Planetside 2 – Closed Beta Impressions
Planetside was an MMO ahead of its time. Released in a time when fantasy MMOs were the norm, it had great potential but didn’t catch on since online shooters were in their infancy. Now, Sony Online Entertainment is revisiting the franchise with Planetside 2. While Planetside 2 retains the same appeal as the original, it also appeals to a more robust, modern crowd. MMOHuts had a chance to play the game during its closed beta to get a feel for how it compares not only to its predecessor, but to the bolstered MMOFPS crowd.
As usual, character creation is our first step in joining Planetside 2. Creation is relatively simple, with only three choices: gender, skin color, and faction. You cannot create characters of different factions on the same server for balance reasons; however you can create them on different servers (which is what we did). Faction choice does play a role in your gameplay – each faction has its own selection of vehicles and weapons.
After character creation, you can jump immediately into the game; there’s no tutorial phase to guide you. Launching into the game, you’ll be placed in your faction’s sanctuary as a light assault class. Planetside 2’s controls are typical for an FPS: WASD for movement, mouse to look, left click to fire, and right click to zoom. You can also melee attack with the middle mouse button. A mouse wheel will cycle through your available weapons, or you can use the number keys to select your weapon directly.
Planetside 2’s class system is similar to the original, but with greater flexibility. Accessing a weapon terminal (shown by a gun icon in the mini-map) will let you choose between the game’s six classes. Each of Planetside 2’s classes brings something unique to the battlefield. Infiltrators are the stealth snipers, using sniper rifles and an activated camouflage system. Light assault troops are the shock troopers of the game, using jetpacks to get over obstacles to quickly take out key targets. Combat medics are invaluable in keeping a squad healthy, but an also hold their own in combat. Engineers keep vehicles and other mechanical devices running, and can also drop turrets. Heavy assault troops specialize on vehicle take-down, with high-capacity machine guns to handle infantry. Finally, MAX units come heavily armed and can be set to take down infantry, air, or ground targets, but at a lower movement speed.
The weapon terminal also allows you to customize your weapons. Through various actions in game, including capturing objectives and killing enemy players, you gain battle points which will determine your Battle Rank, as well as CERTS. CERTS allows you to put points in bonuses and skills to enhance your class; some weapon CERTs also carry over to other classes if the weapons are shared (such as the light assault and engineer.) Gaining Battle Rank allows you unlock higher level CERTS.
Planetside 2’s maps are persistent, and there are a few ways to get into the battles currently active in your area. You can select a hotspot (indicated with a large exclamation point on the map); join a squad and jump to a member’s waypoint; or use any of the vehicles (including your own feet) to get to the action. Squads are particularly invaluable, since the game offers in-game voice chat and command skills to assist your teammates. For instance, we joined a Terran squad during a base capture, and the quick response time and leadership of a squad member let all players quickly change their tactics.
Although we weren’t great at using some of the vehicles, they still proved their value in battle. Ground vehicles are fairly easy to control, while air vehicles feature a more complex control system. Each vehicle specializes in different areas; for example, the Lightning excels in sieges, taking out troops and turrets alike. Vehicles are also great for crossing maps – but be careful! Friendly fire is enabled in Planetside 2, and it’s possible to run over your teammates on your way to a base.
At its core, Planetside 2 is simple in all the right ways. Since the world is persistent and constantly changing as players capture or defend facilities, Planetside 2 stands out from its competitors. There’s always something going on, which can’t be said for lobby-based MMOFPS games during off-peak hours. Even solo, bases and other objectives can be captured – if you’re so daring.
Planetside 2 takes the core of what made its predecessor so unique in the online world and polishes it to a modern FPS experience like no other. Even at this early stage of beta testing, the game feels exceptionally balanced. We never felt like we had an unfair advantage, or that we were ever underpowered against someone of a higher level. Skill is key in Planetside 2, from teamwork to vehicle control and simple survival sense. We would like to see inclusion of the Planetside VR Training system to help new players get a feel for how their weapons behave. Otherwise, we expect great things from Planetside 2, which may be the biggest thing Sony Online Entertainment has rolled out since EverQuest.
Want more of Planetside 2′s persistent action? Check out MMOHut’s PAX Prime 2012 Planetside 2 Hands-On Demo! More information about the game can also be found at MMOHut’s official Planetside 2 profile.
More Planetside 2 Screenshots: