previews\ May 6, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Planetside - PC - Preview

Planetside is the world's first Massive Multiplayer online first-person action game. A yet to be determined monthly subscription fee ($10-$15) will be charged after the initial free period expires, but honestly after you read this preview I guarantee you will feel the price is worth it!! Most FPS fans have had their taste of multiplayer online gaming with an average of 32 players. SOE (Sony Online Entertainment), who brought us Everquest, has raised the bar, shattered it and pulverized the remaining pieces. Imagine this if you can. A game on such a scale that there can be 1000's of players engaging in battles in one single game. At first look it maybe doubtful you will see 1000 people in one single battle trying to take over a base on one given continent On the other hand, you can definitely expect to see a couple hundred players engaging in multiple skirmishes over ten continents in a single world. The terrain varies from barren deserts, to tropical forests, to the frozen arctic to molt and lava volcanic landscapes. Constantly changing weather will also be a factor when planning your assaults. You can expect to see many battles taking place at one given time. It will be up to you to attack/defend what is most important. There is an instant action option that will take you to a battle that requires your assistance.

Now, when I'm using the word battle, I'm not just talking about a few bases here, we are talking a plethora spread out over 10 continents. There are 3 empires to swear your allegiance to all having their pros and cons to bring war on a level playing field.

Terran Republic

Though their weapons may not pack quite the punch as NC equipment, the Terran Republic's equipment generally fires faster and they covet the "more is better" type of attitude. This is displayed by some of their vehicles that can carry two gunners, and the other empires are only equipped to carry one gunner.

The New Conglomerate

The New Conglomerate's equipment takes on the bigger is better attitude. The firepower may pack a bigger wallop, but at a slower rate of fire. Many of these weapons can be deadly at close range, but loose their luster over distances.

Vanu Sovereignty

Their equipment may fall short in punching power and rate of fire, but their built-in Armor Piercing mode for their weapons gives them the flexibility in combat that can't be matched. Same is true for their vehicles, but they have ability to move across water, which allows them to strike from nearly almost any side. Forcing the other empires to watch every angle of conflict.

If by chance the playing field becomes lopsided with too many players on one side. There will bonuses/penalties in constant flux in relation to the number of hours played by each Empire in the last 24 hours. As more players from an Empire log on and play over time, their incentives/disincentives will be altered accordingly. The ebb and flow of incentives is fairly slow, but helps to balance the gameplay if the population of one Empire gets too far out of balance in relation with the others.

Ok, so now you have chosen who you are going put your life on the line for, now how are you going to go about doing it? As you play you will acquire certification points that you will use to specialize your character with. You may want to use your CP's to use the toughest armor and get the biggest guns. Some certifications allow only certain types of armor and weapons. The only problem with that is that the heaviest armor does not allow you to pilot a vehicle so you may have to hitch a ride or two. You could become an advanced medic and heal friendly units to keep your teammates in the battle. Maybe driving futuristic vehicles is more up your ally. Maybe you prefer a more covert ops type play and want to be a hacker and infiltrate an enemy base and bring it to its knees. The beautiful thing is that you can unlearn certifications, which allows you to try all aspects of the game.

You can also equip yourself with up to 3 implants as well. These devices give you super-hero like abilities like a brief rocket like burst of speed, or a personal shield, etc. Implants may be installed via Implant Terminals at the Sanctuary or friendly Bio Labs on any of the Battle Continents. As you can see even fans of MMORPG will find some fun here.

Ok, you have made your character and now you want to give the game a whirl, what do you do now you ask? Well here is an idea of your Empire's objectives.

  • The objective of your empire is to capture and control as many facilities as it can across the ten Continents.

  • Hacking into the Control Console is how a facility changes hands from one empire to another.

  • Hacking into a Control Console begins the transference process of the facility.

  • Hacking requires a Remote Electronics Kit (REK). Facilities impart a variety of benefits to the side that control them.

  • Each empire has a Sanctuary that is a safe haven from enemies.

  • As facilities operate, they consume resources in the form of Nanite Technology Units (NTUs).

  • The NTU silo next to the building shows the current amount of NTUs the facility has at its disposal.

  • If the NTU level at a facility drops to zero, the facility will turn neutral, negating any ownership aspect.

  • Advanced Nanite Transport (ANT) vehicles can be used to re-supply facilities.

  • Certification for ANTs is automatically granted once any other vehicle certification is chosen.

  • ANTs harness the energy of Warp Gates once they are deployed within the dome of a Warp Gate.

  • To re-supply a facility NTU Silo, deploy a charged ANT nearby in the courtyard.

Sounds like a cakewalk doesn't it? Well let me tell you it is no easy task. While you are trying to attack, other empires are hitting your bases as well. Sometimes you may have the upper hand, just to find another base is falling. Remember we are talking engagements on a huge scale here so expect intensive battles to complete such objectives. As you can probably tell, no one person is going to pull these objectives off by themselves. I cannot stress enough that this will be a team-based game and that all type of characters will be utilized to effectively meet these tasks. Thankfully you will have some chat macros to give commands with, as well as the typical chat where you type it in. The best option is using a headset to talk between squad-mates. By far the best option to effectively work together!

Friendly fire is always on so be sure what you shoot at. You will acquire Grief Points for hitting friendly forces. Too many GP's can cause players to lose abilities if the points get to high. This should deter those annoying players who want to go postal on their team, and can cause timeouts on weapons and such. If I understand correctly, a player who practices these heinous tactics on a continuous basis can and will be booted from the game if the initial warnings prove no help. YAY SOE!

The game itself will have a bit of a learning curve. A game of this scale complete with hundreds of options in character development and weapon and armor configurations should promise a strong following in both the FPS and RPG communities. The graphics and sound effects were quite solid in the beta version of the game. Once we receive the final version of the game, we will cover that a bit more in depth. But at first glance, I was not disappointed. Gameplay so far is very fast paced with little to no lag. The developers went to many measures to make speed one of their top concerns. One way this was handled was to eliminate damage placement. Having said that, no headshots. Pace of play should be so quick that nobody should see that to be a problem. Another problem that was taken out of the equation was any AI issues. Seems like nearly all games have issues with artificial intelligence whether it is too poor, or too deadly. SOE took any AI problems right out by making this strictly all person vs. person play.

So, at first glance this appears to be a very promising title to be had whether you're a FPS or RPG fan. If you have a love for both, this should be a must have. I cannot wait to get my hands on the retail version, which should entail a great review. Hopefully by the time of release (scheduled for May 20th), most of the bugs found in the Beta will be worked out and gamers all over the world will unite/battle in this new online world. Expectations are high, but it looks promising that SOE will deliver.

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