PlanetSide 2 is a Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) war game that plays out from a Battlefield or Killzone-like first-person perspective. It's so big, in fact, that the PC version holds the Guinness World Record for the 'biggest FPS battle' with 1,158 players logged into a single skirmish. In truth, very little can prepare you for the sheer scale of the action – but nothing should stop you from giving it a go as it's free to download and play right now on the PlayStation 4.
In order to enlist and fight in the game you'll need to download the bulky client from the PlayStation Store – and some pretty hefty updates as well. When the game has installed and updated, you'll get to choose from one of three factions to fight for territorial control of the Auraxis. Your options include: Terran Republic, Vanu Sovereignty, and New Conglomerate. Each of these teams has its own take on the wide range of weapons and vehicles available. And there really is something for everyone: plasma beam weapon fans that crave the 'no recoil' shooting style are catered for, as are heavy ballistic ordinance lovers who enjoy taming guns that kick like mules. It's great being able to dabble with all of the available options until you find the one that suits your playstyle best.
Along with the faction choice you'll get to pick from six classes. These are a mixture of the traditional and some new ideas: Heavy Assault, Light Assault, Engineer, Combat Medic, Infiltrator, and M.A.X. (Mechanized Assault eXosuit). Each has its own special ability and upgradeable items. Between them, there's more than enough to offer a lot of different battlefield experiences – although it's worth pointing out that M.A.X. can't be used until you reach Level 15.
Once you're suited and booted, it's off into the action you go. PlanetSide 2 really captures the feeling of confusion, panic, and the utter unpreparedness that any marine's likely to face when sent onto the frontline without appropriate training. That's partly because there's no tutorial, so you'll need to learn fast or die – most likely a bit of both. It's a good idea to start in an area under your faction's control while you get a 'feel' for your weapons, as the physics include recoil, bullet distance drop, and more – all emulated to a degree far more accurately than you may be used to in other games.
Unsurprisingly, combat is at the heart of the game, which takes you across the continents of Auraxis – each of which is divided up into territories. Controlling these strongholds is the main objective for each faction – and if enough are captured, they provide bonuses to your team in adjacent areas, too. As such, a quick round of 'capture the base' becomes an integral part of a wider war campaign, and it really gives you the feeling of being part of a greater cause.
Your actions – such as kills, assists, etc – reward you with experience and certificate points, so there's much satisfaction to be had in building your Battle Rank. The levelling system is nicely weighted and encourages you to keep doing your bit in order to access more attachments for your favourite gun and so on.
This does mean that you'll find yourself grinding away to unlock new content, but it's rewarding enough to hook you in hard. Couple this with some of the best squad-based play on the PS4, and things can get quite compulsive. Indeed, there's little place for lone wolves here, but that's actually a good thing – the endorphin rush of a well planned and executed attack on an enemy fortification is hard to beat.
Of course, this isn't the first game to provide massive multiplayer wars – the PlayStation 3 era obviously played host to the likes of MAG and Warhawk. However, what really elevates PlanetSide 2 to the next level is the way in which you have the option to command bigger groups, setting waypoints and battle objectives which can turn the tide of war.
Visually, the game is a mixture of averagely impressive to really cool – especially when you consider the sheer number of units that can arrive to do battle in the same place. Yes, the frame rate does wobble in the most epic of confrontations but this is never overly noticeable, and when there are hundreds of soldiers, tanks, planes, and mechs converging on a single base, it's an achievement that it doesn't drop more. The audio effects are decent, too, with booming explosions, volleys of laser fire, and the scream of air units. If you've got good headphones you can even use the sound of footsteps to get the jump on enemies running through indoor areas.
And that all brings us to the final point: how much will you have to fork out in order to have a decent shot at being a legend of Auraxis war. Well, thankfully this doesn't operate under a 'pay to win' model. The options to spend real world cash are built more around skins and weapon mods – and while you can purchase an XP boost, the cheapskate grinding alternative is certainly never too arduous.
PlanetSide 2 is a staggering achievement that feels right at home on the PS4. For a fun, engaging battle-'em-up that doesn't cost a penny, it delivers potentially unlimited hours of adrenaline pumping excitement – there's nothing out there quite like it. Now if you'll excuse us, we have some Terrans to shoot.