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Planetside 2 has all of the trappings to be a fantastic sci-fi first-person shooter; it’s got a huge open-world while three separate factions vie for territory in that open-world, there are plenty of upgradable features and customizations to be found, a large online community, a slew of vehicles to rampage the terrain with, and actual tactically intelligent maneuvering around the warzone must be utilized or victory is impracticable. Sadly, what sounds great in theory is actually what works against it in practice; Planetside 2’s best features oppose its overall theme.
The idea is that Planetside 2 is an open-world experience where coordinated and tactical warzone placement is vital, and then this idea is met with the gunplay and battlefield tropes of Halo. Since troop (player) placement is so paramount to success, the ability for everyone to go wherever they want and do whatever they want in a zone that feels as large as an Elder Scrolls game becomes very problematic (to overall victory). And to a newcomer, like me, the lack of a tutorial makes for an experience that is difficult to feel like I was being a valued member of the war effort to my faction. I found myself wondering aimlessly; sometimes for good portions of an hour, only to literally find no one the entire time. This isn’t because the game was empty, in fact, it was quite full, I just had no idea how to tell where the action was happening or, more importantly, how to get there promptly as possible.
Now, I’m not saying to hold my hand, but there is a difference between being mysterious and open-ended and just a plan lack of explanation. I don’t need help with things that are intuitive, like hitting ‘R’ to reload or even going to a terminal to swap my weapon load-out or class, but the aspects that are not intuitive or rudimentary from past gaming experiences need some work in explaining those aspects. Plan and simply, there needs to be a tutorial or at least some on-screen tutorial text that explains how the map works, where vital combat situations are happening, and where you’re needed most.
NUMBERS PEOPLE!!! Numbers are what I want to see.
There are ‘!’ exclamation markers on the map that are supposedly where important battles are transpiring, but you really don’t know for sure. I’ve shown up to one of those ‘!’ only to find a ghost town. I don’t understand why then there are not numbers next to these ‘!’ that are supposedly so important – numbers that would indicate how many enemies are bearing down on your base or how many you are strong in the effort of conquering the enemy’s stronghold. This way you’d know where best to go… is base ‘A’ a lost cause? Or perhaps is base ‘B’ where I should focus because the numbers are in our favor? Also, since the game is in the future, it’s not unconceivable that communications would be excellent from base-to-base. Meaning, in a real war situation, these numbers would be facts that Generals, Commanders, whoever; would be sharing as extremely important real-time information to achieve victory.
Simply put, the game has strategy elements but the map needs work to bring those elements to where they should be to be on par with the simplest strategy games. Now, I know what you’re saying to yourself, you’re saying “But, Planetside 2 is first and foremost a FPS”. Well, that’s why these faulty aspects also hurt the themes that a FPS strives for as well. With the huge amounts of time that are lost traveling from empty base to empty base to actually find something that is happening or just aimlessly wandering due to lack of know-how because of no tutorial, it holds back what most FPSers strive for – an action-filled, non-stop headshot, kill streak, gunfest extravaganza. Now I love differently paced first-person shooters, not all FPSes have to be high-octane. I love Fallout 3 and I enjoy the idea of aimlessly wandering to finding some random adventure to take part in, but this is not a Bethesda game – there are not random world events or side-quests to happen upon – there is only the war map and trying to conquer that map through means of faction vs. faction combat in a first-person shooting fashion. And the huge amount of downtime wandering or traveling is detriment to that.
Now, in contradiction to everything I’ve just said, Planetside 2 can be extremely fun, it just has some fundamental flaws that need to be ironed out. Those that spend the time to familiarize themselves with the game will have some awesome battles defending and conquering futuristic strongholds. That fun will be amplified even further if you have some personal friends to add into the mix, and even more so if you’re coordinating your efforts via some form of voice chat. If these are not the cases though, then Planetside 2 can be very frustrating, especially to a newcomer.