I've seen things you people would t believe. Armored columns on fire at the foot of The Crown. I've seen Skyguard glitter in the night. All these moments... Without paying a dime!
Even with the bizarre cavalcade of game releases for 2012 that featured everything from a retelling of Apocalypse Now in Dubai to a barely interactive adventure game about the zombie-ridden end of the world, if you had told me I'd be even considering a multiplayer shooter for GUO's Game of the Year I would have laughed in your face. Tell me that the game supported thousands of simultaneous players and I'd have had you institutionalized. Then convince me that the game was free for everyone to download from Sony... Well, them's fightin' words. Yet, somehow, here we are.
PlanetSide 2 from Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) is truly a wonder to behold. While the core concept of of players donning various class-based kits and armored vehicles to wage virtual war across the land and sky will be familiar to anyone who's ever dabbled in a Battlefield game, the sheer scale of PlanetSide's engagements has only rarely been attempted (WWII Online, anyone?) and certainly never achieved with such striking results.
Mechanically, PlanetSide makes several bold decisions that pay off in spades. Rather than opting for a straight-up us-versus-them brawl, wars are wages between three sides each with their own distinct feel. One faction fires faster, one hits harder, while the third is more accurate. Each faction features their own main battle tank with a unique ability. A personal pool of resources allows players to create their own vehicles at designated locations rather than feuding over a handful predesigned rides. Support roles are surprisingly well rewarded, as opposed to most titles in this genre, and deft engineers or medics stand a real chance of out scoring their lead-slinging counterparts in large firefights. Perhaps most shockingly of all, PlanetSide opts to keep friendly fire enabled at all times, forcing players to check their fire and look both ways before crossing the battlefield.
Technically, PlanetSide is a wonder to behold. Sporting miles of terrain dotted by dozens of fortresses for it's bloodthirsty denizens to run, drive, and fly over, PlanetSide is a graphical stunner. From the dusty mesas of Indar to the icy plains of Esamir to the craggy jungles of Amerish, SOE has created several distinct environments packed full of terrain that is both visually an tactically interesting. And just when you think you've seen it all, the dynamic day/night and weather cycle kicks in ready to change every rule you knew about the land surrounding your favorite outpost.
Moreover, the ability to simply process thousands of players flying, shooting, and dodging in real-time is a technical miracle. Even after months of playing, I still marvel at the coding wizardry necessary to create such a fast game with so many simultaneous players. If I had not experienced it myself, I would have said that a game of this speed and scale was simply impossible with modern technology. It’s not flawless. Astute players will occasionally notice some latency as they drop dead from one too many bullets to the noggin a split second after entering cover, but PlanetSide does a wonderfully job of smoothing over the majority of the Internet’s notoriously patchwork infrastructure.
SOE has a good track record when it comes to providing content to cheapskates in their free-to-play titles and PlanetSide 2 is no exception. Every infantry class and vehicle is available to all players from the first second they log in. All of the game’s upgrades can be purchased with currency earned in game and only decorative features such as decals or hood ornaments are locked behind a paywall. PlanetSide even goes out to make sure that folks with more money than sense are kept in check. While weapons can be unlocked early using Sony’s premium Station Cash, upgrades such as scopes for said tools of destruction can only be appropriated using PlanetSide’s in-game Certification Points.
For offering a drop dead gorgeous multiplayer shooter on a scale practically impossible with our technology at the bargain price $0, PlanetSide 2 is undoubtedly Growing Up Otaku’s Game of the Year for 2012.