Updated Wed, Jun 06, 2012 by Sardu
Following GDC earlier this year, we noted that the MMO industry is rapidly trending towards the FPS genre for its next major source of inspiration. While most of the titles we’ve been watching tend to stick with the tried and true formula of arena combat or smaller scale skirmish warfare, Planetside 2 is an altogether different beast.
At its core, Planetside 2 is a worthy and true successor to the original. However, I would still argue that the original Planetside was a game ahead of its time, and entered the market prior to the mass market appeal that both MMOs and the FPS genre have since benefited from.
Likewise, hardware back then necessitated that you might only have hundreds of players on a server, whereas with Planetside 2 everything is bigger, bolder, and average systems can now handle the thousands of players per server that PS2 will support.
Heading into E3 this year, PS2 is one of the titles I was most eager to get my hands on for a few different reasons. Chief among them: I wanted to see how solid the shooter gameplay is. As an old school ranked Unreal Tournament clan member having competed nationally for a time, I've felt underserviced by generations of cover system-reliant and/or gimmicky shooters. If the nuts and bolts of movement, responsive weapons and vehicles, and instantly recognizable targets didn’t really come together, then it wouldn’t matter how fancy the advancement or territorial control systems are.
The good news is that the team at SOE has nailed the core gameplay, scoring high marks in all the categories that matter. The shooter gameplay isn’t as insanely fast as Tribes: Ascend, but between the infantry, ground and air vehicles, there’s plenty of awesome chaos that necessitates a heightened situational awareness that I consider a hallmark of a worthy shooter experience.
And by that I don’t mean you have to be concerned with someone running up and one-shotting you with an overpowered shotgun, knife to the face, or lame quick-scope gimmick. In fact, time to kill felt a bit higher than average, which I find extremely refreshing for the genre. It gives you a sense that your combat efforts actually matter, no matter what your skill level, and that you’ll actually have a fighting chance as a newer player diving into the deep end amongst the hardcores.
During my hands-on time most of the fighting took place towards the center of the map, where each of the three empires were pushing to control an amp station, which is one of dozens of larger facilities spread across the map. While the overall size of the game world is said to be 64 square kilometers, for the sake of the event we focused on a tiny little slice of it for the sake of getting a feel for some of the push and pull of territorial control.
It was also a perfect opportunity to see how much of an impact smaller teams of players can have for their empire in the grand scheme of things. Thankfully the group of players from the show floor made for a decent testing ground considering they represented only a fraction of the total number of people you’ll likely see playing in the same type of area in the live game. For the most part, people were playing mercenary style rather than in organized teams, so it was also interesting to see how quickly players were able to pick up on various methods of capturing or defending key points based on the solid core FPS gameplay.