Last week, we continued our review-in-progress for SOE’s ambitious free-to-play MMOFPS, PlanetSide 2, with our take on the game’s air combat role. This week, we’ll offer our analysis of PlanetSide 2 as it stands from the ground vehicle gameplay experience.
THE SHINY PARTS (Week 4)
If you’d rather roll in an armor column than hoof it on foot or zip around in the air, PlanetSide 2’s got you covered. The game has four vehicles on offer, ranging anywhere from the ATV-like “Flash” to the New Conglomerate’s massive Vanguard main battle tank. Like anything else in PlanetSide 2, each vehicle can be extensively customized and even simple single-person transports like the Flash can be mounted with a variety of weapons.
Vehicles such as the Sunderer troop transport are vital to keeping the fight at the front lines. Sunderers are heavily armored, heavily armed, and customization allows them to be deployed as mobile spawn points for other players on the continent, outfitted with class loadout stations (for resupplying infantry ), or, and this is my favorite, the ability to bypass the vehicle shields of an enemy base. Load a bunch of players into this baby and just drive through the anti-vehicle shield wall and wreak havoc.
The Lightning is an extremely fast and agile light tank setup for a single driver. If you don’t care to work with a gunner or you’re playing on your own, the Lightning is a great tank to bring to battle. It’s a paper tiger to be sure, dealing tons of damage, but goes down in a bat of an eyelash if focused on. Fortunately, it is quite quick and hit-and-run tactics with the Lightning are quite effective. The Lightning in particular can also be fitted with an anti-air primary weapon called the Skyguard. This basically allows the Lightning to hang back behind the main armor and infantry lines and fulfill an anti-air role.
Of course, each faction has its own special main battle tank.
The NC has the Vanguard, a heavily armored and armed MBT with a special Vanguard ability that allows it to absorb damage for a couple of seconds, similar to the game’s Heavy Assault infantry class. This is my favorite tank so far as it will absolutely devastate other armor or even enemy players (if fitted properly) while being able to hang around for quite a while.
The Terran Republic has a fairly tiny looking MBT called the Prowler, but don’t be fooled by its smaller size. The Prowler can deploy and take advantage of the Terran Republic’s signature focus on fast-fire rate to essentially turn its main gun into a mobile artillery platform. Put a couple of these things up on a ridge overlooking a base and you’re in for a bad time if you’re on the other end of the salvo. Infantry beware!
Finally, we have the Vanu Sovereignty’s Magrider. The Magrider is an extremely agile hover tank that can strafe around the battlefield and as a result serve as a real terror in an armor-on-armor fight. The Magrider’s amazing potential is one of the reasons that the Esamir continent (a continent seemingly focused on vehicle warfare) is often held by the Vanu much of the time on many servers. This thing can snipe long distances and is hard as heck to get a bead on.
The variety in all the armor and armaments available for vehicles in PlanetSide 2 really gives you the same sort of progression track you’d expect to find as an infantry class, so if all you want to do is ride around in an armor column all day, you can do so provided you have the resources to keep spawning a vehicle. Armor plays a major role in every key battle in the game, so tank drivers will always have something to do (and something to shoot) when playing. Just keep an eye up at the sky – pilots armed with breaker rockets are always looking for nice juicy targets.
THE ROUGH SPOTS (Week 4)
There aren't a whole suite of issues plaguing armor as far as I’ve been able to tell, but a couple of things do stand out.
The Skyguard: The first thing I did when playing armor in PlanetSide 2 was equip my Lightning with the aforementioned Skyguard anti-air primary weapon. Unfortunately, the Skyguard is probably the weakest anti-air option in the game at the moment, capable of doing little more than maybe scaring away an enemy ESF or Liberator. I’ve gone a couple of killstreaks here and there, but the Lightning pales in comparison to say, the Dual Burster MAX suit (infantry) at playing the anti-air role. This thing could definitely use some tweaks.
Waiting Around: When assaulting an enemy base, armor plays a pivotal role in taking out the base turrets (clearing the way for air) and helping capture peripheral objectives nearby, such as spawn points. However, once that’s been done, there tends to be a good deal of waiting around near the base entrance for infantry to take down the shield generators so armor can enter the base. Once inside, there isn’t a lot for armor to do after most of the enemy force on the outside has been taken out. You basically spend a lot of time sitting around and waiting for some straggler to blow away to show up while the intense infantry firefight rages on within the base.
Loadout Switching: This applies to both air and ground, but vehicles basically don’t have the same options to adapt to a new situation if their loadout isn’t appropriate for what’s going on. Your only recourse is to deconstruct the vehicle for a return on some of your resources and wait to respawn it again with the desired loadout. Infantry, on the other hand, can just run up to a class station and resupply their ammo and switch classes. If you’ve got a friendly vehicle at an appropriate vehicle station, you should be able to reconfigure the loadout if necessary. Being configured for anti-air and then finding you’re only seeing tons of ground vehicles is frustrating when there’s basically nothing you can do about it.
THE WAIT AND SEE (Week 4)
SOE is launching a major update this week that may have a major impact on ground vehicles in a number of ways. Anti-air seems to be on deck for a buff of sorts, which should hopefully ease the pressure a bit on both armor and infantry. Infantry are also receiving a powerful new dumbfire launcher that sounds like it’s going to make tank drivers’ lives hell. We’ll have to see how the game’s first major balance update of sorts will affect the ground vehicle game over the next few weeks.
How do you feel about ground vehicles in PlanetSide 2? Let us know in the comments below!