Editor’s Choice: Global Agenda (Hi-Rez Studios)
Global Agenda was easily the most fun on the floor at E3 2009.
It absorbed us from the get-go in a way no other game at E3 did, and really deserves the honor. They didn’t play it on a screen for us to watch, they didn’t stand over our shoulders and coax us around the rough patches. They sat us in chairs, said have fun, and that’s exactly what we did.
Forget their marketing hype as a spy-MMO, this is an MMOFPS that isn’t content to just translate FPS gameplay into an MMO environment, but actually fundamentally expands and improves core FPS dynamics.
Hi-Rez Studios accomplished this in two ways, one revolutionary and one evolutionary.
Jet Packs are something that’s been done before in FPS games. Tribes, for example, gained a cult following that lasts to this day. In Global Agenda, everyone has a jet pack, but wisely, the developers have decided to forbid firing thrusters and guns simultaneously. Many people didn’t like the fact that a single gun fight in Tribes could span miles of surface. This change has made jet packs more strategic and created very tight levels full of natural conflict points. The levels themselves, while often narrow, expand vertically, which really keeps people on the lookout and some interesting combat scenarios.
Their revolution is in the first really good integration of melee combat into an FPS. Players have guns and rocket launchers, but they also have things like electronic power axes. These not only look cool, but they’re also very deadly thanks to the top notch level design. A well timed run and jet pack burst can toss a tank into the middle of a pack of enemies who stand no chance as the axeman cuts them down one by one.
Many naysayers will say that this isn’t an MMO, but Hi-Rez has definitely put a lot of effort into progression, persistence and common areas. Yes, there are no hot bars, but characters still gain new skills and abilities over time that can be useful as they head into combat. There are large common areas, or towns for people to explore and socialize in and there are also PvE missions that fall somewhere between a typical FPS mission and an MMO dungeon crawl.
The combat itself is highly instanced, but this is in many ways a strength of the game. Planetside had epic, open world PvP and it may be the single biggest reason that no one has made a truly AAA MMOFPS since. Instancing allows for predictable numbers, which lets Hi-Rez craft really solid and fun levels for people to blow each other up in. That just isn’t possible in a truly open world.
Hi-Rez Studios may be an upstart, but they’ve taken full advantage of the Unreal 3 Engine to create a beautiful visual look. The characters are stunning and move organically through the world and the facial customization is on par with any mainstream game out there.
Sure, Global Agenda likely won’t take down World of Warcraft and no one would wager on it selling more boxes than Star Wars, but quite simply, it was the most polished, complete and absolutely fun experience at E3 and that earned it Game of the Show.