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publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
developer: Verant Interactive
PIII-1000, 256MB RAM, 3GB HDD, 64MB 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: T
release date: May 20, 03
|» All About PlanetSide on ActionTrip|
Editor: Please turn your attention to the gaming genre to my left. Representing First Person Shooters, wearing the yellow trunks with smiley faces in the crosshairs, at a lean 198 pounds, sporting an evil goatee and a smoking railgun - The one, the only - SixShooter!
Six: In the days of the infancy of the FPS, games like Doom and Wolfenstein 3D, many often wondered what it would be like to face down a human opponent rather than the incredibly easy AI bad guys of the day. With Doom II and Quake, that fantasy became reality, and a new genre was born. The multiplayer FPS is easily one of the most popular genres of all times, with hordes of people ready to mix it up and prove their skills in the virtual arena. But, to date, there have always been limits of exactly how many people can face off against one another at any one time. The limit was 8, at first, then 12, and ultimately grew to a (seemingly) astonishing 64 people being able to trade rocket fire at any moment - but was it really enough? Even with games like BF1942, people are trying to simulate actual wars in an FPS environment, but can't due to technological limitations. When, oh when can we get an FPS game that will finally allow full-scale war with no limits to the amount of players engaged? (Uhm...World War II Online? - Ed) No - one that WORKS. (Oh, right. - Ed)
Editor: Now please turn your attention to the genre to my right. Representing Massively Multiplayer Gaming, wearing the Renaissance-style green breeches with lace trims, at a burly 215 pounds, armed with a quick wit and a bloodstained broadsword - he's mean, he's mad - he's Moesha! (What the Hell kind of fruit cake is this -errr 'guy'? -Ed)
Mo: Massively Multiplayer Games have been around for a long while now. While 'back in the day' we had Multi User Dungeons (MUDs) to play with, to many they were hard to get involved with due to a text only interface that only Telnet could provide. Then EverQuest showed up and Paper and Pencil RPG geeks were happily married to Computer Gaming geeks. Fast forward 5 years later and you cannot swing a dead Kobold without hitting a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. They are coming out of the woodwork! What allows these games to survive even though they require a monthly fee is the interaction the player gets from the other humans swinging swords with you. MMORPG's usually offer more depth than a standard video game. Huge quests that can take days or months to complete, player vs. player combat and the ability to 'craft' or create items that can be sold in the online world. Another plus, since you are paying a monthly fee, the world is an ever growing ever changing environment as the publishr fixes bugs, tweaks stats and adds new content.
Editor: We've brought these two diametrically opposed gamers together to talk about PlanetSide - Sony Online Entertainment's newest offering - a Massively Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter with RPG elements! The question of the day remains, however, is it enough to slake the thirst of MMO and FPS fans worldwide, and make them pay the monthly fee? Watch the BLOODSHED! Feel the BONE-BREAKING PAIN as these two BITTER ENEMIES do BATTLE -
Six: What the hell are you talking about? We're just gonna review the game! Gimme a break!
Ed: You mean you're not going to kill each other?
Mo: Not right now, at least.
Ed: Damn. Oh well. Review away, then.
Mo: Well, I guess I'll start. Here's the story: PlanetSide takes place in an alternate future, where the world is run by the iron fist of the Terran Republic, and has begun to expand into outer space. The Republic has discovered wormhole travel, and has used it to colonize the world of Auraxis, among others. Years passed, and Auraxis has become a fully populated and thriving society. There, on Auraxis, two significant discoveries are made - First, Republic scientists discovered ancient remains of a society long since departed, called the Vanu. Together, they used this technology to develop "rebirthing", which would allow a person's DNA to be reconstructed after death - thus eliminating the fear of death for anyone. Second, the wormhole back to Mother Earth has mysteriously closed, thus stranding the Auraxians from ever returning home. The Republic tries to keep a lid on the loss of the wormhole, but when the information reaches the masses, all hell breaks loose.
The Republic tries to keep its stranglehold on Auraxis, to no avail. Two new factions break out and declare independence from the Republic - the New Conglomerate, created by radicals who reject the fascist Republic, and the Vanu Sovereignty, founded by the scientists that discovered the Vanu technology and wish to embrace it as humanity's future. But, instead of the New Conglomerate and Vanu Sovereignty working together to topple the Republic, the Vanu regard the Conglomerate as savages and the Conglomerate see the Vanu as freaks that reject their own humanity. So, the three empires go to war - a war that is waged constantly on every continent of Auraxis, every minute of every day that you, The Player, get to jump into the middle of and hopefully make a difference.
Six: Ah, who cares about story? The story is not an essential part of the game really. Sony has tried their best to make it seem more associated with the gameplay, but this is a persistent MMO world after all, and not a single-player experience. I want ACTION. Here's how it all stacks up. The developers went to great lengths to balance out the three factions. The Terran Republic (TR) adopts a "more bullets, more kills" strategy. They have the lowest damage-per-shot rate, but a much faster refire rate than their two counterparts. The Vanu Sovereignty (VS) use predominantly energy-based weapons, but their class-specific land vehicles are hovercraft and can travel on water for short distances, thus increasing their ability to strike at enemy targets. The New Conglomerate (NC) has the hardest hitting weapons - when they hit you, you feel it. The drawback is they have the slowest refire rate, so the NC must make every shot count.
Each side is outfitted with a standard set of weapons, vehicles and armor payloads, along with certain faction-specific weapons and heavy vehicles that reflect the major strengths of each side (For example, the TR has a chaingun, the VS carries a heavy beam weapon and the NC has a high-powered shotgun). The standard vehicles perform a variety of functions, such as ATV-style cycles (Basilisks and Wraiths) that are good for scouting and one-man assaults, 2-man dune buggys (Harrassers) that are good for quick strikes, armored personnel carriers (Sunderers and Deliverers), and light tanks (Lightning). The airborne vehicles (the Mosquito and Reaver fighters and the Galaxy dropship) are standard to each side. Lastly, each side has access to three flavors of MAX armor, which is heavy-duty powered personal armor. Since a MAX pilot can't use any weapons other than what is on his MAX, each MAX has a bonus ability that varies between the three sides. The TR MAX can plant himself into the ground, essentially becoming a human turret and will double his rate of fire, decimating any and everything that comes in his line of fire, but leaves him a sitting duck to incoming fire. The VS MAX has less armor than its counterparts, but contains an anti-gravity device that allows the MAX to leap to impressive heights, making facility walls no obstacle whatsoever, and the NC MAX has a high-powered shield that will keep the MAX pilot alive long enough to get those heavy shots off (at the cost of an even lower rate of fire). As a whole, the arsenal is very nice - diverse, powerful and well balanced.
Mo: Ah, but you can't use all of them right off the bat.
Six: Yeah, that part sucks.
Mo: No it makes sense! In order to use all of these impressive toys, along with certain abilities like hacking, armor repair and stealth, you must be certified in their use. Every character, throughout his ability to deal death and destruction, will gain Battle Experience Points (BEP's) that, when a new Battle Rank is reached, will allow more points to be allocated in the various skills. This will present a powerful incentive for any MMORPG gamer.
Six: But you can only wear armor, use weapons, or drive vehicles you're certified in?
Six: But what if I hate them?
Mo: Then you suck. But, you can unlearn what you have learned! You can de-certify in anything that doesn't agree with your style of play, and spend those points on new certifications. Some people have a problem that they can't seem to get enough experience fast enough to get those Battle Ranks. MMORPG veterans know that through perseverance comes reward. One must learn to walk before he can run.
Six: Ha! That's because this game ain't about all that fancy sword-swingin' and spell-castin'! It's about carnage! It's about pillage! It's about taking your army and moving like a wave of death over the continent you're on and crushing your enemies beneath your heel and hearing the lamentation of the women!
Mo: You need therapy and medication.
Six: No, seriously. The best and fastest way to get experience is by hooking up in squads, and taking facilities. Over the 10 available continents (3 are the home sanctuaries, which don't count...yet), there are varying facilities strewn about each. There is a constant war of attrition going on through each continent as the facilities rise and move from faction to faction, with towers strategically placed around each facility. A squad can contain up to 10 people, and should be made up of a diverse group of fighters - pilots, grunts, MAXes, hackers, stealthers, medics, you get the picture. In order to "take" a facility, your team must reach the facility's Command Console and successfully hack it. Once it is hacked, you must then hold the facility for the allotted time when your army officially captures the building. Then, you and your squad get a Battle XP bonus. Also, every kill nets you Battle XP, which is shared by all members of your squad. So, if you find yourself manning a turret with a clear line of sight, your squadmates, who are inside taking the facility for you, can be gaining XP for you. Also, a good squad leader should be rewarded for his hard work, so when a facility is taken, the squad leader gains Command Experience which goes toward his Command Rank. Leveling in Command Rank enhances a squad leader's abilities, such as setting squad waypoints, or writing out battle plans on the world map. Also, the squad can enable the integrated TeamSound system to use the game's Voice over IP system to add an additional level of communication. Lastly, the developers intend to enable three full squads of 10 to form a platoon, thus tripling their tactical advantage!
Mo: You got invites to join squads? I didn't get invited into any squads!
Six: That's because everyone hates you. But that does make it very difficult to gain Battle Ranks. Solo players usually flounder.
Mo: Well, enough of the game's mechanics. Let's talk turkey, turkey. How is this game, anyway?
Six: The game looks...good. Not great, mind you - just good. It's kind of disappointing. Certain textures are fairly simplistic, the models have less polies than some of the early shots may've indicated.
Mo: You FPS freaks and your visuals. Think about it - the sheer numbers of units, vehicles and everything? If EVERY object had ultra high-poly models and bleeding edge graphic techniques, in a heavy firefight, this game would run slower than molasses running uphill in January. Sony Online Entertainment is obviously going for the lowest common denominator.
Six: They want people with fairly average rigs to subscribe and play, and not just the hard-core FPS crowds?
Six: Yeah, I guess you're right, but what most impressed me was the audio. I really liked the sweeping score, and the use of the positional audio system. You can hear an air raid going on outside while you're guarding a terminal or command console. Also, you have to use your ears if you're going to pick up those people in Infiltration Suits.
Mo: But what about the crux of the matter? What's the gameplay like?
Six: Standard FPS fare, for the most part. It's like playing the world's biggest game of BF1942 - which is a very, very good thing. The action is very smooth, but when things really start to get hairy, and the numbers of players in one area starts to climb, there is that unavoidable bane of FPS gamers everywhere - lag. Also, when you've captured your 100th facility, the gameplay starts to get a bit repetitive. The developers do intend to add Sanctuary Strikes, to lop off the head of your rival factions, but that's not ready to go quite yet. But I fear that without something much more significant to add to the game, it may get very stale very fast. Also, the game does have a few more bugs to work out - I crashed to the desktop several times, as well as being inexplicably booted from the world servers. I'm sure the developers are working on these issues, but it can be quite annoying.
Mo: Technically, this game is still not on the level of quality players will expect it to be. As far as additional content goes, let's hope that, since this is an MMORPG Hybrid, Sony Online Entertainment will be adding new stuff to the game as the PlanetSide community continues to grow and expand.
Now, I don't want to be labeled as an MMORPG snob, I enjoy getting in and blowing the hell out of others as much as the next guy. However, I find though that since I am in a MMORPG type environment, I find myself wanting that depth I have become accustomed to in a typical MMORPG; quests, acquiring better equipment through crafting etc. That's when I have to slap myself and remember it's a HYBRID! Get used to it and enjoy it for what it is.
Six: Okay, time for closing comments. When I look at PlanetSide, I think to myself "Hey! You got an MMO game in my FPS! Hey! You got your FPS in my MMO game!" Two great game genres that go great together. This is the ultimate evolution in online FPS gaming - the only problem is where do we go from here? The good part about this game is that it is fun, looks good, sounds great, and plays exactly like one would expect a game of this magnitude to play, minus the aforementioned technical issues of course. The tricky part about it is that in order to keep playing, you have to open your veins and let Sony take all your money away in small, bite-sized chunks. But, then again, you're used to that - you're an addict of the highest caliber. I remember when you went to rehab to cure yourself of your addiction to EverQuest. Every other word out of your mouth for a month was "Norrath this..." "Norrath that..."
Mo: PlanetSide gives me a nice adrenaline rush and allows me to jump in and out of games whenever I want. I get to be a team player as I support my faction, as they take over buildings in intense firefights. I like being able to have several different characters on the same server so I can have one who has spec points in Stealth and Hacking and have another character who is a heavy weapons expert who can also fly assault aircraft. The lag and random dumps to the Desktop I can live with because I have faith they will fix those issues soon, but will other gamers have such faith, I don't know. My only complaint is this feeling of "what's the point?" after playing for a while. Sure, I helped take these buildings but ultimately what do I get in exchange? Why are we constantly fighting for control? You may enjoy mindlessly blowing stuff up Six, but I want a little more to motivate me and keep me coming back for more over time. That's why it might've been a good idea to associate the story more with the gameplay.
Editor: OOH! BURN! YEAH, EAT THAT, SIXSHOOTER! HAHAHHAAAA!!! There you have it, folks! Two AT editors that HATE each other, but LOVE this game! And it only took 12 BLOODY, GORY ROUNDS of VICIOUS, MURDEROUS RAGE to do it!
Six: And you say *I* need therapy.
Mo: What the Hell is he talking about? We don't hate each other! Why is he trying to get us to fight?
Well Balanced, good FPS action with a massively multiplayer online twist; great sound effects;
Graphics suffer due to MMO. The game lags during heavy firefights; random crashes to desktop and other minor bugs. Gameplay can get repetitive without new content.
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