Friday, November 23, 2012

Review: Planetside 2

So, there's a few things to know:

First and foremost - if you are someone that does not learn quickly, cannot adapt, and gets easily frustrated at video games, PlanetSide 2 (PS2) is not for you.  Do not download it.  Do not play it.  Dismiss it without a thought and move on to the next game of interest.

I say this so bluntly and with such emphasis because the game literally dumps you out into the wild and leaves you to fend for yourself.  It does not teach you anything.  There is no tutorial - only a link on the patcher that takes you to some overly verbose videos that will help, but offer nothing to the majority of gamers that want to learn by playing - not watching someone else play their game.

I always get angry when I come into a game that doesn't have a tutorial.  It's inexcusable.  There is no reason except apathy and a lack of consideration towards your player base to justify not having a five-minute experience showing newcomers the ropes.  Industry standards.  Go try to develop software privately and hand it to a client without showing them how to use it.  Let me know how that works out for you. 

So, what does happen when you start the game?  You get a short video that tells you what's about to happen - you're about to be dropped into a hot area and instantly killed by something that you couldn't see, weren't prepared for, and didn't know how to combat.  Sounds like a fantastic first impression.  Imagine if every time you saw an advertisement, the first five seconds of the commercial was someone uttering racial slurs and profanity, and then kicking a small, cute, animal.  That's about the frustration-educing level that PS2's opening impression leaves a player with.

Before I break into the usual good/bad/balanced, I just want you to know I'm fighting an urge.  An urge to just type up all the shit you need to know about this game that will make your experience INFINITELY better from the moment you re-spawn after that bitter first death.   I'll do that, in the next article, which you'll be able to find here when it's done.

You can't actually do this in PS2.  But it would be bad ass if you could.

The Good

- The game runs well if you have a half-decent computer.  My current rig is over 3 years old, its sub-optimal in many many ways, and it's been giving me problems galore lately.  It still gets 50+ FPS in PS2, and I haven't messed with the settings much.

- The game rewards strategic, cooperative play - even if most of the people mindlessly running around haven't figure that out yet.

 - Holy shit, this game is fun.  I've spent far more hours than most would consider safe or reasonable flying around my Reaver this holiday weekend.  (That's a small fighter-jet type vehicle).  There's ground vehicles too, and if vehicular manslaughter isn't your cup of tea, the infantry vs. infantry aspects of the game are solid as well.  I can say something about PS2 that I can rarely say about any game - it has something that everyone can enjoy.

- The game involves everyone.  If you want to just be a pilot that ferry's troops, you can do that.   They need you to do that.  It's a long ass walk otherwise.

- Well thought out, intriguing maps.   I can imitate flying an A-Wing through a canyon just like in Rebel Assault.  I can shoot down enemies over a lush jungle, or I can watch as they leave a crater in the icy landscape.  You can actually be strategic in this game, instead of just moving from cover to cover and shooting whatever you find.

- You gain certification points (in-game 'currency' that you spend to unlock customizations, guns, armors, utility abilities, etc.) offline.  They said that PS2 ripped this feature from Eve-Online.  People that say that are stupid - Eve is, nor ever was, the only game to give you credit towards something while you are offline.  This gives players the chance to catch up even if they haven't played for awhile.  (I believe there is a limit to this, but can't say for certain - you don't get these points forever)

- A subscription model that makes sense!?  For $15 a month I get +25% experience, and resources (used for vehicles and other stuff), AND I get 500 station cash (= to $5).  So I really pay $10.  Also, that % of rewards goes up for each month you keep it active (by 5%, up to 65% I believe).  If you like this game, holy shit, that's worth it.

- Kickass music.

- NO HITSCAN WEAPONS!!!!!  What's that mean?  Hitscan is a fucking horrendously archaic game mechanic that means if you aim a shot right, it hits, no matter what.  Bullet travel time is irrelevant - if the crosshairs line up, you hit all your shots.  That obviously makes cheating much easier for the douchebags that do it.  Every shot you fire in PS2 has travel time, so you need to lean your targets, etc.  Needless to say, sniping is very hard. Aim bots won't help you much here.

The Bad

- I've done a lot of software QA in my day, all professionally.  As with most games at launch, there are nearly game-breaking 'features' that should not have made it to a live build of the game.  For example, you can not see your squad mate's position on the map if they are in a vehicle.  This makes squads for airborne friends rather frustrating.  "Where are you!?!"  Another favorite of mine is spawning in, and then falling through the ground and dying.

- The client and imagery reeks of Everquest 1.  That's right.  EQ1.  The foliage, ground textures, mountains, I could swear almost all of it was ripped right from that game.  It has a lot of the same UI errors that were never fixed, as well.  Like saving preview options when switching specs:  If I view the Medic's guns, then switch to the Light Assault and view their guns, it still shows me the medics guns because I went to him first.  Pretty awesome stuff.  You get used to it.

- This game does not run well on old machines.  It will be unplayable.

- Lag can be frustratingly bad if you're an infantry soldier and stuck in a huge battle.  The servers just can't handle that many bullets, grenades, etc.  I've noticed ZERO lag in vehicles - far less action in the area is my guess - although that doesn't make much sense.  Server load is server load.

- No tutorial means there's literally dozens of things you need to figure out on your own.  Things that many people will quit in frustration of without ever realizing they could do.  Like having to actually equip things other then weapons when you buy them.  Call me crazy, but when something says "Gives 10% health", I expect it to do that.  Not "Gives 10% health when equipped."  There's a big difference.

- Random flickering enemies, friends, tanks, planes, trains, and automobiles.  Starts happening about 1 hour into a session.  Restart the game often, there's a memory leak. Also, there are no trains.

- No trains.

- No Tutorial.  I have no idea how large bases are captured.  We literally spent 10 hours yesterday fighting over one huge base that the enemy somehow retained spawn-rights to (in one room).  They'd group up and fan out over and over.  Lots of experience, and frustration.  They had nothing else anywhere near that base, yet they kept coming from that one room.  Wish I knew what was going on.


 The Balanced

-  While the game leans VERY FAR towards the pay-to-win equation of free-to-play (F2P) games, there's hope.  You can't unlock everything with money, just weapons - obviously, some are better then others and provide a huge advantage.  HOWEVER, raw skill balances this out - if you are better than your opponent, you will win almost all the time.  Further balancing this out is the fact that there are customizations galore, armor, shields, health, unique abilities, etc. that can't be unlocked with money - you need to play the game, and do well, to unlock them in a reasonable amount of time.

- The flight controls can be anger-inducing until you get used to them.  But once you get a few hours behind the ... stick (?) you'll get the hang of it and maneuver with ease.  Incredible ease, actually.  And its a hell of a lot of fun.

- Every class and play style has something to offer.  From anti-air tanks, to medics, to heavy assault troopers.  Nobody has any real overpowered (OP) garbage that they exploit endlessly for an advantage.  At least not that I've seen.

- Room to grow on.  New continents, weapons, vehicles, classes, lots of options.  LOTS.  Interested, but cautiously optimistic about what the future holds for this game.

So, what did I miss?  Anything?   Leave me your thoughts below.  Also - keep an eye out for the PS2 Survival guide that will be out some point this weekend, and don't forget to check back here often - I've always got new stuff coming out.


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