Short Takes: Planetside 2 (PS4) - On The Brink Of Greatness
Title: Planetside 2
Developer: Daybreak Game Company
Platforms: PS4 (PSN Only)
When Bender and I tried our hands at the Planetside 2 beta a few months back, we both came away unimpressed, mainly due to the battles themselves. As grand as they appeared, they were disorganized without any clear indication of what we should be doing. Couple this with bouts of heavy lag, a confusing party system, and an inconsistent respawn mechanic, and it looked like it would be easy to just write this one off as yet another free-to-play game that will keep gamers occupied for a few hours until the next big AAA shooter arrives. Jump ahead a few months, and PlanetSide 2 has been fully released to the masses on PlayStation 4. Surprisingly, this game has improved quite a bit since the beta.
The best way for me to describe PlanetSide 2 is as an even more futuristic version of M.A.G (Zipper Interactive, PS3), the massive action game that pitted three warring factions against one another and threw hundreds of virtual grunts together onto one big virtual battlefield. There are a variety of class types to choose from (medics, engineers, assault, etc), and each of them has weapons and gear that can be modified and upgraded respectively. The AO (Area of Operation) featured in PlanetSide 2 is much, MUCH larger than the one found in M.A.G., which makes sense because PlanetSide 2 originated on PC. It’s impressive to see several bases and strongholds spread out across a massive, sprawling map, all of which house different types of objectives to fight over and secure. In terms of conveying all out war, PlanetSide 2 does a pretty good job creating some heated, large-scale skirmishes from time to time.
When it comes down to presentation and gameplay, however, just how patient one is when it comes to learning a game — and accepting that the game is going to have network issues as Daybreak Game Company works out the kinks — will go a long way towards determing how much fun one will have with PlanetSide 2. I’ve recently learned that the PC version of PlanetSide 2 offers a tutorial to help newcomers get acclimated to its complex setup. Unfortunately, as of right now, no such tutorial is available on the PlayStation 4 version. You are simply thrust into a smaller AO, which acts as sort of a bunny hill for noobs until they reach level 15, after which the game opens up for you to enter combat in quite a few more regions. While there was close to no indication of what you were supposed to be doing during the beta, at least now when you’re in a specific area the HUD will show you what your current objective is based on your proximity to it. As you look around the map, you’ll see markers off in the distance, and if you point your crosshairs at them, it will tell you what the mission is there. Figuring out how to team up with friends isn’t the easies of tasks either, but it’s best to figure it out early because this is a game that will benefit squads who communicate and coordinate their attacks. Hopefully, they’ll add the tutorial from the PC version to eliminate some of these early growing pains. This is a much deeper game than I anticipated, and it would be disappointing if the lack of a tutorial deters others from really sinking their teeth into PlanetSide 2.
Lastly, I just wanted to touch upon the performance of the game itself. Having no experience with its PC counterpart, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this game in terms of visuals when I first entered the beta. It honestly wasn’t that pretty then, and even now, it’s not something I’d use to show off what the PlayStation 4 is capable of. However, considering this is a massive online action game, expecting stellar graphics is probably foolish anyways. The biggest performance issue I’ve encountered is lag, and sadly, there was quite a bit of it in some of the areas dense with bunkers, trees, and vehicles. It got so bad in a few instances where it appeared we were down to single frames. It’s a shame, because during most of the other medium-sized conflicts, the game runs at a pretty smooth framerate, in line with what you’d expect from a modern shooter. There’s some nice variety to the maps, including a day/night cycle that keep things fresh. The maps are well-designed, featuring verticality for snipers and plenty of room to flank and move stealthily towards an objective. Hopefully, the nasty lag that rears its ugly head a little too often is smoothed out in the weeks ahead.
I doubt PlanetSide 2 will replace FPS staples such as Battlefield, Call of Duty, or Rainbow Six: Siege this fall, but what is here is a competent shooter that is surprisingly deep once you’re able to figure things out for yourself. The rate at which you earn currency (see: GRIND) may be off-putting to those who hope to customize their gear to their liking right away, but then again, you could just use real world money to alleviate this concern should you so choose (PlanetSide 2 supports microtransactions). It’s not a great looking game, but it’s not ugly to the point where you’ll get a sense of repetition. The lag and connection issues are to be expected, so again, your level of tolerance for these kinds of problems will ultimately have an impact on whether or not PlanetSide 2 is a game for you. If you love working with a squad to capture objectives and gun down hundreds of bad guys, there's a surprising amount of fun to be had here. If Daybreak Game Company is able to iron out some of the issues noted above, this could be one of the best free-to-play titles on consoles.
Should You Play It? If you can tolerate the growing pains, it’s definitely worth a look…and it’s FREE!