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PlanetSide 2

GDC: Conquering worlds for free in PlanetSide 2

1:00 PM on 03.07.2012 // Ryan Perez

First-person shooters lend themselves incredibly well to vast, open environments, so it's almost criminal that we don't have more games taking that to the level the original PlanetSide did. A normal session of gameplay involved me driving my stealth four-wheeler to the nearest battle, and then sneaking up on unsuspecting snipers as they assassinated my fellow Vanu soldiers from the hills. No points, no timers, and no barriers were involved ... only hundreds of players, fighting for control over a particular base.

When PlanetSide 2 was announced, I first thought to myself, "Thank Christ Sony Online Entertainment is actually doing something." Then I fist-pumped in excitement when I heard it was a sequel to a game I enjoyed a great deal in high school, and was of a genre that I wished would have taken off, but didn't: the MMOFPS.

Then today, at a hands-off preview of PlanetSide 2, they told me the game is going to be free to play. So, after having now seen this sweet-looking game in action, and knowing that my finances (or lack thereof) are no longer a factor, I'm pretty sure this game is 100% confirmed to be a part of my future.

PlanetSide 2 (PC)
Developer: Sony Online Entertainment

Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Release: TBA

I got your disease. The only way I could get my hands on Mass Effect 3 today was by trading in four other games. Honestly, since I've been living the vagrant lifestyle of a college student (though I graduated f*ckin' years ago), the idea of playing a game at no cost has been getting sweeter and sweeter. In fact, free-to-play MOBA games took up more of my time in 2011 than any other genre.

So you can imagine my ecstasy when I learned that PlanetSide 2, a game I actually anticipate, won't take a single dime from me (unless I want it to). The only things that will require cash are the usual experience boosts and custom skins -- that's it. Like a lot of other developers out there, SOE doesn't believe in "pay to win," so any of us poor sods won't be at a disadvantage against the other responsible people with real jobs and a steady income.

If you've ever been curious to experience first-person shooters on a grander scale, or if you're a fan of MMOs and would like to try something a little more persistently chaotic, at least now you know that you won't have to sell your other kidney to do so.

It's tough to say whether or not there's a market for MMOFPS games, because ... well, there technically isn't one. The original PlanetSide didn't do terribly well, so the genre never went anywhere subsequently. What followed was missed opportunity for companies to capitalize on a fairly obvious and brilliant idea. Thankfully, SOE is taking another shot at it (pun intended), and cult fans will be pleased to know that plenty of what made the original game great will be in this follow-up.

Players will pick from one of the original three factions: the authoritative and tyrannical Terran Republic, the rebellious and crafty New Conglomerate, or the tech-savvy and cult-like Vanu Sovereignty (mine). All three groups not only feature their own visual identities, but the hardware they sport provide distinguishable gameplay elements; Conglomerate weapons pack a punch but suffer from bullet drag, whereas the Vanu utilize energy rounds that travel straight to their target, however don't do as much damage as traditional ammo.

Speaking of hardware, vehicles play just as large of a role in PS2 as they did in the original game, if not larger. While infantry are required for the inner-workings of a base or capture point, an entire fleet of tanks can make short work of outer defenses. Believe me when I say "fleet," because players can freely creep up to enemy strongholds with squads of gunships -- dozens of them. Queue "Ride of the Valkyries."

What makes such epic possibilities even more appealing is the fact that PlansetSide 2 features a completely persistent world map. Each continent provides several marked, resource-laden areas for enemy factions to invade, capture and control -- distinguished by the color of the faction that owns them. Attack and defend as you please; nothing is planned or scripted. This made the conflicts in the original game much more personal than most other shooters around today, and I can imagine the same will be said about this upcoming sequel.

I can't completely ignore what other, more confined shooters did right that the original PlanetSide did wrong. Games like the Modern Warfare series ushered in a new standard for online shooters with customization and RPG elements. It added a new degree of depth to online play, and was the main reason so many people kept going back for more. Likewise, such elements have made their way into PlanetSide 2, where they feel even more welcome.

Over the course of the game, you acquire both experience and in-game currency that go towards new weapons, vehicles and upgrades. While the typical additions can be expected (red dot sights, different ammo types), infantry can benefit from varying armor classes, stat-boosting implants, special abilities, and a variety of large and small firearms. I'm anxious to see if roles play as large of a part in PS2's gameplay as they do in other MMOs (i.e. tanks, healers, straight DPS).

Customization also extends to vehicles, as well. Airships can either be outfitted with missiles to make short work of ground targets, or use fast-firing rail guns to help keep the skies clear. Tanks can be equipped with better armor, heavier-hitting shells, or better innards for speed sake. Before you know it, SOE might give players the ability to name their beasts of destruction. I imagine "Bertha" would be a popular pick.

PlanetSide 2 is definitely a game for people who have wanted to take the fast, action-packed gamelpay of first-person shooters onto an even more vast battlefield. As someone who enjoyed the first game, I can say that fighting a war without barriers is something that really can't be replicated in any other genre.

While my thirst for open-world warfare was nary sated over these past several years, it's good to know that SOE decided to provide fans like myself with a tall drink of water. Anyone else with a dry mouth and a desire for something new and refreshing should definitely keep an eye on PlanetSide 2.

Ryan Perez,
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