Planetside 2 Updated Review

  • First Released Nov 20, 2012
  • PC

Massively multiplayer defined.

You peer through the scope of your bolt-action sniper rifle toward the enemy facility ahead. Moments ago, your scope was littered with targets, but now many have retreated within the safety of their walls. Even with your active camouflage, a sniper rifle isn't much good when you're moving onto the front lines, so you refit yourself with a jetpack and scale the wall yourself clearing a path straight through to the enemy control console with your trusty carbine and guard it with your life.

As a friendly soldier hacks into an enemy vehicle terminal for you, you hop into a Lightning tank, equipped with a flak turret to ward off the inbound enemy gunships coming to bombard the courtyard of your newly occupied, but not yet owned, base. An enemy tank arrives to reinforce the efforts to protect the enemy's facility, targeting you with its armor-piercing shells. Fearing the inevitable, you bail from your tank and take flight just out of reach of the tank's eager cannon, your jetpack sputtering a mocking laugh as you drop C4 onto the tank's outer plating. You push the detonator just as you land out of range of the explosions and casually walk away. All in the course of a single life in PlanetSide 2.

Here we see a herd of TR Prowler pigs in their natural habitat--being destroyed by C4.
Here we see a herd of TR Prowler pigs in their natural habitat--being destroyed by C4.

The high stakes of PlanetSide 2's battles compel you to become fiercely loyal to your chosen faction. Everyone else is wrong. Whether you're an enlightened adherent of the Vanu Sovereignty, one of the despotic militant pigs of the Terran Republic, or a penny-chasing rebel dog of the New Conglomerate, you will find little reason to experiment with the other factions. If you're too foolish to understand that everything is better with lasers and a sleek purple exterior--that is, to fight for the alien technology-wielding VS--your choices are limited to the blocky hand-me-down bulk of the Smurf-colored NC or the "everything is round so it spins to waste ammo faster" TR Elmos.

Newly enlisted soldiers are sent through a basic-training tutorial to prepare them for deployment, but even learning the basics of controls doesn't prepare you for the war to come. No one tells you not to go rushing for that control console the moment you've disembarked from your battle bus into the enemy base. But after so many times rushing up that flight of stairs only to hear the sound of an NC Bouncing Betty launching itself into the air as you pass by, you learn that discretion is the better part of valor. Fortunately, unlike in real war, death is only a setback rather than a finality. Even if you avoid the bullet with your name on it only to receive a barrage of tank shells addressed to "current occupant," you can get back out onto the field and fight and die for your faction all over again.

"Are you Alliance?" "Am I a lion? I don't think of myself as a lion."

The war for the planet of Auraxis isn't an affair that can be won. Each empire has a sanctuary on each of the three continents that no enemies can take. Apart from the sanctuaries, all facilities and outposts are ripe for a dose of laser-assisted enlightenment. Outposts offer little strategic value and only a small sampling of resources for your soldier's allowance, while facilities grant much larger chunks of resources for being held, and confer an additional bonus, such as the enormous aerial dome of the bio lab granting a global health regeneration for soldiers who make it out of combat alive, allowing them to avoid screaming for the nearest medic.

Although you could originally capture outposts and facilities just by owning a neighboring territory, the war efforts have evolved since launch, and PlanetSide 2 has adopted a mechanism similar to the lattice system from the original PlanetSide to connect bases to one another in a sensible method of dictating game flow. The revamped system better directs opposing armies to clash with one another rather than avoid each other, capturing bases with no resistance for easy rewards. The new system ensures you know which base will be the next target, allowing you to bolster your defenses to prepare for the coming sortie.

The war for the planet of Auraxis isn't an affair that can be won.

The one thing that separates PlanetSide 2 and its predecessor from any other game is their tendency to evoke a feeling of "I was there, man." Nearly any veteran player you ask can recount a personal war story of the time he and his squad were stranded against three times the enemy force and managed to repel the invasion with a clutch flank to destroy the enemy's only Sunderer before mopping up stragglers, or the time they fired a random shotgun blast into the air as a burning Mosquito buzzed by overhead, managing to clip the wing just enough to finish it off and get credit for the kill. Regardless of what your own personal war story ends up being, you eventually find yourself turning into the family grandpa talking about how things were in the war, and how you and your best friend survived against insurmountable odds.

War isn't always fun, though. Some days you can't play the hero. Those daunting odds and vast enemy numbers can actually be insurmountable. Being trapped in your spawn room by an armor column of enemy Vanguards and Lightnings that turn the Indar desert into a sea of blue and gold, broken up only by the sight of a tank shell departing its cannon, leaves you feeling helpless. And you are. Sometimes you just have to wait for reinforcements to get online before hitting the battlefield.

There is safety in numbers.
There is safety in numbers.

If you have trouble finding the proper timing to engage in a fair and balanced battle, or simply feel as though wandering alone isn't doing the trick for you, joining an open squad or a recruiting outfit helps you gain a sense of direction. Outfits are essentially in-game clans, and most servers have reputable outfits known for their prowess in battle. On the Connery server, seeing the [EXE] tag means the likely inebriated pigs of the TR, Execution, have arrived to put down any insurgent zerging infantry armies with their Prowlers and swarms of Mosquitoes. On Mattherson, the VS outfit Azure Twilight displays the evolution of teamwork as it brings glory in the name of Vanu. Outfits offer a level of camaraderie and investment in the war effort that will keep you around for months or years to come.

If you have trouble finding the proper timing to engage in a fair and balanced battle, or simply feel as though wandering alone isn't doing the trick for you, joining an open squad or a recruiting outfit helps you gain a sense of direction.

Enlisting in the war effort is free. All three empires are ready and waiting for you to sign up and join their forces, in exchange for being paid in certification points for your service. Certification points can be used to improve and customize your character classes and vehicles. Until you are nearly maxed out on certifications in the upper-90s battle ranks, you're left choosing between equipping your heavy assault with more rockets or taking the route of being nearly impervious to small-arms fire. You can elect to equip your Sunderer with the ability to dole out ammo to the allied tank line or fit it with plates of blockade armor and a device to allow it to slip through the gate shields of an enemy base so your squad can engage in a special ops mission to destroy the generator together.

Certification points may also be used to unlock new weapons in the game, which are also available for cash. While each class has a basic set of weapons perfectly capable of slaying any foe, some weapons available in the depot can offer slight adjustments in stats to better suit a play style, while others can offer entirely separate possibilities. The high cert point costs of many of the guns encourage you to open your wallet if you wish to specialize in vehicles or have a virtual armory of versatility waiting for you, but patient players can still reach the same point through dedication and simply fighting for their empire.

Beyond certification points, you earn aircraft, ground vehicle, and infantry resources to spend. Infantry resources let you restock explosives, while vehicle and aircraft resources are required in order to spawn a vehicle for yourself. If you subscribe to a monthly membership or purchase boosts from the depot, you can gain bonus resources to avoid having to run around like a grunt for prolonged periods of time. If you're ever running dry on a resource precious to your play style, replenishing it is as easy as finding a battle in a territory marked with the resource you're hunting; a brief stint in a chaotic tower battle helps get you back to the skies in no time, while I tend to go on a shotgun rampage in a bio lab when I need to restock my C4 for dealing with tanks.

War may rage on, but sometimes you just have to stop and view the sunset.
War may rage on, but sometimes you just have to stop and view the sunset.

PlanetSide 2 is gorgeous. Amerish is decorated with luscious greens, rocky mountains, and caves of glowing purple crystals. Indar's southeastern canyons make way for an expansive desert in the north, while the southwestern plains give your eyes a break. The silhouettes of empire-specific equipment are always discernible from range, making it easy to know when to hold your fire and when to unload on empire-specific equipment. Sometimes common pool vehicles such as the Liberator gunship don't display an indicator of alignment and are too far away for you to see the colors flown, and the Liberator will soon learn that friendly fire is anything but.

The sounds of war are equally impressive and iconic per faction. There is no mistaking the sound of a Terran mini-chaingun being rapid-fired in an otherwise silent environment. A Liberator carpet-bombing your base from the sky may not be a pleasure to contend with, but you can't help but smirk with satisfaction at the muffled "foomp foomp foomp" of the bombs being launched from the distant skies above. Each enemy fighter plane has a signature engine sound; hearing either of the two that don't belong to your faction quickly strikes you with paranoia as you frantically scan the sky to find the source.

In the most dire of circumstances, using active camouflage as a suicide bombing ATV is an acceptable tactic of war.
In the most dire of circumstances, using active camouflage as a suicide bombing ATV is an acceptable tactic of war.

The game is ever-expanding with new content to keep older players engaged and draw in new players. A new fourth continent is promised to come out soon along with a new aerial vehicle. Holiday-themed weapons, such as the snowball launcher or the patriot flare gun, make holidays with PlanetSide 2 a blast. Optimizations to the game engine have come alongside the content to invite players who've previously tried the game only to be met with a chugging processor unable to handle the game's demands. PlanetSide 2 is not without its growing pains, though. Client instability is still an issue for some users, and although a 64-bit client is coming to alleviate some users' issues, others still exist, and new issues arise all the time. On the upside, it takes little time to get back into combat after a technical mishap.

The original PlanetSide offered an experience that simply couldn't be found anywhere else. PlanetSide 2 has surpassed its predecessor in nearly every regard. From the massive scale of battles to the detail put into the sprawling continents, PlanetSide 2 is a game that aspires to do much and succeeds across the board. While population disadvantages or the occasional crash can lead to frustration, the annoyances melt away once the battles even out and you find yourself focused on gunning down your enemies or keeping your allies alive as a medic. PlanetSide 2 and the war for Auraxis is constantly evolving, and somehow manages to keep finding ways to improve on an already successful game.

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The Good

  • Unmatched massive scale of first-person shooter combat
  • Easily identifiable and iconic empire-specific models and sounds
  • Multitude of play styles available for any player's tastes
  • Experiences often result in war stories to share with friends

The Bad

  • Technical hiccups can interrupt play unexpectedly

About the Author

Tyler Hicks used to think Big Team Battle in the Halo series and Onslaught in Unreal Tournament were the true ways to play first-person shooters, until he played the original PlanetSide at a friend's house in high school. In PlanetSide 2, his battle rank 71 Vanu soldier has over 300 hours logged.