PlanetSide 2 proves love is a hex-shaped battlefield

I cannot remember the last time I was so hesitant to get up from an E3 appointment than I was when my hands-on PlanetSide 2 demo came to an end.

I cannot remember the last time I was so hesitant to get up from an E3 appointment than I was when my hands-on PlanetSide 2 demo came to an end.

It's partially because I had just gotten my loadouts the way I wanted them — much like a beaten-down piece of college-era furniture, I had worked myself into a "groove" of sorts, and I was reluctant to abandon it. Mostly, though, it's because my PlanetSide 2 demo was instantly and incredibly fun. The learning curve for controlling each of the free-to-play FPS's classes took only a few deaths, but even more surprising: The curve for actually becoming pretty good at the game took just a few more.

The former lesson involved me taking a spin on the game's six pre-made archetypes, which fit the roles you'd expect from a class-based shooter: The Engineer, Medic, Heavy and Light Assault, Infiltrator, and mech-suited MAX. Each can be customized with three loadouts constituted of special abilities, main and secondary weapons, melee attacks, grenades and special items — all of which can be leveled up and unlocked using an experience-based Certification system.

The latter lesson — the more striking one — is that recognizing what needs to be done to turn the tides of a massive fight isn't all that difficult, nor is figuring out which class is the right tool for the job.

Part of that is thanks to a leadership Certification, which allows you to set objectives for and effectively summon members of whichever of PlanetSide 2's three factions you're serving. It's a system reminiscent of the leadership tiers of Zipper Interactive's 128-player shooter MAG. Actually, the large-scale battles feel a lot like the promise of MAG's, albeit with a bit more tangible repercussions for victory, defeat and control. Moreover, PlanetSide 2 succeeds where MAG failed in its clever spawning mechanisms, with mobile, vehicular spawn points adding a bit more strategy to your initial placement.

I cannot remember the last time I was so hesitant to get up from an E3 appointment

With every spawn, it was so easy to tell what needed to be done to turn the tide of the battle. When gunships overhead were wrecking our team's spawn points, a Heavy Assault fended them off with a locking missile launcher, giving a flamethrower-equipped MAX a window to clear a path to an AA-turret, which was repaired and operated by an Engineer in time to end the airstrikes. This team came together quickly, guided by the voice of our certified commander and his on-map waypoint.

As my quickly formed crew of soldiers of fortune captured points on the map, we took over one of the territories on the continent we were on. An overworld map shows how the spread of our influence was progressing. It breaks down like this: Each landmark on the continent is the hub of a hexagonal piece of a larger battlefield. Capturing those territories is made easier depending on how many of your faction's territories are touching the sides of the contested hexagon. In layman's terms: Taking over an area is easier once you own the surrounding lands.

Each hex represents a resource supply that goes into your faction's pool, and into your private bank, allowing you to build vehicles and power larger operations. I didn't see too many specific uses for resources in my demo, but I wanted those hexagons, in a primordial, Settlers of Catan-esque way.

A lot of the things I've described represent the dream of the original PlanetSide. I suppose the biggest difference is the advances provided by the nine years that have passed since the original game's release. An MMOFPS in 2003 seemed a little too ambitious, and Sony Online Entertainment ultimately bit off a bit more than it could chew. PlanetSide 2, with its whip-smart organization and responsive gunplay, is set to finally fulfill that decade-old promise.

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