Review: Planetside 2 (Beta)

Technically, Planetside 2 isn't out yet (the full game launches November 20). So technically, this isn't a review. But I'm having so much fun playing it, I couldn't keep it to myself any longer.

The original Planetside was the first (and still only) MMOFPS. Battles raged, waged over entire continents, with hundreds of players locked in epic sci-fi skirmishes. It was glorious.

Then Sony ruined it. If the beta is any indication, this is one serious mea culpa.

Planetside 2 plays like any other first person shooter. There are different classes, with different roles, weapons, and abilities. In a way, it's a lot like Battlefield 3, in that there's lots of players, vehicles, and wide open maps.

Except, "wide open" takes on a whole new meaning with Planetside 2. I estimate that if you were to run from one corner of one of the continents to the other corner, it would take you hours. For that matter, I bet if you chose to drive from one corner to the other, it would still take you over an hour.

There are three main teams, Terran Republic, New Conglomerate, and the Vanu Sovereignty. There isn't much difference between the RT and NC, but the VS have more of an alien tilt to their tech.

It's all largely a land grab. You want control over as much of the map as possible. Across the landscape are bases of varying size that you need a significant force to capture and hold. Because there are so many players, it's often easy to go with herd, smashing down lesser forces, or throwing yourselves repeatedly against larger ones.

It's incredible fun, with large-scale battles the likes of which are impossible in any other game.

Beta and Access

Currently the game is in beta form, which means things are changing all the time. This is actually rather fantastic, as you get to see how much the designers want to make the most balanced and fun game possible. This is a far cry from the beta of, say, Star Wars: The Old Republic, of which Bioware basically said outright, "here, try the game, but if you don't like anything, we don't care."

Planetside 2 is a fully functioning game at the moment, though, and remarkably stable. It's also gorgeous. Stand on a hilltop, and see for miles. Gigantic domed bases taller than skyscrapers. The screenshots linked above are all in-game, only lightly touched by Photoshop.

The scale of it all is incredible. Though that also leads to my one complaint so far: if you get left behind from a large group, you're going to feel very, very lonely. It will also take forever to get to where the action is. In its defense, Planetside was the same way, and the "Instant Action" button on the map can drop you onto the action once every 30 minutes.

You can sign up for the beta, and perhaps get in for free. Or you can buy the "Alpha Squad" pack ($40) which gives you instant beta access now and a bunch of benefits after the game goes live (later this year).

As an added bonus to joining the beta, you get to read the forum posts by RadarX. These are seriously funny. Some highlights:

"The Flash now has a certification for the NFI-2000 Turbo which will temporarily increase its speed. We know you are going to try it because it has the word Turbo in it. Don't worry about the fact you effectively have a small afterburner beneath your crotch. We've tested this thing successfully at least twice, and sometimes the driver didn't even die."

"SCU and Shield Generators should once again be repairable in all situations. We've narrowed down the issue and determined you were doing it wrong. Righty-tighty this time."

"The Pitcher Certification is now available, meaning you can throw grenades even faster. Maintenance has requested you stop practicing with rocks in the spawn rooms. This is why we can't have nice things."

"Controversial techniques now allow an Infiltrator to adjust their Cloak to provide more protection against damage. Certification in this skill is being required after the initial test subjects were brutally electrocuted. Whole lab still smells like bacon and regret."

"A new alloy whose properties allow it to absorb more damage has been approved for use on all tanks. This will increase every tank's overall resistance to damage. Do not taunt the 'new alloy.'"

"Facility Capture times have been changed. They increase based on the amount of influence and size. And before you say it, we verified with all sources and can confirm that is not what she said."

For future reference, that's how you do community relations.

When it does go live, P2 is going to be free to play. Something I'm unsure about, but as it seems 100% playable without having to buy anything, it might work. Knowing that the more players the better for this type of game, F2P might be the best option after all.