. That may or may not be to your preference, but the game was also designed to be more about large battles than 1-on-1s.

The nice thing about classes in Planetside 2 is that you aren't locked into any particular one. Every time you spawn, you get a choice: which of the five classes do you want to respawn as? So, if you keep getting torn up by Infiltrators who are camping hundreds of yards away, you can spawn as a Light Assault, then bring death from above. If your base is getting rocked by tanks, switch to a Heavy Assault and take them out. To put it simply: this game is much more about strategy than it is about tactics.

Switching between classes is easy, but not entirely without a price. This game’s specialization system is based on earning "Certifications." You gain these at a linear rate as you rack up experience points, and you also accumulate them slowly for just having a character, which is nice. You spend these Certifications on things like new weapons, upgrades to your existing weapons and armor, and also for upgrades to your special abilities. So, if you put a bunch of Certifications into upgrading your Infiltrator’s sniper rifle, you’ll lose out on that when you switch to another class. Fortunately, you never stop gaining Certifications, and your upgrades are much more cost efficient at the beginning, so it's entirely reasonable to be effective on multiple classes without dumping huge amounts of time into it. All-in-all, the ease with which you change your character around is light-years better than in most MMO games.

I mentioned earlier that you could consider the game to have over a dozen classes, and here’s how: vehicles. Scattered throughout the game are terminals which your character can use to jump into different kinds of mechanized transport units. On the ground there are 4-wheelers, Mech suits, tanks, and troop transports that are both armored and armed. In the air there are various gunships and fighters. Many of these craft are designed for multiple players. One person will drive, and another player or two will man the guns. The weaponry is powerful, but there are often aiming restrictions and reload requirements — again, it's an attempt to be relatively realistic as well as balanced. The reason I say these can be considered classes is that you can upgrade them just as you can your normal gear. Weapon capacity, optics, stealth systems, mine guards — if you want, you can focus your certifications entirely on vehicles and play the game that way.

Most of the vehicles are awkward to drive to fly — more pseudo-realism in action. It’ll take some practice before you can make it do what you want, and even then there are limits. But somebody who’s taken the time to master flying, or the positioning of a tank, can be quite a threat. At the least, it's an entertaining break from typical FPS combat every once in awhile. It's also a lot of fun to round up some buddies and load into a vehicle. By myself, I can take vehicle combat or leave it. With friends, I won't pass it up.

The combat in this game is fast-paced. In some cases, too fast-paced, at least for me. You’ll go through stretches where you can't even put your crosshairs on an enemy while you die over and over, just because the sneakier enemy troops all happen to see you first. It's balanced by the times you find yourself behind enemy lines with nobody aware of you, or shooting into a doorway that enemies keep popping out of. It's not hard to kill or be killed, to capture bases or lose them. But one thing Planetside 2 struggles with is giving you the feeling that you can make a difference by yourself. In my experience with the game, very few fights or battles are decided by the skill of the participants. Numbers always seem to count for more. That’s not unexpected — the design that allows for huge battles must necessarily reduce the impact of particular players. Still, it’s something you should be aware of before jumping into the game.

It's worth pointing out that the game is free to play. It's supported by microtransactions, which will let you acquire certain things sooner, but it doesn't provide a big advantage. By the time you acquire them through normal means, the increase in your skill level will outweigh the upgrades. It's also worth noting that the term "upgrades" applies loosely. Many are trade-offs. There isn't one clear best weapon, and your default weapon isn't lacking at all. Spending certifications and/or cash will go toward focusing on the way you want to play — for example, spraying from the hip with a machine gun versus firing short bursts while looking down the barrel. Of my friends who have played, one has spent money, and it was for a single weapon. The others have felt no need to do so. That Planetside 2 is free doesn't have any bearing on the overall quality of the game, but it does affect the game’s value. I personally wouldn't subscribe to it, but playing for free with some friends? Sure. And I certainly don’t feel bad telling somebody to pick it up if they want to play with us. If they dislike it, they can uninstall while their bank account remains untouched.

Several facets of Planetside 2 are not to my preference, but I can't say they're poorly designed. If gigantic FPS battles in a permanent world sound appealing to you, give it a shot. (Technically permanent, anyway — with no reason to say in any one place, and with bases constantly switching sides, you don’t form any attachment to the world as it stands, and thus don’t care a whole lot when you lose part of it.) If you are thinking about trying it, I highly recommend getting some friends to play it with you.

Planetside 2 is not going to contend for Game-Of-The-Year for me, and I don’t know that I’d even play it if I didn't have friends interested in playing with me. Nevertheless, it ranks very highly on my list of games out of which I've gotten the most value.

That’s it for our review of Planetside 2. We hope you've found it useful. Thanks for watching.

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Game Review: Planetside 2 (video)

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  • by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:28PM (#42327213) Journal
    Planetside 2 is amazing, until you go to upgrade anything and it all costs money, ridiculous amounts of money. Every little upgrade in the entire game has a paid option to it. I really enjoy the game, but im afraid im always going to be low-powered because i refuse to spend real money on a gun for EACH class and vehicle.

    Planetside 2 is all we feared would come to pass, a great game shackled with a horrible 'pay for every little piece of functionality' mode. For the record, i have no problem buying TF2 gear because its tradeable, craftable, sellable and confers no true advantage.. Planetside offers none of that, its just a huge money sink.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:40PM (#42327389)

    "...or insurmountable gear disparities."

    A lot of people are whining about how PlanetSide 2 is strictly P2W (pay to win), but it really isn't. You can do just fine with the default kits, granted, it takes a long time to unlock some of the cooler stuff, but it fits the MMO model just fine. The advantages gained from purchases unlocks is very insubstantial. Anyone else who tells you otherwise has no idea how to play the game properly. I've seen entire outfits of free to play players that stand as proof that you do not need to spend a dime to "win".

  • by tarius8105 ( 683929 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:42PM (#42327405)
    until you go to upgrade anything and it all costs money, ridiculous amounts of money.

    No, you get certs as you gain xp. New weapons require certs or station cash. The average cost for a new weapon is $6.00. The cert points are higher which a casual player can gain enough after a week or two to get a new weapon. Then, certs can also be used to enhance your class, weapon, or vehicle. You cannot spend station cash to upgrade a vehicle beyond unlocking a weapon.

    a great game shackled with a horrible 'pay for every little piece of functionality' mode.

    Again you do not need to spend any money to play the game and unlock weapons or buy the enhancements. You have an option to pay cash to unlock weapons but in no way are you required to spend any money at all. Cert points are required no matter what and have to be earned by playing the game.
  • Decent... (Score:3, Informative)

    by urieleoc ( 560637 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:42PM (#42327413)

    The hardest thing about PS2 is getting past the first 15 minutes.

    You make a character, pick a faction, then get dropped into battle. Active battle. You have a near 100% chance of dying as soon as you land. Enemy players will be looking for the drop pods and will instantly target and kill you. You then will be shown a map with places you can respawn. If you run outside, you have about an 95% chance of dying instantly.

    It is very unforgiving if you are used to playing other MMOs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:52PM (#42327537)

    The people responsible for that trojan incident aren't the same people that worked on this game. Actually, the PS2 devs have been pretty responsive to the community and relativly candid.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:54PM (#42327559)

    That's entirely not true.

    Most of the important upgrades cannot be bought with real money and only the in game certifications which cannot be obtained for real money.
    The class skills, the weapon upgrades, the vehicle upgrades are all certification only. You absolutely cannot pay real money to get them.

    Want to be able to drop C4? Want that all imporant dogfighting chassis for your striek fighter? That 12x zoom scope for your sniper rifle?
    You can't buy any of that with real money. You have to grind certifications for that (read: xp/levels.)

    What you can buy with real money (and certifications)
    - New weapons can be bought with money or certifications, however, a in most cases the new weapons are more or less side grades or more specalized.
    - Cosmetic skins for your vehicles / characters
    - XP boosts

    So far I've found on the weapons, while yes, you can buy them with real money they're decidedly not necessary, and it doesn't take long to buy the few you really want with just in game currency. So far the only thing I've spent real money on was a new weapon for my medic class, and a few skins for the max / tank. Everything else has come, quite easily from just in game certifications. Upgrade the stock stuff a little (can only be done with in game currency) and use that to get the credits for other stuff you want.

    Yes, if you want to unlock -everything- it's going to take a while, but really it's not necessary, even if the completionist in me wants to unlock everything.

    Total amount I've spent on the game so far: $10, far from a huge money sink.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @02:02PM (#42327659)

    A few weeks? I'm on 1100 certs after a week of (intensive) playing. On a good night when playing in a platoon capping points you easily grab 100/150 certs. Also keep in mind that when unlocking better weapons and the likes and customizing your classes to your liking you will get more effective and gain certs faster.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @02:02PM (#42327661)

    I'm not sure how you got modded +3 for this inane post, but congrats on spewing so much disinformation.

    For those unaware of how Planetside 2's RMT (Real-Money Transactions) work, there are only two things you can actually buy that involve real money:
    1. New guns (whether for infantry or vehicles)
    2. Cosmetic stuff

    All of the new guns can also be unlocked using in-game certifications. Note that NONE of their upgrades can be unlocked with real money. You pay money to unlock a gun, but then if you want to specialize into it, you'll need to use the in-game certifications that you earn while playing.

    Cosmetic stuff can't be unlocked for in-game certs, but seeing as cosmetics don't actually confer an advantage, it really doesn't matter.

    Money won't make you good at this game. It can give you a wider range of options more quickly, but it won't make you better than other players. Planetside 2 isn't a money sink unless you want it to be.

  • by Krojack ( 575051 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @02:20PM (#42327879)

    ^^ This 100 times over.

    I've been playing the game a lot and love it. Real money will buy you some weapon upgrades sooner rather then having to wait to build up the cert points to buy them. Even then the weapon upgrades for ground troops aren't worth it. Weapon upgrades for ground and flying vehicles are a help but again no real money is even needed to get them. You can not buy upgrades to your current weapons using real money. This can only be done from playing the game and earning cert points.

    There are pure cosmetic items that can only be bought using real money. These are just funny decals or cooler looking armor and camouflage.

  • by DaveGod ( 703167 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @03:05PM (#42328511)

    Steam tells me I've played Planetside 2 for 72 hours. In general, it's a valid review that covers a lot of good points, despite noticing that the reviewer's player was obviously low-level.

    Some that I would add however, is:

    a) The game does not offer a comfortable intro to the brand-new player, it will probably spawn you into instant death and there are a lot of things to figure out. The flipside is much of the reason for that is depth.

    b) It's not so vital to play with actual friends, but rather a good squad. When you join the game look at the squad tab and go through them looking for someone using voice comms and setting waypoints on the map. Provided I do look for one, I will usually find an enjoyable squad and that is despite playing at off-peak hours. Playing without a decent squad is very tiresome, lonesome, has no direction and you'll find yourself wondering what to do. Playing with a good squad is the opposite and the trouble is keeping up!

    c) Unless I missed it, he didn't mention that there are 3 factions (hence the 3 colours demonstrating control on the map screen) and they are not quite symmetric. The reviewer is playing as Vanu which is the only one that has that alien-ish theme with ultra futuristic uniforms and laser type weapons. The other two are more conventional. Each faction's weapons and vehicles have attributes with that factions trend e.g. one faction has lower damage per projectile but higher rate of fire, another faction the opposite.

    d) He's a bit harsh implying individual skill doesn't matter. Your l33t skillz might not be quite so obvious to everyone, you're unlikely to "pwn" everyone quite so hard with ridiculous k/d ratios. But the game is balanced pretty well so skilled fraggers will have higher k/d and certainly will make a difference, all else being equal - it's just that you cannot solely rely on your skills and will also need teamplay.

    e) I think this is also where the reviewer goes wrong saying that it's hard to feel you are contributing. In an okay squad it's actually very easy and the game gives you congratulatory messages and experience point rewards making it very clear. Players are generous with the "thank you" voice command. There's also a lot more variety in the ways you can contribute than any game I can think of. Maybe you're not actually any good at FPS shooting, but maybe you'll be good at tank tactics, dogfighting, support roles like engineer or medic, infiltrating and hacking, or simply ferrying people around.

    f) Agreeing with the reviewer and contradicting some other posters, I'm having difficulty finding a need to put real money into this game. I've spent about half the cost of a typical new game so far, and all of that was a splurge because I felt I should contribute given the hours I've gotten from the game. Sure you could spend a lot of money but there's really no need to. Aside from a couple of vehicle items, anything items to buy where to experience-point cost is high thus viable for real-money, they're sidegrades more for preference, like trading short-range raw damage for longer range accuracy. A complete set would cost a ton of money, but you don't want a complete set and anyway you can get everything with enough experience points so if you stick with the game you can be finding yourself picking up rare-use options for no money.

    g) There is no other game where you can experience the epic, massive battles that this game can offer. If that is what you are looking for - you can also easily avoid those and go running around with a small or moderately sized squad.

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington