Sony Online Entertainment
Free with micro-transactions
ESRB rating: Teen
Review rating: 4.5 stars
Cyber-war is hell. I'm not talking about the simplistic, pseudo-warfare that most military-based first person shooters provide. No, I mean it is hell trying to survive in battles with hundreds of participants that all have access to advanced weaponry and vehicles! Don't believe me? Then download SOE's awesome MMOFPS, "PlanetSide 2," and see for yourself!
In the distant future, three powerful factions are at war for ownership of the planet Auraxis and its valuable resources. Up to two thousand players per server are in a persistent battle for control over three continents, and each continent has dozens of bases and scout posts. This turns the conflict into a bloody tug-of-war scenario where captured bases must be defended or they'll be lost, and the result is a constantly changing battlefield.
Soldiers can choose from five different classes, all sporting deadly weaponry as well as useful abilities that promote teamwork. Engineers can drop turrets and provide extra ammo; medics can heal and even revive teammates; the light assault class has access to a handy jetpack; the heavy assault class can blow up vehicles with rockets; and the mighty MAX class is basically a lumbering tank. I really like how players aren't locked into one class and can change to another simply by accessing a friendly terminal.
Terminals also provide the ability to spawn a variety of vehicles as long as the player's team has the appropriate resources. Why run the long distance between conflicts when you can spawn a mighty tank and smash your way through the enemy? It's also fun to hop into a flying vehicle and rain hell on your enemies from above. Want to travel somewhere without drawing attention? Simply spawn an ATV and sneak your way in.
Unlike most modern FPS games, using teamwork is essential in "PlanetSide 2." That's why the developers made it so easy to join other squads of cyber-soldiers or create your own. In addition, squad leaders can drop special spawn points so other squad mates can group up quickly and easily. It's also possible for more than one player to jump in certain vehicles, and the gigantic flying transport vehicle, called the Galaxy, is large enough to carry multiple squads!
When the massive scale of this game is combined with the awesome vehicles and huge number of players, it's possible to utilize both real world and fantasy military tactics. For example, a well-coordinated assault can combine dozens of tanks with multiple flying vehicles and hundreds of soldiers. Another tactic is to have a dozen light assault soldiers ride ATVs up to a base, hop off and then use their jet packs to fly over the wall and assault from within. This is one game where the phrase "only limited by the player's imagination" actually rings true.
Unlike most MMO games, each character's level number isn't nearly as important as the player's skill level. Leveling-up give players points that they can spend on new abilities as well as enhanced weaponry and vehicles. It's also possible to use real-world money to purchase some items, but players definitely can't "pay to win." Perusing the online store can be overwhelming because of the sheer multitude of options, so it's best to stick to one thing at a time. Most of the upgrades are more than mere window dressing and can have a dramatic effect on game play. I suggest that pilots purchase rocket upgrades ASAP because they're devastating against ground targets.
I won't deny that "PlanetSide 2" has a steep learning curve that will frustrate some newcomers, but those who invest the time and effort will discover that this game spoils them for other shooters.