Hybrid MMO/shooter Global Agenda is... fine. From its head to the tips of its toes, this is quite literally a game where you can shoot a man and he will fall down. It is a game where you will amass experience points by the thousands and occasionally go up a level. It is unashamedly, incandescently OK.
When Global Agenda starts, you pick your class of either Assault (heavy weapons), Recon (stealth and speed), Medic (healing and poison powers) or Robotics (deployables) before proceeding through a few tutorial missions which see your genetically modified super-agent being broken out of a glass vat by four other super-agents. Some attempt at crafting a sense of place is made as the game introduces the global government monopoly of the Commonwealth, but the moment your 20 minutes of tutorials are over, so is the story. The plot abruptly fades away like a pop song, which is handy since if it hung around any longer it might have to explain all those tedious, nit-picky details like "Why everyone's respawning instead of dying" or "Why you were broken out of your vat" or even "Why you were in a vat".
But then, who cares? Because the moment the tutorials are over you're free to play Global Agenda as a straight multiplayer shooter. Kind of. From the uninspiring safe haven of Dome City your character can approach the Mission Select Terminal to pick out a player-versus-environment or player-versus-player mission, earning you credits, experience points and loot which can be used to develop your character at the kind of lazy pace any MMO gamer will be deeply familiar with.
The shooting itself is an odd one. Any given fight is lengthened by very broad crosshairs and an MMO-style emphasis on gradually wearing away your opponent's health bar, and any sufficiently cautious player can often use their jetpack to blast away from combat to safety. This isn't Tribes, though. You can't shoot while using the jetpack, nor can you use it for very long, and an attempt to climb one of the taller buildings in the game will see you bludgeoning your head on an invisible ceiling.
That low flight ceiling is one of several restrictions in Global Agenda you wouldn't expect to see in a game using the Unreal 3 engine, along with fairly small map sizes in general and a maximum player limit of 10 versus 10. Developer Hi-Rez says that "more players doesn't necessarily equal more fun", but it's still a shame and a surprise from a game that touts itself as massively multiplayer.
In a lot of ways GA plays like the last five years of shooters never happened. Character animations are choppy and weightless, you're often forced to spend an age running back to the same fight that just killed you and many of the weapons produce similar quantities of bang and roar to a hairdryer. Plus, as anybody with a pair of eyes and a soul has doubtless already noticed, the art design and presentation are slick, but weapons-grade boring.
And yet this combat can work, aged as it might feel. The mass of buffing and debuffing equipment available to each class can make for hugely hectic brawls, and the people at Hi-Rez have implemented a neat melee mechanic. Each class can deal a fair amount of damage by hacking away with their class's melee weapon, yet that same weapon's alt fire brings up a protective frontal shield that rebounds melee damage. The result is ridiculous duels where combatants are swapping back and forth between guns, melee attacks and melee shields, all while strafing and jumping like it's 1999.