Stray gunfire misses you by mere inches as your squad approaches the objective. You and your fellow grunts open up in response, butchering the hapless opposition and rapidly capturing the target structure. Meanwhile, outside the base, tanks and armored transports clash in explosive contests of power, aircraft battle for control of the skies and teams of infantry give and take ground in equal measure.
It’s a combined-arms warzone of the future and you’re in the dead center of it. This is Planetside 2.
Originally launched on PC in 2012, Planetside 2 is now available on Playstation 4 as of late June 2014. The game is free to download and play but utilizes a cash shop mechanic similar to League of Legends or Tribes: Ascend. However, basic equipment available to starting players is enough to get the job done, and experience points can be used to upgrade all aspects of a player’s loadout.
When jumping into Planetside 2 for the first time, new players will find themselves on the small continent of Koltyr. Think of Koltyr as the Neverland of the game; once you play long enough to reach a battle rank (or “age”) of 15, you have to leave. This area, known affectionately as “newb island” on several forums, is intended to familiarize players with the mechanics of the game while grouping them with opponents and teammates of similar experience levels.
Of course, if you’re a Planetside 2 veteran who cut their teeth on the PC version, you have the option of leaving Koltyr at any time to join the fight to claim the other major continents on the planet Auraxis with the more seasoned players.
To get started, however, all players must first choose from among the three factions. The Terran Republic is a direct, no-nonsense authoritarian regime with a balanced battle approach. The New Conglomerate is a loose association of rebels, freedom fighters and other miscreants who do battle with a slightly more ramshackle and unorthodox arsenal. Lastly, the Vanu Sovereignty is a technocratic organization of alien worshipers who rely on advanced anti-gravity vehicles and energy weapons.
Deciding on your faction is the choice that will pit you against the other two empires in the constant, global struggle for control. Factions are further divided into outfits, which are split into 12-person squads. This chain of command is a critical part of accomplishing anything for your faction of choice: stick with your teammates and support them to succeed on the battlefield. Going off on your own usually ends with a trip to the respawn screen. When in doubt, find your allies and follow their lead.
In order to support your team, you’ll need to know your role. Gameplay in Planetside 2 centers around six infantry classes: the stealthy infiltrator, the highly-mobile light assault trooper, the life-saving combat medic, the handy mechanic, the sturdy heavy assault trooper and the imposing M.A.X. power-armored unit. The variety of approaches to combat situations offered by these classes is noteworthy – a world of options is available to the player. The key is experimentation and finding a class that you see the most success with, then customizing your loadout to suit your needs.
Once you’re comfortable specializing in a couple different loadouts, it’s time to take it to the enemy. Each continental conflict zone on the planet includes several bases that provide a variety of benefits to your faction. These coveted defensive strongholds are what will drive the majority of battles in the game. This can mean that, at any given time, there are dozens of firefights to join. However, this can also mean that if you get bored of attacking and defending bases, you can quickly lose your motivation to play the game.
This is, to some extent, remedied by the myriad methods you have at your disposal to approach objectives. Factor in squad cohesion and unit communication and you have the building blocks for a great strategy. Coordinate an airdrop with the bulky Galaxy transport ship with some gunship escorts for a death-from-above base invasion. Spearhead a ground assault in small teams of fast-moving Lightning tanks while Sunderer armored personnel carriers follow your lead to establish mobile spawn points for your reinforcements. Does the enemy have the high ground? Assemble a strike force of light assault infantry and use your jet packs to outflank their position while your backup lays down suppressive fire.
When plans like these come together and your team accomplishes objectives that had seemed impossible, those are the moments when playing the game is most worthwhile. In essence, Planetside 2 shines when players put in the time to find their role, hone their skills and learn to work together. A smattering of bugs will occasionally throw a wrench in the experience, from the usual lag delay to sinking through the ground into the digital abyss, but the developers at Daybreak are hopefully working to address these and other issues that may come up.
With some more polish, Planetside 2 could be a truly standout free-to-play MMO shooter on the PS4. As it stands, the new version doesn’t seem to add much that wasn’t present on the PC platform, but it does provide console gamers access to a strong, if slightly flawed, title. So sign up now and join the fight - you have nothing to lose but a few hours of your time.