Written by Bart Skinner on 6/27/2003 for PC  
More On: PlanetSide
Well it’s finally here, the new evolutionary game from Sony Online Entertainment called Planetside. It takes a fast action FPS, throws in some RPG elements and then packs them all in a multi-continent world to provide hours of territory grabbing fun.

Before I get started, I’ll have to point out that there are only a few improvements over the beta that Sony made, most notably of which is lag.

One of the nice things the added in the game was training. There are several single player tutorials including some vehicle and shooting training. There is a nice lady that talks to you and guides you through it.

The first thing I did after installing was looked through all the options screens. I changed my key mappings to my preference. There is joystick support for those who want to use it for flying, though I won’t need it right away since I hadn’t planned on flying anytime soon. There are many graphics options as well, however I kept my video options at default for a Radeon 9700 Pro. There are also many sound settings, including 3 EAX versions, DirectSound, and Dolby Surround are included in there among others.

So after playing in the options screen, I went to the sanctuary, your faction’s safe continent, which contains 3 warp gates to other continents and everything you need to get started. It has VR training, in which you can try everything your empire has to offer in the ways of weapons, armor, and vehicles. You can even try out the huge MAX armor types. These are just big suits of armor with one gun. There are 3 types of guns for the MAX armor, anti-vehicle, anti-personnel, and anti-aircraft. However you can only use that one gun with each loadout. The other types of armor include a standard assault and a reinforced assault. There is also an infiltration suit in which you can cloak, but it offers no armor protection.
There is a standard set of weapons for the empires such as a shotgun and assault rifle with various types of missiles. Each empire also has their own heavier assault weapon and anti-vehicle weapon. Personally, I like the NC anti-vehicle phoenix rocket launcher in which you pilot the rocket after you fire it. Chasing down planes is the greatest. Here is a shot of me chasing down a mosquito, the light fighter.

As for vehicles, there are a couple 4-wheelers for fast traveling, a couple buggies, one heavy and one light, a heavy troop transport, and some tanks. Each empire has their own heavy tank and heavy buggy. There is also a light and heavy fighter, but everyone gets the same thing. Lets not also forget the AMS, which is the key vehicle in base assaults. When deployed, its makes a cloaked bubble around it, serving as a respawn point and equipment terminal.

The RPG elements of this game come in the form of certification points and implants. Spending certification points on skills such as hacking or engineering entitles one to use these out in the battlefield. You also have to use certification points to use guns and armor except for the most basic gun and armor. Implants are essentially special abilities that use your stamina, such as Advanced Regeneration or Silent Run. Once these are activated, you can activate them with a F# button.

Sure this is an FPS, but the real key to this game is hacking. Hacking is needed to take over enemy bases, but it can also be used to get equipment and vehicles at enemy bases. I think if you don’t take hacking early, you will have a hard time doing anything by yourself.
Of course the great thing is you don’t have to go solo. You can join a squad. Balanced squads have different roles filled by each person. One person can be a pilot and scout a spot for the ams driver to deploy the ams. Of course you’ll also need a couple MAXs for support, and don’t forget a hacker so you can get inside the base. Another benefit of being in a squad is being able to see where they are on the map at all times. There are also outfits, which are basically clans. You can see whether you outfit mates are online or not which is quite convenient. There are even non-combat roles for those who aren’t good at shooting people, like Charles. Bases need power as running a base uses up power. In order to power up your bases, you have to take a small tanker truck to a warp gate and then deploy it. It collects nanites from the gate so you can take them back and recharge the base. Of course there are no guns on the truck so you may need an escort or two. You ever get experience for it!!! Charles can be level 20 in no time flat.

When I was on the battlefield, gameplay was pretty smooth, but I admit I was using recommended graphics settings. Cranking up the settings seem to produce some frame loss even on my Athlon XP 2400+ and Radeon 9700 Pro. The player models look really good but I think the gun effects and explosions are relatively weak. They kind of remind me of C&C Renegade. I’m guessing they are done like this to save frame rate, because when you have 50 or so people on your screen shooting all at once, it’s going to slow down no matter what the particle effects look like.

When fighting as infantry, your crosshairs are really tight when crouched, get wider when running and jumping. It’s next to impossible to hit someone when jumping because your crosshairs become about as big as the screen. They also put in a delay between jumps, so we won’t have to worry about any bunny hoppers. Also when firing most guns the crosshairs get wider so you’ll have to burst to keep them tight.

Another big thing they added to the final version is benefits for having command ranks. As you go up in command rank, which is different than battle rank, you gain new abilities commanding your squad. You earn command rank by leading a squad to take a base. You can set waypoints on your squadmates map and even draw on it and make notes. They are planning on adding EMP pulses and even orbital strikes. I’d like to see that when one of those goes off.

Now after giving all this information on the game, I do have some major glaring problems with the game.

Who am I and what am I doing here? That’s the first problem. When I’m playing this game, I feel like I don’t have a long-term goal. I mean of course I want to go up in level, but what happens when I get to level 20, which doesn’t take all that long. Since there is no economy or unique items or even penalties for dying (other than additional respawn time), I don’t feel like I need to stay alive.

Another problem with the game is the constant territory struggle. I could work hard all night with a few other squads and lock down a continent and wake up in the morning and it could be all gone. One opposing squad could have hacked all the bases back without any opposition. The only defense bases have while empty are some gun turrets on the corners of the bases, and then they only work if you own an Interlink facility on the continent.

Probably the biggest problem with this game is frame loss. Most people jump in the game without an outfit, which is basically a clan. So if you don’t have any buddies online, the easiest way to see some action is clicking on instant action, which takes you to hot spots on the globe. This is where battles are taking place. The problem with this is the more people that take this course of action, the more people you will have in one area fighting. Your frames take a serious dive when there are more than about 10-15 people on your screen. This makes fighting in big battles almost impossible. Lowering your graphics settings doesn’t seem to help much either. I’m not sure if this could ever be fixed due to the nature of the game.

Well to wrap it up, I think this game could have been much better with some added mechanics to the game. It’s definitely a step forward in gaming as far as the technology used but I just don’t feel compelled to $10/month to continue playing it. It was great playing the beta to get a feel for the game. I think everybody should try the game out, but after about a month of the game, I just got tired of the same old thing.
What's the purpose? The game's OK but after a while you have to wonder what the game has to keep me coming back. It's kind of like reaching your hand into the bottom of one of those Planters Peanut jars just to get that last peanut, it's just not worth it. Until there's a compelling reason, there's not much to keep me paying that monthly fee.

Rating: 7.2 Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

About Author

I've been playing games ever since Atari 2600. I play mostly FPS games now. I used to play just about all types. I went to CPL in Winter 2001 to play Aliens vs Predator 2 and placed 11th. The free Geforce3 TI500 was nice. Despite being jealous of Fata1ty, he's actually a nice guy.

I'm also a computer hardware addict. I'm one of those people that have to update my machine for the sake of having the best out of the people I know. Still cheaper than being married :) It gives me an opportunity to review some of the latest and greatest hardware. I'm currently playing Battlefield 1942 in a top clan, Medal of Honor Allied Assault sometimes, Unreal Tournament 2003 occasionally, and trying various other games when given the time. Still waiting patiently for Planetside. View Profile

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