PlanetSide Arena – First Look
PlanetSide Arena is an attempt to combine the big-team-battle appeal of PlanetSide with a battle royale! In theory, they should be two great tastes that go great together. In practice, however, not so much.
PlanetSide Arena is a third-person (or first person) shooter set in a sci-fi universe complete with space-age combat armor, futuristic weapons and vehicles, and tons of enemies to shoot. This probably sounds pretty familiar to anyone who has ever played a sci-fi shooter before, and that’s because it should. PlanetSide Arena, in every conceivable way, feels like every other sci-fi shooter of the last two decades, for better or worse. In fact, make that for better and worse.
Visually, PlanetSide Arena is appealing. The Halo-style aesthetic really works for the game. Environments pop out at you, after they’ve had time to pop in, and its easy to see that effort was put into developing the game’s battlefield. Unfortunately, the engine around it doesn’t agree with it too well. Environmental elements suffer from massive bouts of pop in and I don’t just mean textures. Entire trees and portions of the ground will be absent and then violently emerge from the ether to disrupt you. This fades after a while, but expect it to rear its ugly head every time a new match is started. For the sake of transparency, this was with the game on max settings running in 4K. The engine also chuggs while it’s trying to load the map, which can cause frame-rate dips. The game is in early access, so it deserves a small break for this since optimization is usually one of the last things to happen before a game fully launches, but it was still enough to bother me.
Still, the game looks nice, especially where the character models are concerned. They’re highly detailed, easy to see even at long range, and most importantly look cool. They do look a little too close to Halo designs to be considered unique, but honestly “a little close to Halo” is a phrase we could use to describe almost every aspect of the game. There’s definitely a heavy inspiration, for sure.
From a game-play perspective, PlanetSide Arena handles just like every other shooter on the market today. Guns feel fairly responsive, you can aim down the sights of all the guns to get a better shot at your target, and there’s just the right amount of recoil to your shots. Movement, on the other hand, feels a little stiff, especially where the vehicles are concerned. Your jetpack handles fine, but it’s about the only vehicle that does. Your personal vehicle functions a lot like the speeders from Destiny. You can summon it at will by pressing a button, but doing so only offers marginal benefit. The Assault class vehichle, however, is garbage. Don’t get me wrong: the vehicle is much faster than walking. It just handles like a brick in a washing machine. Even the tiniest of hills will send it vaulting into the air, and it turns at about half the speed of smell. Seriously the handling on this thing almost makes it not worth using. The other vehicles in the game handle more admirably, thankfully.
The guns on the vehicles, especially this game’s version of the Warthog, are fun to use though. Massive cannons and machine guns that can mow through enemies with the greatest of ease are always a hoot, and this game is no exception. It beats the hell out of driving the things, anyway.
There are three classes for you to try, each with their own weapon loadouts and abilities they can use on the battlefield. The Medic, my favorite, functions as a Sniper as well. The Assault class is your standard assault rifle loadout, and the engineer uses light machine guns. Given how big these battles are, with 300 players per match according to promotional material, you’ll want to consider team balance when choosing a class to play. Of course, it’ll only get you so far, as it’s possible to win a match in Squad mode without ever seeing an enemy or firing a shot. How this is possible, I don’t know, but I have video of it. I much preferred the smaller Team mode which featured three person teams as opposed to the 10+ man squads of Squad mode, but team mode has been removed from the game following player feedback to focus on the main Squad mode.
So what about progression? Well, PlanetSide Arena handles progression with class and weapon modifications that you can add on to give yourself extra abilities. This is also, coincidentally, where the game is at its absolute worst. Mods are locked behind loot boxes, which are in turn locked behind daily challenge/credit grinding or paying actual money. The better the loot box you want to open, the more it will cost. These mods offer things like refunding your ammo when you break someone’s shield or doing a ton of extra damage to vehicles so they’re incredibly useful. This is part of what makes the loot box setup so frustrating. To make matters worse, the loot boxes can and will give you duplicate items, and the credit reward for receiving these duplicates is almost nothing in the grand scheme of the game. I’ve said in the past that locking gameplay affecting items behind paywalls is one of the worst possible monetization strategies there is, and I stand by that statement.
Overall, PlanetSide Arena feels like a game with a lot of potential and a whole lot more problems. If they could sort out the wonky vehicle handling, tighten up the engine, and get rid of the loot box-based progression, I’d say it’d be a hell of a shooter. As it stands though, it feels more like a slot machine disguised as a sub-par Halo game. In short, don’t bother with PlanetSide Arena until things change.
Note: A Recruit Edition Bundle was offered to us for coverage access.
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