In a future where resources are scant and an oppressive worldwide government endeavors to extend its controlling grip around the whole planet, there are those who resist. Banding together in disparate factions, elite soldiers use their diverse talents and quick reflexes to carve out their place in a world where the land you fight and die for is the only land you control. Powerful alliances emerge and leverage their gains to create weapons of war, elevating the scale of conflict and heightening the drama of battle. Or so Global Agenda would have you believe. Though there is hectic, satisfying combat to be found in this large-scale third-person shooter, the game is rarely as exciting as the premise purports. You must grind though hours and hours of dull, repetitive missions to level up to the point where you can be competitive in player-versus-player action. PVP skirmishes can be exciting and well matched, though they are just as often lopsided and frustrating. Joining an agency and fighting for hexes on the persistent world map will make you more invested in the action, but even the best matches struggle to justify the hours of grinding needed to find them. Global Agenda satisfies the minimum requirements for a solid class-based shooter, but it takes a long time to fully reveal itself and, even then, the results aren't particularly impressive.
You begin by choosing one of the four classes. Assault players wield chainguns and rocket launchers, making them powerful tanks when supported by medics. Recon specialists sneak about and snipe foes with long-range rifles, while robotics players can deploy turrets, drones, and stations to aid their allies or defeat foes. Gaining levels unlocks new weapons, gadgets, special abilities, and points that can be allocated toward three different skill trees. These trees allow you to specialize within your class so, for example, medics can develop more effective ways to poison enemies or just focus on healing allies that much better. Because there is no cost to reallocate your skill points, you are free to spec your character on a game-by-game basis if you so choose, selecting the skills that will suit your play style. There's some intriguing diversity among the classes that creates the possibility for some dynamic interplay, both cooperative and competitive. Developing different strategies to support your allies and more efficiently destroy enemies is neat, and seeing other players in action is likely to pique your interest in playing as other classes.
Unfortunately, it takes so long to fully level one character that your interest in trying other classes may shrink at the prospect of repeating that grind. There are two main types of combat: player versus environment and player versus player. The latter does not separate players based on rank, so jumping in as a low-level soldier is a great way to get steamrolled by players who have better characters and more knowledge of the game. Getting the hang of the basics in Global Agenda is easy, but it takes a while to master your role. Each player has a melee weapon, a jetpack, and a special ability that can be used to give his or her teammates a temporary boost. You also sport two primary devices (for example, weapons, healing gun, repair tool); each with an alternate fire mode (for example, aiming down the sights, improved healing). These devices, along with the jetpack, are fueled by your regenerating power pool. Finally, each player can equip three off-hand devices (for example, temporary buffs, turrets, mines) that operate on a cooldown period. During combat, you must keep an eye on your health and power pool while using your devices effectively. While the run-and-gun action is pretty straightforward, there is strategic subtlety to be found in which devices you choose and how you use them.
In order to access this strategic element, you need to level up. (The level cap is 50, though you unlock every device and skill point by level 30.) PVP is generally dominated by higher level players and getting roundly defeated doesn't offer much in the way of experience rewards, so your best choice for effective leveling is to run PVE missions with a team of three other people. These missions take place inside enemy facilities that range from mines to labs and back to mines again. Despite the fact that there are four tiers of PVE difficulty, there isn't a lot of environmental variety. It doesn't take long before you've seen all the maps and every corridor, warehouse, and rooftop looks familiar. The bland art design doesn't help matters much. Though there are a few nice flourishes (pools of molten rock and soldiers in breeding tanks), the austere futuristic setting is largely uninteresting, serving as little more than geometry for you to traverse and use as cover.
Though they may be dull, the environments themselves aren't your enemies. That role falls to the robots. Laser-wielding androids are the foot soldiers of Global Agenda; they are generally content to soak up your gunfire while shooting you unenthusiastically and occasionally fleeing. They are accompanied by deadlier rocket- and grenade-launching automatons, as well as elite soldiers that mimic the assault, recon, and medic classes. Each PVE mission is capped with a miniboss fight, though as you move up the difficulty tiers, minibosses start showing up in corridors, leaving the end-of-level fights to bigger, badder bosses. Even with these tougher foes, the enemy population is almost as repetitive as the level design. While they don't offer much in the way of excitement, these missions can be reasonably challenging, depending largely on how well your teammates fulfill their combat roles and support each other. Players are generally smart enough about what they should be doing, and the game supports voice and text chat should you feel the need to offer helpful suggestions.
Victory brings the inherent satisfaction of a job well done, but even this is dulled by the repetitive nature of these missions. On top of that, you don't gain much in the way of concrete rewards. You earn experience points, credits (Global Agenda's currency), and raw materials that can be sold or used in crafting. Neither comes in much quantity, however, forcing you to grind for hours on end to make any significant progress. Crafting requires the aforementioned materials, as well as blueprints, which can be purchased from a store in the hub city (or, rarely, earned in PVE missions). This allows you to construct personal upgrades for your soldier, but the improvements they offer (for example, +1% ranged damage) feel laughably small. Though you can stack a few of these to get a somewhat less-meager bonus, learning to make the good stuff requires that you craft hundreds of items yourself. You may be able to find someone to sell you premium items, but you can bet they are going to come with a premium price tag. Accumulating worthwhile crafting skills and upgrades is tough in Global Agenda's economy, where both credits and materials require you to slog through hours of repetition.
If you do manage to amass some material wealth, there are plenty of places to spend it in one of the Dome City hub worlds. Body armor and a helmet are purely aesthetic improvements, but these suits are definitely the visual highlight of Global Agenda. The cool futuristic designs range from sleek to outlandish and can be customized with a wide variety of dyes to create some striking looks. There's also an auction house (buy and sell things at subpar prices), a mail center (send or receive messages and items C.O.D.), a virtual combat arena (hone your battle strategies), and locations you must visit if you want to craft items or assign skill points. Navigation is straightforward, thanks to the abundant kiosks offering directions. In addition to visiting the various stores and workshops, Dome City is a good place to seek out party members, join an agency, or just admire armor sets.
Though PVE combat is a good way to prepare for PVP, you'll still have to deal with a significant learning curve. PVP combat is hectic and fast paced, demanding dexterity, battlefield awareness, and preparedness. The fraction of a second it takes you to activate one of your off-hand devices can mean the difference between life and death, and attacking or defending without the support of your teammates is a difficult proposition. Each of the five PVP modes pits two teams against each other. In Scramble, Breach, and Control modes, teams struggle to control specific areas of the map for a certain amount of time or until they gain a certain number of points. Payload is similar in its focus, but the area in question is actually a large object that moves along rails as one team tries to guide it across the map. Finally, Demolition charges each team with the task of escorting a mech carrying explosives into the enemy's base to blow it up. It's also worth noting that one PVE match type has some PVP sprinkled in it. Double Agent mode adds two human players to the AI team, making it tougher for the team of four players to complete its objective. While this mode offers a novel twist on PVE, it lacks the dynamism of PVP.
With so many abilities in play, PVP contests can get very busy, very quickly. Two robotics set up turret nests in the corners of a building to defend a point as their recon allies fly to the top of the structure to snipe incoming enemies. Assaults spin up their chainguns, triggering shields that draw enemy turret fire away from the medics that are keeping them alive. Grenades, lasers, and rockets fill the air and, in less than a minute of carnage, the enemy advance is scattered. If only the enemy recons had sabotaged the turrets, things might have been different. Just a microsecond more and that big chaingunner would have lost his medic, yielding the central position. And what might have changed if that robotic had a drone equipped, instead of a force field? Matches can hinge on such details, and when the two teams are in an even struggle for dominance, PVP can be exciting and tense. The thrill of a timely deployment, the satisfaction of saving your teammates from the brink of death, the joy of explosive slaughter…these are the rewards offered by PVP combat in Global Agenda.
Unfortunately, like in other areas, Global Agenda is stingy. You are far more likely to end up in a lopsided match than in an enjoyable contest. Ill-matched teams make for hollow victories and merciless defeats, neither of which is particularly enjoyable. Joining an agency is a good way to associate yourself with a regular group of players, and having a consistent team can help mitigate the number of bad matches you encounter. Agencies can join alliances in Conquest mode, giving them access to alliance-versus-alliance fights for control of resource-producing hexes in a number of persistent world maps. Resources gained here can be sold or used to craft weapons of war like mechs, dropships, and squads of androids to help your alliance in its quest for dominance. AVA combat is essentially PVP with higher stakes and high-cost battlefield machinery. These matches are more consistently well matched, though AVA is certainly not without lopsided debacles. Gaining access to this level of combat requires hours of grinding, PVP practice, and an invite to a competitive agency. But once you're there, the matches are some of the best the game has to offer, and because your territories are only open for battle during specific windows of time, you don't have to worry about all your progress being snatched away while you sleep.
Whether or not it is worth the grinding time to access this level of play depends on how many hours you have to spare. Whether it is worth the price is another matter. The $39.99 purchase price currently gets you everything that Global Agenda has to offer. However, Conquest mode, the auction house, crafting, player mail, other advanced features, and leveling past 30 are all designated as subscriber-only elements. This subscription (listed as $12.99 per month) was set to kick in at the end of March, but the developers have pushed that deadline back to the end of April. With no subscription fee in place, Global Agenda is reasonably priced. Only time will tell whether that remains true in a month.
Even with a reasonable price, Global Agenda is not easy to recommend. It demands tens of hours of dull, low-level play to access and enjoy the more exciting content. And even that content is not consistently enjoyable. While Global Agenda does offer a distinct breed of action in the world of massively multiplayer online games, its hectic combat is hidden beneath layers and layers of drudgery that only sincerely dedicated players are likely to enjoy.
Editor's Note: The preceding review replaces the Global Agenda review that was originally posted on GameSpot, which we learned was based on an inadequate amount of time spent playing. We are committed to providing our users with thoroughly comprehensive reviews of all games.