NVIDIA Free-to-Play ReviewGuest_Jim_* - February 17, 2013
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NVIDIA Free to Play PlanetSide 2:
Not that one word would do it justice, but if one must describe PlanetSide 2 in one word, that word would be 'big,' or one of its synonyms. The game world consists of three continents, each able to hold 2,000 players on it, so one server may contain 6,000 players striving to take over the world. These players are divided into three empires: the Terran Republic, New Conglomerate, and Vanu Sovereignty. Naturally each empire has its own advantages and disadvantages, as well as reasons for fighting. All the empires utilize the same basic classes and machines, which you have access to immediately, that are based on fundamental unit types found in many games, though each empire adds its own flavor to their units. The Terran Republic's flavor is speed; New Conglomerate's flavor is strength; and the Vanu Sovereignty has its own spin on the technology within the game by using energy instead of projectiles. Basically the Vanu have slower and weaker weapons than the Terran's and NC's, respectively, but do not suffer recoil because shots are emitted, not fired.
The ultimate goal of the game, as stated earlier, is to take over the rather large world; toward that end you'll find yourself fighting in a multitude of skirmishes, large and small, or preparing for the next skirmish. Engineers not wanting to directly fight can run around a captured base and repair turrets as needed, which is also an effective way to earn experience, though it can be slower than direct combat. However, it can be worth doing. I have at times managed to hold off small invasion forces with base turrets long enough for more forces to arrive and drive away the invaders.
Combat can be hectic and chaotic with dozens of people all trying to kill each other, some running around healing and reviving, and still others repairing vehicles and the robotic MAX suit, or aircraft that briefly leave the fight. If you do end up dying and having to respawn, you are presented with a screen to select where you want to be spawned. This can be in spawn rooms or from Sunderers, the large and heavily armored troop carriers of the game. In larger fights you may find several of these around the action with players spawning at them and resupplying or even changing classes.
Like just about any other Free-to-Play game, you are able to purchase in-game credits with real money in order to accelerate your gameplay experience. Does this make it into a Pay-to-Win game or did the developers successfully balance it such that PlanetSide 2 noobs and experts alike can stand a chance? I'm going to side with the latter, but with an important qualification. The balance seems good in that anyone can kill and be killed by anyone else, thanks to luck and/or skill, but comparing your killer's weapons to your own is almost impossible. Maybe it is because they had a better weapon that you are dead, but in the time it takes you to think about that, you will have already respawned. Once you are back in the game, then it is back to being able to kill or be killed by anyone. Basically, if you're interested in researching those aspects of this game, you might find something to support a Pay-to-Win accusation, but if you are just playing the game, I doubt you will.
Another reason why I believe this game is well balanced for all players is because there are a LOT of players. Okay, maybe you do not have the best armor or weapons in the game, but chances are many of your opponents do not either. Also, just as many players on your team have that 'great' gear as players on your opponents' teams. Out of chaos comes balance, more or less.
Naturally I expect some of you are wondering about the graphics of this game and its performance. I can comfortably say both are quite good. The graphics may not be the quality of a AAA single-player game, but that is the price you pay for any massively multiplayer online game. The land is somewhat devoid of vegetation but at the same time surprisingly smooth. Considering the scale of the PlanetSide 2 world and the number of edges your GPU will have to render for that, it's somewhat impressive. Also you don't need to worry much about outrunning the world. At max settings my GTX 570 and AMD Phenom II x3 720 with unlocked core running at 3.4 GHz are able to load the world fast enough that the terrain and textures barely pop in, though some smaller buildings do mystically appear at times. Of course when flying high there is a fog limiting your viewing distance, but it looks natural as terrain fades into view.
If I had to compare the graphics to any other game, the only game in my limited library I can think of is Red Faction: Guerrilla. PlanetSide 2 definitely looks better though, but if you cannot find any good screenshots or videos, and don't trust those in this review, imagine Guerrilla with three more years of technology to drive it (Red Faction: Guerrilla was released in 2009 and PlanetSide 2 in 2012) and more than reds and browns in its pallet.
Performance wise, my framerate is consistently between 50 and 60 frames per second, though at intense times it dropped into the 40s. I rarely notice those drops in-game though, unless I am watching a frame counter. Occasionally the game has lagged briefly on me, but this does not happen often. (Perhaps I am near the server.)
Overall, I have to say I like the game. It looks good, plays well, has a decent leveling system, so time played is not time wasted, and, like many games, is even better with friends. Nothing quite like storming an enemy base with a buddy, poking fun at the stupid things you see other players doing, or that you do yourself. If your friends cannot make it though, you can always show them what they missed using the game's built-in video capture system. It outputs the video at an odd size (for me at least) but recording does not cause much of a performance hit (which is the only reason I was able to record the videos in this review).
Even without the NVIDIA bonus, this game is worth checking out. If you just want a game you can shoot people in, but do not have to worry about story or saving the world, this is it. And, it's free.