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Planetside 2 (PC) Review

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Planetside 2 and I don’t always get along. We bicker, we fight, we split up and decide to go our separate ways. But like some dysfunctional couple, I keep coming back and it always welcomes me with open arms – only to have me gunned down again by someone I totally didn’t see. Yup, it’s another of those games.

Planetside 2 – Fun with Flaws

Planetside 2

Unlike my tiff with Battlefield 3 where I quit and never looked back, I can’t put down Planetside 2 for any length of time no matter how badly I do. There’s a magic here, a game experience that you really can’t get anywhere else. A huge, free-to-play, online, pvp, science fiction first person shooter, Planetside 2 is a sight to see when it works well and it works well about half of the time. That’s a solid percentage for a game that’s so entirely reliant on player interaction and sandbox action for it’s fun. When you’re on the right end of a siege, flanked by tanks and soldiers under the cover of air support, or successfully holding off an assault on your well-defended position the game is awesome. However, being on the wrong end of said siege or being slaughtered trying to take a point can be some of the most infuriating experiences on PC today. There’s nothing fun about facing long odds time and again, and this while is often that you can sometimes do something about by changing areas to contest there are times where no matter where you go or what you do, you feel outnumbered and outmaneuvered. It’s always 2 on 1 for your faction, regardless of who you play but some servers are lopsided towards one faction or another and playing as the undermanned faction just isn’t any fun. Most servers are fairly balanced, however.

When you do get a fight that isn’t lopsided Planetside 2 is fun as hell. Picking one of the six classes (including the heavy MAX suit) is down to your play preference but you’ll be the most useful to your faction by adapting to a needed situation. Of course, if you’re say, the most bad-ass infiltrator that ever lived, then for the love of life you shouldn’t play an engineer just because someone’s tank needs a dent pulled. I roll heavy assault most of the time but I’ve taken my share of turns playing the medic as needed. Picking a primary class you would like to specialize in is actually somewhat required if you’re going to make any progress because you need to invest certification points that you earn through play  into a class’ weapons and abilities to get the most out of it. For weapons you unlock things like scopes, while classes can improve their armor, abilities and gear. My heavy assault has unlocked both a ranged 3x scope as well as a close-range night vision one for his favorite rifle. Said rifle wasn’t available at the start, though and had to be bought at the in-game shop.

You can buy things like infantry weapons, vehicle weapons and  infantry and vehicle customizations. Buying weapons with certification points is slow going for the average player – i.e., me – so I dropped $10 on 1000 Station Cash to allow me to pick up weapons within a reasonable amount of time. This weapon is referred to by Sony as a side grade, designed to not be better than the other guns but rather differently balanced. The one I bought was chosen for it’s improved reload speed and accuracy. I happened to have enough left over that I also picked up an anti-air rocket launcher for locking on to aircraft. It would seem unbalanced compared to the standard rocket launcher until you try and shoot a tank with it and watch the tank not even give a damn.

Planetside 2

The controls here are solid and I have not encountered a situation where the controls resulted in any confusion. I also can’t blame any of my deaths on the controls which I deem high praise for a shooter. Visually the game looks very good on High settings but for me that results in 20-30 FPS on my rig (2.9 Ghz Core i5, 1GB Radeon 6770, 8GB DDR3) so I have to turn some bells and whistles off to get a smoother frame rate, which is critical in a twitch shooter like this. The sound is ok, with good explosions and gunfire but the voices are average to sub-par. I have to wonder about the Terran Republic female voice actress, personally. Whoever deemed that “teenage school girl” perkiness was the best choice for a battle-worn soldier of war confuses me.

Planetside 2 has some issues that need addressing. The less than optimal frame rate that some players get on high-end machines, especially those with AMD CPUs is a big problem that needs fixed ASAP. The inability to know what kind of situation you’re dropping into on an “instant action” hot spot can stick you smack-dab in some terrible, unwinnable fights, and that can be a huge turn-off.

My personal bugaboo, and one that may exist in my head alone, is my perceived imbalance between players with allot of certification points and those without. You can’t buy cert point with money so it’s down to a combination of play time, skill and luck to get them but someone who has invested heavily in survivability can be irritating as hell for someone who hasn’t when the cert-heavy player soaks up bullets in comparison. It can be disheartening and new players may be turned off by being killed repeatedly by players with Battle Rank 35 or something. There is zero support for new players aside from higher level, more experienced players courting and teaching them and that’s not incentivized in the least so it’s not a common occurrence.

One thing I may be misinterpreting would be the many encounters where it feels like I have emptied half a clip (25-50 rounds, depending on the gun) into an enemy at point-blank range only to have them turn around and one-shot me. Another issue for me  is the bullet spray on my Light Machine Gun being insanely erratic. It may also be the fact that I play Terran Republic and their weapons’ styles differ from the other factions but the spray from my guns doesn’t seem to be comparable to my enemies. My bullets wail on the wall behind a foe at mid range while, again, I tend to get dropped in a shot or two. There are far too many variables at play here (weapon, faction, distance, my aim) for me to call it a game bug but it is still irritating.

All in all Planetside 2 makes me more angry than any game since MLB 2K9, and yet I continue to play. The times where it all falls into place are so good that I put up with being a target dummy most of the time to get to those times. If you’re much better than I am you will probably love Planetside 2, and even if you’re not very good like me I still recommend it. There’s so much to love here that no matter how abusive the relationship can be you will have enough good times that you’ll keep coming back. It kind of reminds me of golf that way.

Alphasim out.

ProsCons
Looks great; Good controls; Fun as hell when you're in a balanced conflict.Finding a fair conflict is harder than it should be; Some significant performance issues
Rating
85%
Graphics
Sound
Control
Replayability