The first time I witnessed what is Planetside 2's undoubtedly most climactic type of battle, I was speechless. The three rival factions of the game met to take a facility near the central region of Amerish, and the resulting conflict was such a spectacle I found myself laying in bed that night just thinking about it. As the defenders, we were pinned to the safety of our base, while outside New Conglomerate and Terran Republic forces clashed in an attempt to each wrest control of the fort from our bloody fingers. When the Terran finally took it from us, it wasn't long until we were given the directive to retake it. Before I knew it, hours had vanished under a hail of gunfire as that little fort was taken and retaken countless times.
Such is the tugofwar nature of Planetside 2, a free to play massively multiplayer shooter for the Playstation 4? you'll spend an evening conquering a whole continent, only to have it stolen from you while you sleep. But it is in those moments, when everything about Planetside 2 is moving in perfect concert, that the battles you fight can astound you with their immensity. You'll run through valley floors as columns of tanks exchange fire and aircraft engage in dogfights and strafe your position reviving downed players as a combat medic. You'll jetpack your way onto a facility roof alongside your squad, ambushing several pesky infiltrators with sniper rifles picking off your main force. But for each of these thrilling encounters, there are plenty willing to strip you of any significance you might have felt. Planetside 2 has its moments, but their impact is almost always threatened by its numerous issues.
Those issues start right from the moment you first log in to Planetside 2 and you're expected to choose a faction to fight for. Each of the three factions in Planetside 2 have their own aesthetic and flavor in combat—none of which is ever communicated to a new player. But that is only the first chapter in one of Planetside 2's biggest problems. Simply put, the new player experience sucks.
You'll first arrive on Koltyr, a much smaller continent than the other four you'll battle endlessly for. Here, Planetside 2 will attempt to chop of its many complicated layers of warfare into more digestible chunks, mainly relying on its somewhat intuitive directives to point you towards combat and a voiced narrator instructing you on various functions and tools. Basic training objectives will also appear on screen to help guide you to try out various activities during your time on Koltyr, but the problem is that all of this does so little to take the sting out of Planetside's opening hours. Many will certainly play an hour of Planetside 2, toss their hands up in frustration, and walk away forever. I would never blame them. There are moments of greatness in Planetside 2, but getting to a point where you can appreciate them is an overwhelming and confusing journey.
But slowly, with effort (and maybe some light reading), Planetside 2 will begin to make sense. You'll learn the importance of surveying terrain and positioning, you'll learn how to handle your weapon and contend with the sluggish feel of your soldier, you'll know where to be and when you should be there, and once you know that, Planetside 2's terrible first impression begins to fade.
Though you may never know why, there are four continents that you will battle endlessly to conquer. Each one offers something entirely different from the other not just in climate and general aesthetic but also in tactics. The dense, swampy forests of Hossin, for example, can make navigating with vehicles—especially aircraft—a real challenge, but are perfect? ? for infantry ambushes. Each continent has a corner occupied by one of the three factions' warpgate, a home base that cannot be taken. From each base, a "lattice" extends connecting neutral bases and zones of strategic importance. This lattice helps direct the flow of action, requiring you to conquer points in succession preventing you from flying to distant parts of the map and capturing zones uncontested way behind the frontlines.
With three factions, those frontlines are always changing, and even during offpeak hours, you can always expect to find a modest fight. This is also partially due to directives, which are dynamic objectives that point you towards conflicts and help keep you moving while playing. While I appreciated how these objectives helped steer the action, I also found them to be, at times, too heavy handed in forcing me to be where I did not want to go. Multiple times I would die in a conflict I was invested in, only to use the quick respawn option and find myself miles away at another battle entirely. It taught me to always be suspicious of how Planetside 2 handles its automatic respawns—something that proved a source of irritation on more than one occasion. Of course, part of this is also due to how poorly the complexity of Planetside 2 seems to have been translated to the Playstation 4. Menu systems are often downright unresponsive and tedious to maneuver through. The respawn map was finicky, forcing me to cycle through respawns instead of just selecting the one I wanted. During combat, the map can sometimes take upwards of five seconds before loading—often leaving me wondering if the game even registered my button press. When selecting which continent you fight on, you are denied access to more specific statistics of how your faction is doing unless you first warp to the continent, a process that involves a lengthy load screen (one of many you will need to contend with).
While I certainly admire Daybreak Game Company's ability to bring Planetside 2 to the Playstation 4 largely uncompromised, it becomes painfully obvious how many behindthescenes sacrifices had to be made. Technically, Planetside 2 is sorely lacking. The framerate maintains a smooth 60 fps outside of combat, but during heavy fights it can struggle to keep up, often hanging and stammering during especially explosive moments. Visuals have been noticeably downgraded with draw distance being the greatest casualty. Audio bugs also persist almost constantly, like your gun sounding like it's being fired from a distance or jumbled soundbites playing during loading screens.
That said, even though I certainly had my moments of total frustration, Planetside 2 was successful in keeping me coming back every time. But it's disappointing that so much of its potential is squandered by how rough the experience can be. When that potential is realized in battle, however, Planetside 2 becomes something else entirely. Vehicular combat stands out as an especially wellrealized aspect of the game and joining in massive ground pushes with a battalion of fellow tanks is an unparalleled experience. As infantry, you can choose one of five classes to fight as, each with their specific uses in combat. Though you'll want to specialize, learning when to switch classes to account for the changing tides of battle is one of the keys to success.
Success also has its merits outside of capturing territory for your faction. Every objective you complete and kill you score will earn you experience which will level you up and unlock new vehicles and customizations for your various classes. Certs are a type of currency that you will earn rapidly at first and then painfully slow later on. Using certs, you can purchase new weapons, improve your abilities, or blow them on a huge host of cosmetic items to trick out your soldier.
Fortunately, despite being free to play, Planetside 2 is almost assuredly not paytowin. Though the slow rate that you earn certs will certainly tempt you to spend some cash to speed up the process of beefing up your character, those differences are almost always negated by superior skill and positioning in combat. Even better, it would seem the consensus by many members of the community is that many classes already start out with guns that are more favorable than other options, so upgrading weapons is usually more of a horizontal progression.
If you're willing to keep your chin up and weather Planetside 2's tumultuous first hours, there is so much to enjoy about its brand of futuristic warfare? there just isn't any other game capable of providing an experience quite like Planetside 2. It's a shame that so many times that experience had a wet blanket thrown on it by elements that, in a perfect world, should never come between you and the thrill of combat. But, sadly, they too often do. Technical faults aside, Planetside 2 remains a wonderful online experience capable of absorbing dozens upon dozens of hours. That endless tugofwar might seem exhausting from the outside, but once you're in the thick of battle it is as thrilling and engaging as few games ever manage to be.
- GAMEPLAY: 8 – Planetside 2's epic combat and endless struggle are always home to astonishing moments of chaos. Playing just one soldier in a much greater machine of war is an experience unlike anything found on consoles.
- VISUALS: 7 – A far cry from the gorgeous fidelity of the PC version, Planetside 2 deserves recognition for being one of the few games running at 60 frames per second, even if it tends to dip heavily during the most strenuous of battles.
- POLISH: 5 – Menus are often complicated, tedious, and unresponsive. Information is not always displayed as intuitively as it should which proves frustrating when trying to make educated decisions. Glitches and bugs abound.
- LONGEVITY: 8 – The endless combat and diverse ways you can engage your enemies? make Planetside 2 a robust shooter with more than enough options to keep you interested.
- VALUE: 8 – As a free to play title, Planetside 2 offers a substantial amount of content without needing to cough up money up front. That said, upgrades will come painfully slowly before long, which will eventually put pressure on you to break out the wallet.