Obtuse and overwhelming, PlanetSide 2's gargantuan free-to-play MMOFPS arrives on PlayStation 4 virtually undiminished from its PC incarnation. This is still a game that makes few concessions for new players, bombarding you with icons, mission updates and map markers but pretty much leaving you to figure things out for yourself.
We originally published this article on the PlayStation 4 PlanetSide 2 beta on April 26th, and were all set to produce a new piece for the game's launch. However, once the EU servers came online, we found that our thoughts on the game - along with its overall performance profile - remain largely unchanged. That being the case, we're re-publishing our original piece for those that may have missed it originally.
With just a minute left on the clock, the battle for Hossin is a dead-heat. The jungle-continent is split almost straight down the middle, between shades of red and blue. The heavyweight New Conglomerate faction are just a single point ahead of their lighter, more agile Terran Republic opponents, who are throwing everything they've got right across the NC's front-line. A single captured base would swing it for the Terrans, who dominated the battlefield for almost an hour-and-a-half.
Two years ago Sony Online Entertainment launched massively multiplayer online first-person shooter PlanetSide 2 on PC - and it's still going strong. It's a game where hundreds of players work together to complete objectives on huge battlefields. Soldiers jump around firing assault rifles as others pilot futuristic helicopters overhead. For PlanetSide 2's battles, big is definitely better. Eurogamer recently tried to work out just how big.
PlanetSide 2 is a game of moments. It's a titanic, perpetual sci-fi war that sees thousands of players battling it out over the four continents of the planet Auraxis, its spectacle driven entirely by player action. It's where you can witness dozens of tanks roll out into an icy valley on the frozen continent of Esamir, or watch laser fire from a hundred players light up the night on an Indarian plain.
It's Sunday evening when you get the call. You're putting out the bins, ready for rubbish collection, when your iPhone gives an urgent beep. It's the PlanetSide 2 app, telling you that one of your bases is under attack, that Vanu tanks are within firing range, that your squad has swung into action. A few taps of the screen tells you which squadmates are already en route. A friend messages you, urging you to join them because, hell, you're the most qualified Prowler pilot they've got. You rush to the PC, and you fire up the game.
The squad leader's already barking out orders through voice over IP. That's funny, you say, you thought she was on holiday. She tells you she is; she tells you she's issuing orders from her hotel room, tablet in hand. She tells you things won't be quite so funny when the Vanu capture those vital resources and turn them against you. She's squinting at a battle map that fills the tablet's screen, trying to anticipate the enemy's attack, and she has instructions for your deployment.
You do a quick background check on the incoming forces, because you swear those custom decals are familiar. Yeah, that's right, you tangled with this unit back at that research facility, about a week ago. It didn't go well, but since then you've unlocked a few more certifications on the Prowler, a few more surprises to stuff up your sleeve. The tank's engine roars into life and the moment your gunner climbs in, they've auto-joined you on voice chat. "What's our orders, boss?" he asks, and for just a moment you stare out the window at your neglected bins. "It's time," you tell him, "To take out the trash."
Tom's already offered you a rundown of this year's Actual New Games - the ones that are offering, in their own ways, something unique - and now here's the slightly less glamorous look at the other side of the coin.
They're big business, these blockbuster sequels, and for all that we lament the lack of innovation it's these big-budget series that inevitably garner the most attention and inspire the most devotion from the majority. That's nothing to be scorned - iteration's an important thing in games development and indeed the development of games - and a composite of evolved features designed to fulfil a particular desire, be that the needs of a sports fan or those wanting a fresh shooter fix, can be just as important to the progression of the medium as the advent of a new game mechanic or control concept.
Sequels take many forms and capture our attention for many reasons. Some build their features up year by year, like FIFA and Call of Duty, and will continue to be brilliant when we encounter them later in 2012. Others build on the storytelling or world-building of games a few years past, like Gearbox's brilliant-looking Borderlands 2 or the sure-to-be-spectacular finale to the Shepard's tale in Mass Effect 3. And some are interesting because of their circumstances - Halo 4, for example, is another big-budget sequel on the near horizon, and with a new and as-yet unproven developer filling Bungie's big boots, we're just interested in that out of morbid curiosity as devotion to the series.