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/ May 25th, 2003 No Comments

I hope Planetside is not a sign of things to come, with so many MMORPG’s on the horizon, Star Wars Galaxies, Matrix Online, Resident Evil Online, Warcraft Worlds, Everquest 2, Warhammer Online… things could get expensive. Planetside is worrying as for your monthly subscription, you don’t really get much more content and depth than a game such as Tribes 2 – the very first game I actually reviewed for this site well over a year ago – and because of this I treat it with caution.

Ok, so maybe this is a rather pessimistic introduction, so for now let us forget the financial implications of entering Planetsides three-way-fray and focus on the fact that it is actually pretty good fun. My comparisons to Tribes are obvious as soon as you see the game in action, a team based struggle to control the land using a multi-class system of soldiers and a variety of vehicles. The difference being that while Tribes was one fight at a time over one map with about 30 people, Planetside takes things on with a larger scale, the battle is for a planet, not just a map.

From choosing one of three factions you can take an informative, if overlong and wordy tutorial and become familiar with the systems involved, a fairly essential experience as like with other FPS games, being a newbie isn’t easy at the best of times. The key process you learn is how the battle takes place through Base Capture, the main goal of the game is to capture land from your enemies. A global map shows the various continents at one scale, including each factions safe haven, the Sanctuary, where you can get tooled up, have a chat and decide where to attack, passage between the continents being controlled via warp gates.

At a smaller scale you can see the layout of the individual continents; this is where you will formulate most of your attacks as here you can see where the bases and outposts sit and who is in control of what. Current battles are marked with big explosions to help you find the action quickly and allowing you to support your side which is a nice feature. Providing you can bust through the resistance around an enemy base your task is then to get inside, overtake the control centre and hold it for 15 minutes. On doing this the base is then transferred to your control along with any associated benefits such as mounted turret guns or decreased spawn times for capturing a Bio Lab for example.

As I just hinted, death is handled in the RTCW style, you are simply taken out of the action for a period of time, and this is lengthened by frequent deaths and shortened by your successes in battle. To get yourself back into the action you can respawn at any local buildings on the continent under your control or you can go back to the Sanctuary and re-group with some vehicles.

The better you do in battle the more Advancement Points you are given and these can be channeled into the abilities you want, for instance you won’t be able use certain vehicles unless you get ‘certification’ to use them. There is plenty to look into as well, different armour types, various weapons with interchangeable ammo…but with the action packed style of gameplay, it can be a little frustrating that you can’t use a lot of the really cool bits of kit from the start.

It can be a great experience with some quite varied battles taking place at the bases; I was recently on a gangway high above the ground gunning down a few invaders from a safe position. But then a low engine hum could be heard and a huge ship flew over the base, enemy soldiers suddenly leaped out and swarmed all over the roof, forcing the defenders back inside the base.

The graphics are occasionally a little sketchy, but with the large scale of game that it is, it can be overlooked, some of the trees look pretty bad in particular, but then equally some of the vehicles and player models look really good, the vehicles taking some nice battle damage too. The engine is fast though and copes with a lot of action going on and that’s all that really matters in the end.

My main problem with the game is that I don’t really feel like there is enough to it to warrant a subscription fee…yes it’s going towards server costs etc, but is the experience you get really that different to playing a game on the scale of Tribes? There may be hundreds of people online, but you don’t see them, you don’t have battles involving hundreds of people at a time. MMORPG’s can get away with it due to the huge variety of professions and the interaction you have, it’s unlike anything else, but in Planetside all you really do is shoot people. After you have played for a while, captured a few bases, had them retaken, captured them back…it seems a little futile. Having spoken to other players I have heard similar comments, that after a while there doesn’t seem to be much to do other than shoot some more opposition…Battlefield 1942 being a title they offer as a more affordable version of essentially the same experience.

Admittedly, the team behind the game seems to be working on adding content that makes the loss of bases a bit more important as well as new vehicles and other bits, so there may be more to keep you paying your money each month. Credit where credit is due though, the game is very stable, I haven’t had any crashes or disconnections, and the addition of new content is will be gladly met.

It’s a shame things couldn’t have been deeper, maybe adding designers who could craft weapons, armour and vehicles to add a little customization to a stylistically uniform game. Maybe there could be a random factor thrown in…maybe an NPC alien species that you could take missions against or even come under attack from.

At the moment though, you take your choice, Planetside is a fun game, but whether there is enough to it to demand a monthly fee being sapped from your credit card is another thing altogether.


Jamie Wharton

Jamie Wharton

Jamie Wharton was based out of Europe before disappearing off the face of the Earth. His contributions in the early days of Gaming Illustrated's history, however, shall never be forgotten.
Jamie Wharton

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