PlanetSide was clearly the result of a lot of ambitious planning, but much of the game experience depends on technical stability and the performance of other players.
When PlanetSide was first announced, some people figured that the bigwigs at Sony Online Entertainment had finally gone crazy. Since so many other first-person shooters can be played online for free, who would be willing pay a monthly subscription fee to play a massively multiplayer shooter, even if it had been developed by some of the same designers responsible for the team-based shooter Tribes 2? But PlanetSide has a lot going for it: It has a persistent world with persistent goals that give players real incentives to work in teams, and it has an extremely strict system for dealing with "grief" players--unruly players who shoot up their own teammates just to spoil their fun. And when you have everything set up ideally--when you're on a good squad with skilled teammates who are focused on the mission--PlanetSide offers an experience unlike any other. However, the game currently has a lot of issues that can get in the way of that ideal scenario, so that the game can sometimes end up being less interesting and more tedious than it should be.
PlanetSide is a futuristic online shooter that lets you play as a soldier in one of three powerful factions: the Terran Republic, the New Conglomerate, and the Vanu Sovereignty. The three factions are involved in a worldwide struggle for power that involves capturing as many bases as possible across the world's many continents. In order to capture a base, you generally need to take it by force with a squad of teammates who have various skills, including hacking (to unlock enemy doors and eventually capture an enemy base's control center), medical training (to heal and revive wounded allies), and vehicle certification (to pilot vehicles for scouting, head-to-head combat, or squad transport). You face tough decisions when developing your character's skills. In fact, PlanetSide is easily the most complicated shooter ever released--you'll likely spend most if not all of your first few sessions in the game trying to figure out its many interface features for certifications, squad and outfit options, inventory, and chat. By gunning down enemies, capturing bases, and successfully performing other tasks, you're awarded experience points and battle ranks (PlanetSide's version of character levels) that let you purchase certifications to use new weapons, armor types, support gadgets, and vehicles. But once you get used to the game's interface, you'll be able to quickly and easily outfit yourself with whichever weapons, armor, and vehicles you like, since the game lets you save your own personalized settings.
These different weapons, vehicles, and armor all look and sound fairly good. PlanetSide's graphics are generally decent, and in some cases they're quite good, especially in its dynamic skies and sweeping outdoor landscapes. However, neither the landscapes nor the game's character, weapon, or vehicle designs are particularly inspired. They all look decent enough, but you, your teammates, and your enemies all look like futuristic soldiers wearing futuristic heavy armor, driving futuristic vehicles, and using conventional weapons, kind of like what you might expect from just about any sci-fi themed game. PlanetSide's music is sparse, and its sound effects for weapon fire are decent enough, though they're not spectacular. The game also features support for real-time voice chat to help you coordinate with your teammates, though this feature doesn't work particularly well. The voice chat often ends up being garbled, drowned out by static, or cut off.
Though the game's different factions have slight differences among their high-end weapons and armor, they're functionally identical--it's less important to choose one side over another than it is to make sure you and your buddies all play on the same side and the same server. As you might expect from a game developed by Sony Online Entertainment (the creator of the group-focused online RPG EverQuest), PlanetSide puts a tremendous emphasis on teamwork. The game takes place in a persistent world, and you play as a character who gains experience points that can be used to buy the above-mentioned certifications, but in order to have any chance at all of really advancing your character, you need to make sure you're in a good squad at all times.
This is because solo players really don't stand much of a chance in PlanetSide, since most of the action takes place in and around bases guarded by, or attacked by, groups of enemy players--and no single character can stand against concentrated enemy fire for very long. PlanetSide does offer an "instant action" option that lets you immediately jump to a hot spot where players from your faction are currently fighting with enemy players, but even if you do manage to get a few kills, you'll receive far less experience than you would if you were in a good squad of players, so you'll want to try to be in a group at all times.