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Planetside 2

Planetside 2

"Ten soldiers wisely led will beat a hundred without a head" - Euripides.

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Spectacular is a lofty word, but it's the one that best describes the epic battles and ferocious skirmishes that take place on the futuristic battlefields of Planetside 2. Three massive armies duke it out over three huge maps in a persistent, ever-evolving field of conflict in this PC-only online first-person shooter from Sony Online Entertainment.

However, despite its magnificence, Planetside 2 is not without its problems. The most immediate issue is an occasional drop in pace, but a lack of support and guidance for new players can also make first experiences overly complex and daunting. The initial barrier to entry will be sizeable enough to discourage some gamers, but for those who persist, an experience like no other awaits.

Planetside 2

The first thing on the agenda is picking a side. There's three to choose from: the cerebral Vanu Sovereignty, the separatist New Conglomerate and the authoritarian Terran Republic. Regardless of which of the three factions is opted for, the same five basic classes are available in each (with a sixth, Max class also available later). Each is a blank canvas, and comes with bog-standard weapons, ready to be moulded into the perfect soldier.

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Planetside 2 is free-to-play, and so new weapons and XP boosts can be purchased in the Depot, but if desired the game can be played - and enjoyed - without any investment whatsoever. Membership also grants benefits, such as login queue priority, XP and resource boosts, and a wedge of in-game currency once a month to spend on new items from the store.

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It's not unusual for the words "free-to-play" to be met with cynicism, but in Planetside 2 the only noticeable downside to not stumping up some cash is that progression is painfully slow. This is a tolerable inconvenience. Pay-to-win doesn't even come into the equation, much to the developer's credit.

The slow start that non-paying newcomers must endure compounds the issues surrounding inaccessibility. Whilst there are incredible experiences waiting to be had on PS2's servers, knowing where to find them can take some time. Many who try their hand at the game will come away from their first encounter feeling like they've missed something, and in truth, that may well be the case.

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Playing Planetside 2 is like surfing; much time is spent splashing about, waiting for the show to start, but when the big wave hits, if the sweet spot can be found and the board remains underfoot, an exhilarating, incomparable ride will unfold.

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So knowing where to find these exhilarating experiences is key to enjoying PS2, and the best way to find them is to get involved with the community. Played as entirely single-player experience, it can at times feel empty and aimless, but played with friends, or with like-minded strangers, the continents of Amerish, Indar and Esamir come alive.

There's no story to speak of, beyond the science-fiction setting and the three conflicting empires. This is a perpetual war, always finely poised, and never over. Whilst there's plenty of lore surrounding the IP, the developers never let that get in the way of the game's simple function; to deliver massive battles on an unprecedented scale. Territory is fought over, and the frontline moves back and forth, with armies contesting and capturing bases and the surrounding landscape in an effort to paint the map their colour.

The lack of story means that it is player-driven narrative that prevails over the war-torn landscape of the future. Those seeking the tightly defined thrills and spills offered by your more traditional story-centric releases may be disappointed by the lack of direction offered by Planetside 2. But what some players call lack of direction, others call freedom, and for players looking for a shooter that really lets them express themselves on the battlefield, there aren't many games more suited to task.

Planetside 2

The massive theatres of war provide a laundry list of job roles that must be filled, and it's this that informs the level of customisation available to players. There really is role for every type of player: drivers and pilots strafe bases and escort troops to the front line, Infiltrator's sneak behind enemy lines and snipe opponents from range, Combat Medics support the tip of the sword and revive fallen comrades, Engineers mend and repair, Assault troops assault troops.

It's not long before a role is adopted - conscious decision or not - each and every time the war is rejoined. Once familiarity has settled in, and habits have formed, it's then that the solo soldier can turn their attention to finding regular comrades. This can be done by joining groups in-game, or by trawling community forums and making friends that way. Neither way is perfect, and perhaps SOE could do a little more to make it easier for new players to feel involved in the action, and part of the army they've enlisted for.

Planetside 2

For those with friends already on the Planetside 2 servers, getting to the thick of the action is a simpler affair. Coordinated movements on a massive scale compliment smaller skirmishes flaring up all over the continental maps. For those who organise themselves appropriately, success will likely loom large. Working as a team, supporting each other in calculated and deliberate ways, provides a clear advantage when coming up against less coordinated opponents. Teamwork is king, and the more people singing from the same sheet, the more effective they are when the shit hits the fan.

Outside of these moments of incident, there is an element in lethargy to the game's pacing. Should you be on your own, SOE has made it easy to redeploy your soldier into combat hotspots, but even with dozens of soldiers around you, it can still feel lonely at times. There's always the chance of teaming up with some like-minded souls for a couple of hours, but these loose coalitions rarely last more than one or two encounters before they disband, and the emptiness once felt again prevails.

With or without friends, one thing that's undeniable is that when it delivers, Planetside 2 does so with such grandeur and flair, it's impossible not to be impressed. Waves of tanks roll through valleys, swarms of aircraft bombard enemy fortifications, and troops hurl themselves towards certain death to hold off an attack for just a few seconds more. Each soldier, tank and aircraft is controlled by another human being, and when there's dozens - sometimes hundreds - of people involved in explosive and unpredictable battles, it can take some effort to resist the urge to just stand there and watch it all unfold.

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The large scale conflict found here can't be matched by any other FPS out there, on console or PC, but there are other gameplay elements that are comparable to recent releases. In this respect Planetside 2 stands shoulder to shoulder with all the usual shooter suspects. I never experienced any game-breaking lag and hit detection seems accurate. SOE has managed to deliver on the core FPS gameplay, despite the scale exhibited throughout the rest of the game. Everything works as you would want, an achievement all the more impressive when the overall scale and ambition of the game is considered.

The weapons feel weighty and well balanced. Guns can be upgraded in the store, using either earned credits, or old-fashioned cash. There's a plethora of customisation options when you start looking at individual weapons, and the selection of weapon types is plentiful and varied. All of the guns tried so far have felt substantial in the hand, and each one is both visually and audibly distinctive.

Planetside 2

Graphically speaking, Planetside 2 is a thing of beauty and splendor. The three continents are diverse and, more importantly, huge. They're populated by massive structures (that usually form the focal point of much of the action), that are so big they boggle the mind. These structures are decorated with hefty defensive turrets, and dotted around them are generators to be defended and repaired, and terminals that allow load-outs to be altered. There's a lot going on, and even a capable rig is going to have to work hard to display the game on the highest settings, but it's worth it if you can, because the contrasting continents look stunning, the individual units carry distinctive aesthetics, and the soundscape is truly impressive. When all of these elements come together at the same time, the results are nothing short of jaw-dropping.

If you can get get it working on your computer, and you're able to get past the game's brittle exterior, there's real joy to be had on SOE's servers. This perpetual futuristic war delivers thrills unlike any other game, and it does so with the kind of style and quality usually reserved for the very best triple-A titles. As a single player experience it could be made a little more accessible, and there are moments of isolation even when fighting on the most crowded of battlefields. But for a gamer with ready-made comrades and a penchant for teamwork, Planetside 2 could well be the first-person shooter you've been waiting for your whole life.

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Planetside 2
Planetside 2
Planetside 2
Planetside 2
Planetside 2
Planetside 2
Planetside 2
Planetside 2
09 Gamereactor UK
9 / 10
+
+ Epic Scale + Massive battles + Huge range of customisation options + Enormous maps + Free-to-play well implemented + Impressive visuals
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- Could be more accessible - Can feel a little empty from time to time - Impressive visuals will require a beast of a PC
overall score
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REVIEW. Written by Mike Holmes

"The initial barrier to entry will be sizeable enough to discourage some gamers, but for those who persist, an experience like no other awaits."



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