The massive multiplayer (MMO) genre isn’t limited to just roleplaying. First-person shooters (FPS) also populate this system, though very little of those actually feel as massive as the name would suggest. Sony’s Planetside 2 is the answer to this. A huge battlefield with a tremendous atmosphere immerses players into warfare how it should be: huge, fierce and most of all, overwhelming. This sets up a barrier not overcome by all, but those willing to add planning and teamwork to their gameplay will be left more than satisfied.
Rarely has a playing field been as grand as this one. A huge planet is divided into sectors, each with a set of bases that are further parted in separate buildings and structures to take over. From the moment the player drops into the home base, this seemingly never-ending horizon shows the ambition of Planetside 2: An expansive plain of detailed, rich textures let the boon of night and day splash its curves with pristine lighting veils. The atrocities of war are superimposed over this layer, with bright lasers, force fields, tons of vehicles and explosions as far as the eye can see. Just like war itself, this omnipresent atmosphere is a bit hard to take in, slightly breathtaking even, as the sound of hovering planes swoop by, shells collide with the thundering earth or returned fire zip by, forcing squads to take cover. Planetside 2 does its name justice: It’s a war on a planetary scale.
Three factions struggle for supremacy of the planet and its many sectors. Each has 5 standard classes, such as snipers, heavy fire and so on. Helping the faction unlocks points in different areas that can be used to purchase different incentives, such as vehicles or a mech suit. These points can be acquired in numerous ways, such as kills, captured bases and more. Additionally, classes can be upgraded by using cert points. There is customization possible in the game, but there is a definite focus.
As Planetside 2 is larger than life, most of the work will need to be done by vehicles or large teams at the very least. There is no place for the lone soldier in this game, even if it were just for the sake of getting lost within its huge environments. Still, this scope does create a sizable barrier that lobs the warfare over to a defensive side. Most engagements are hard fought between bases, with planes and tanks everywhere and large teams coordinating attacks. As such, it can sometimes feel impenetrable. Luckily, there are ample team options available, with squadrons able to see each other on a mini-map, set objectives and more. It’s an unfortunate side effect that this MMO is obtuse, partially due to its sheer magnitude. It doesn't explain itself properly and finding out what to do will either require natural growth or consulting outside sources. Yet, it should be noted that, even as an outsider, the game seems worth the effort of digging deeper. As squads coordinate attacks, carry out plans, call in for artillery and air support, an ambience of warfare will be felt like never before.
War wasn’t meant to be pleasant, it’s a struggle won by clever tactics and overwhelming firepower. Planetside 2 may deter less dedicated players, but those that hunker down can unlock a tremendous potential in this MMO. It’s deep, complex and yet even at its surface there is enough atmosphere to stay engaged for quite some time. To think this is a free title kind of puts several big budget titles to shame. Don’t be fooled by its obstacles or by strange prejudices against free-to-play games: Planetside 2 is simply breathtaking, even if you won’t actively enjoy it. Just being a part of the machine can be just as gratifying as being the machine. In fact, it’s a welcome change of pace.