NVIDIA Free-to-Play ReviewGuest_Jim_* - February 17, 2013
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NVIDIA Free to Play Conclusion:
With three games in one bundle, and one review, the most obvious question to ask is which game is the best. All three, Hawken, PlanetSide 2, and World of Tanks are fun and enjoyable games, but they are each fun in their own ways. So which is fun and enjoyable in the best way? I believe that game, of these three, is PlanetSide 2. When you first sign-in, if you have any FPS experience you'll hit the ground running and quickly learn the abilities of the different unit classes. Also the graphics and performance are quite good for a truly massive online game and it's well balanced by the nature of the massive and well-designed gameplay experience. New player or old, paying player or not, you'll be able to jump in, score some kills, capture some points, be killed, and lose points.
World of Tanks is second in this contest, but that is primarily because of its poor design for new players. Even with FPS experience (technically World of Tanks is not an FPS, but FPS experience would definitely be applicable to its gameplay) when you sign-in you'ill hit the ground standing still or crawling, assuming you haven't researched the game beforehand. Ideally a game doesn't need a manual because it should be designed such that when you sit down and start playing, every answer to every question you may ask should be there, ensuring that you have a successful first battle; a good first impression of the game. Instead, due to things such as the gravity compensation and lack of information on shots after you have fired them, you could come out of that first battle confused as to how you could do better in the second. Once you get past that initial and potentially bad experience though, I suspect you'll find yourself having a fair amount of fun. Essentially it's the out-game or out-battle experience of World of Tanks that prevents me from giving it a more positive review. If I were to consider only the in-game or in-battle experience of this and PlanetSide 2 though, I would have a much harder time picking the better.
Now to conclude with Hawken, the game I feel is the worst of these three. Like the other two, it's a fun and enjoyable game, but it is, in my opinion, less fun and enjoyable for multiple reasons. The graphics are easily the best of the three but at the same time your ability to enjoy all of the eyecandy is limited. The gameplay tugs on the stereotypical desire of 'big booms,' but other players are able to get such bigger booms that you feel impotent when fighting them, making your only option to flee. That I covered in its own review, but here I get to compare it to the other two games. In PlanetSide 2 you immediately have access to the classes and vehicles with the bigger booms and in World of Tanks the matchmaking system appears to prevent weaker tanks from coming up against much stronger tanks. Also in World of Tanks, with just hours of experience, I have already unlocked two new vehicles; a tank and self-propelled gun. In Hawken though, it would take more time and more matches to earn enough for me to unlock a new mech, and that is with a promotional 5000 credits unrelated to the NVIDIA promotion. This required investment of time to match those who may have made an investment of money puts Hawken on the Pay-to-Win spectrum, in my opinion. This lack of balance and somewhat typical 'big boom' gameplay makes this decision to put Hawken behind PlanetSide 2 and World of Tanks an easy one.
As I said earlier, all three of these games are enjoyable and fun because they are. They're also different games, so naturally they are enjoyable and fun in different ways and for different reasons. PlanetSide 2 I feel is fun and enjoyable in what I feel are the most important ways, of these three. World of Tanks is also fun and enjoyable, but is lacking in design elements that I believe are important for the experience of any game. Hawken seems to exist as a manifestation of our desires for big things and big explosions, which does make it fun and enjoyable, but almost relies on that instead of a solid gameplay experience, like what you get with the other two games.
I guess that I should comment on the NVIDIA promotion as well, since that is why I'm reviewing this particular group of games. Before that though, I want to state that I actually haven't benefited from that promotion. All of my experience with these games is without any monetary investment in them, indirectly through the F2P bundle or directly through transactions with the game developers/publishers. That brings us to the heart of the comment I intend to make about the promotion. Do not scoff at the promotion just because the games are Free-to-Play, because that's not what you are getting. You are getting in-game currency, something you may already wish to purchase to support the developers' work, and is what drives future development of the game. You're also likely getting it at a discount, though how much of a discount is almost certainly hidden behind non-disclosure agreements between NVIDIA and the other companies involved. If you want to support the developers of these games, either because the games look fun or because you already play them, go ahead and use a new video card as an excuse to help them out. For the most part, I doubt you'll regret giving the games a chance.