For a long time first person shooters have been running live servers on the internet. From back in the mists of time when Quake World was new and exciting, online play has enthralled people. It was only a matter of time before someone thought to create a persistent world for FPS players to battle in.
I've been playing FPS games online for a long time, so I jumped at the chance to give Planetside a try. I thought that an MMOFPS would be simple to just jump in to play. I was wrong. There are complexities to the game that I hadn't considered would exist. The struggle for power over planets and areas is in constant flux and the factions can be confusing at times. All in all, a bit more to it than just join a side and kill the bad guys.
When you first load up the game you're faced with the choice of 3 servers, their location and their ping times. Two are in the US, west and east coasts respectively, and one is in the EU. I tried to play on the US servers and couldn't. The ping times are way too high and I was getting killed before I could turn around. For anyone unfamiliar with what a ping time is, basically it is the speed at which information is communicating between your computer and the game server. So, being based in Europe, I played mostly on the EU server and had little to no problems with the ping time. The reason I mention the ping times, for those that may not know, is because when playing an FPS online you want communication between you and the server to be as fast as possible. So if you're looking to play with a friend who is on one of the other servers you may have problems.
Once you've selected a server then you're well on your way to getting in game to shoot things. Of course first you need to create your character. For anyone who is into the custom skins that can be created for some FPS games, you're going to be disappointed. The character creation is very minimal. This of course makes some sense since you're pretty much always in first person mode and your armour covers you all the time anyhow. Of course the con side of this is that everyone looks alike. Still, the minimalist angle makes the most sense in the context of the game. Choose your empire, your head and your name and get logged in.
Once you're all loaded up in game, the first thing you're presented with is a small bit of tutorial that will go over the basics of gameplay. This tutorial that first comes up is over quickly and doesn't go into the finer depths of the game. If all you're after are the basics though, this small tutorial will do you just fine. For those that want to know a little more there are a set of approximately a dozen training missions that will give you a more in depth view of the game and how it works. These tutorial missions have 2 main uses: The first is obviously to help you learn how to play the game better. They cover everything from armor and weapon usage to travel and vehicles. The other main reason to do them is that they are the easiest way to gain much needed experience when you're starting out. Just by going through these missions you can gain several combat ranks. The higher your rank, the better weapons and armor you can use.
Once you're ready to get into the fighting action there is an option in the menu to go directly to the fighting action called Instant Action. By selecting this option you'll be taken to the nearest location of fighting. This makes it very easy to just jump into the fighting. I found this to be a very useful function for just getting in there and doing a bit of fighting when I felt like it.
Once you're in the thick of a battle it's easy to figure out who's on your side and who you should be fighting. As you'd expect, the bad guys' names are red. So from there it's pretty easy to just get into a fight and doing your best to take someone out. You can get into battles either solo or in a squad. The game has a built in search for active squads in the area. While I had no problems running around solo, I would definitely suggest trying to find a squad. Laying siege to a base is fun solo, but it is a lot more effective if you're doing it as a team.
Depending on what empire you've chosen there are many planets to choose to fight on. The sway of control between the empires can change dramatically from day to day and in some cases, moment to moment. This is a game that let's the players control the areas. There doesn't seem to be anything that sways this control of bases and planets other than what the players do.
I'm still playing Planetside and will continue to for a while. I personally haven't decided yet if I like the game or not. On one hand it has give players total control and is persistent, but on the other hand it seems to hold a complexity that sometimes seems a bit much for a First Person Shooter. Only more time playing the game will make my mind up, so I think that's what I'll go do now.