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PlanetSide 2 Previews: E3 2012 Hands-on Preview

By Michael Bitton on June 06, 2012

I’ve been a Battlefield fan since the original BF 1942 and while the series has evolved in many ways over the years, there’s always been one thing missing: a real sense of persistence. The original PlanetSide was a bit before its time in its aspirations and before my time as far as playing MMOs. Fortunately, it looks like PlanetSide 2 is poised to truly crossover the MMO and the shooter properly.

I attended the debut presentation for PlanetSide 2 during this year’s GDC in San Francisco and I was completely blown away by how amazing the game looked, but all I’ve been thinking since that day has been, “When am I going to be able to play the damn thing?!” Thankfully, E3 2012 was that fateful day for me.

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One of the main criticisms of the original PlanetSide was that it wasn’t such a great shooter. If someone dropped you at a PlanetSide 2 station and didn’t tell you what it was you’d probably get the impression that it was a super slick and polished sci-fi Battlefield game. PlanetSide 2 is a shooter through-and-through. It feels as tight as the best AAA shooters on the market, which is exactly what it needs to feel like if it’s going to really make it as an MMOFPS. Persistence is great and all, but if you’re still getting a better shooter experience in your current favorite shooter you’re probably not going to care as much.

I mostly ran around as a Heavy Assault class. The Heavy Assault is basically an assault rifle wielding class that also carries a heavy weapon, in my case, a rocket launcher that can lock onto enemy vehicles. I did try flying for a bit, but it takes me awhile to get used to inverted controls and I didn’t want to waste my time crashing over and over, so I decided to just run around on foot and take out any air vehicles that I could lock onto and hit. Fortunately for pilots, it’s not a simple task for a single infantryman to take out an air vehicle. Lighter vehicles like the Mosquito can turbo-boost and dodge some of your missiles or outright avoid them by deploying countermeasures. Massive dropships, such as the Galaxy, can outright take a full payload of your rockets and truck along. You’ll have to resupply or work with another Heavy Assault to take them down on the ground with portable munitions.

Of course, there are also certification points to consider. PlanetSide 2’s progression system mainly consists of earning experience to unlock certification points, or CP, that can then be spent on unlocks tailored to your style of play. If you enjoy using a specific weapon, for example, you can spend points to increase its effective range, ammo, and more. You can spend points on a line of Squad Leader unlocks that will enhance your ability to lead small to massive groups of players. Squad Leaders, by the way, are encouraged to do their jobs by being rewarded additional experience for other players completing their assigned missions. Likewise, players who follow their squad leaders’ orders also receive bonus experience.

As far as what you’ll actually be fighting over in PlanetSide 2, well, the game is set to ship with three landmasses, or maps, if you will, each dotted with bases (both large and small) for players to capture. Each base or outpost will award your faction with a number of a specific resource type, and these resources are used to procure certain arms and vehicles from the various spawning terminals found on the map. The amount of a specific resource owned by your faction determines the rate of gain (at fixed intervals) by players in your faction. Does your faction control 20 units of Polymers? Well, you’ll gain more Polymer at X interval than you would if your faction only controlled, say, 10 Polymers.

Controlling specific resource types may be important in dealing with enemy factions who may benefit more (based on their strengths) by having greater access to resources that allow them to leverage that strength. Hypothetically, if the Vanu were really great at air combat and their air vehicles primarily required tons of Polymers, well, you’d want to cut off their supply in order to really set them back.’

Taking over one base isn’t always the same as the next, either. SOE is utilizing a number of common gameplay types as a means to capture different bases. For example, some bases might utilize the capture-the-flag mechanic while others may require players simply capture and hold a certain number of points within the base for a length of time. It’s also easier to capture bases alongside territory you own, both for the fact you’d be able to respawn closer to the objective and due to the game’s design which increases the time or effort required to capture a base further from your territory. This was a deliberate choice made by SOE in order to keep players closer to the action. A direct response to a criticism of the original PlanetSide, where players often had a hard time jumping into the game and finding the action quickly.

Beyond the different capture types, players will have to consider a number of other variables when gearing up for combat in specific territory. For example, jungle areas of the map are beneficial to infantry and dangerous to air vehicles as infantry can take better cover in order to deal with air vehicles safely. Flatter terrain is obviously beneficial to tanks, as another example.

Finally, we were shown the PlanetSide 2 mobile app (coming to Android and iPad). The app allows you to check on the battlefield status in real time, communicate (via voice) with your entire faction, review your character, and tons of other features. It’s a robust app that will basically let you take your PlanetSide 2 experience with you everywhere you go. It’s a really neat way to extend your game and get even more invested into your MMO experience.

So far we’ve seen SOE talk the talk, but I think I can confidently say that it looks like the team is definitely prepared to walk-the-walk. PlanetSide 2’s polished, tight, shooter gameplay combined with massive three-faction battles are going to take the MMO world by storm and if you’re at all intrigued by this sort of game you’ll want to stay tuned here at MMORPG.com as we’ll be chomping at the bit for any and all new information on the game.

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