Game Over Online ~ PlanetSide

GameOver Game Reviews - PlanetSide (c) Sony Online Entertainment, Reviewed by - Aaron 'PharCyde' Butler

Game & Publisher PlanetSide (c) Sony Online Entertainment
System Requirements Windows, Pentium III 1.0 GHz, 256MB RAM, 3.25GB HDD, 32MB 3D Accelerator, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 82%
Date Published Tuesday, July 22nd, 2003 at 11:30 AM

Divider Left By: Aaron 'PharCyde' Butler Divider Right


PlanetSide is Sony Online Entertainment’s venture into the MMOFPS genre, offering fans of the first-person genre the ability to battle against other players in a war of planetary conquest of epic proportions that wages on whether you’re playing or not. It also adds an element of role-playing with the ability to gain “battle ranks,” which allows you to utilize different types of weapons and vehicles. Does PlanetSide have what it takes to justify a $12.95 a month fee? Well, there’s only one way to find out, isn’t there?


The story behind PlanetSide is that a long, long time ago, the Terran Republic, the ruling governing body of Earth, discovered a new planet, Auraxis, on the outskirts of a recently discovered wormhole. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to colonize another world, they sent out a large exploration force through the wormhole. Upon arriving at this new planet, they set up three orbiting space platforms as well as hundreds of facilities over the planet’s dozen or so continents, all of which have their own unique climates. During exploration, the Terran Republic discovered an alien technology that allowed them to store and even replicate the matrix of a person. All was good up until the wormhole collapsed due to unknown reasons (I hate when that happens) and the population was cut-off from Earth. Due to different ideological reasons, the population split into three factions: the Vanu Sovereignty, New Conglomerate and the Terran Republic. Each took control of one of the space platforms as well as a command center on the planet’s surface. Thus began the never-ending battle for Auraxis.


Gameplay in PlanetSide is handled just like a normal FPS. Simply put, you have to see your target in order to hit them, as opposed to simply selecting your target, pressing the attack key and watching your character swing or shoot away by itself. You have three vital statistics: Health, which keeps you alive, Stamina, which diminishes when you run, and Armor, which will absorb damage before your health does. Also note there is splash damage for the grenade and rocket weapons, and you can squish your enemies with vehicles. PlanetSide uses a firing cone to determine if your shots hit or not. This means no regional body damage, i.e. head shots, etc. Given the opportunities for lag and other factors to mess with your connection and frame rate, this is probably, unfortunately for now, the best answer.

Lag and lower end computers will definitely play factors in a player’s ability to shoot their enemies, but when the lag is playable and the sweet spot within the graphics setting for your machine is found, the only person to blame is yourself if it turns out you can’t hit the broad side of a barn.

The RPG element of PlanetSide is that players gain Battle Experience during combat. Once you fill up your experience bar, you gain a Battle Certification point that, if you have enough, can be used to train in new skills. For instance, if you have four Cert. points you can learn the Reaver certification, which gives you the ability to pilot the aircraft of fiery-rocket-death; lots of fun I must say.

Aside from Battle Experience, players who command squads, groups of up to 10 players, will earn Command Experience. And when they fill this up, they will earn a Command Rank; more on this in the paragraph below. Certifications points are not a one-time thing if you spend them. So fear not readers, you have the option of unlearning your Certifications and spending them on something else if you don’t particularly like what you currently have or simply want to try something new. The downside to this feature though is that you have to wait 24 real-life hours each time you unlearn your Certifications points.

Outfits are PlanetSide’s answer to guilds, much like the ones found in MMORPGs like EverQuest. Aside from being able to communicate to your entire Outfit, no matter your location, via the “/outfit” chat option, Outfits also have varying “ranks” that can be used when the Outfit leader wishes to promote someone. These promotional ranks can also be renamed to whatever the leader wishes. These “ranks” however, won’t offer any stat bonuses, etc., and they’re only viewable to other Outfit members while in game. Outfits are also capable of pooling Command Points, as mentioned before. Anyone with a Battle Rank three or higher can utilize these Command Points and spend them to get special bonuses such as an Orbital Strike or a devastating EMP Blast to wreck havoc to large areas of the battlefields.

Players have a small mini-map on their normal heads-up display that is very useful. You can see friendly forces, squad mates and enemies. It is especially useful when navigating through bases. Players also have a large overhead display so they can see Hotspots, places where battles are taking place, on the various continents. Currently you’re only able to see where your squad mates are on the large overhead map and not where your other Outfit members are.

PlanetSide has one other useful feature that players will use to increase their abilities on the Battlefield: Implants. Implants can be swapped out at any time if the correct facility is available without a penalty, like the Certification points. Each implant offers a unique ability such as increasing your zoom range, which is very useful for sniping, the ability to exchange two stamina points for one health point over a period of time, or being able to see cloaked enemies at the cost of reducing your visibility.

PlanetSide also offers an in-game utility that allows voiceover with your fellow players. One person starts a channel and others join it.

As far as the controls go, just about every keyboard and mouse control in PlanetSide can be configured to your liking. Since the player will be using more than just WASD, this comes in very handy if you want to setup your keys for quick and easy access. When in the heat of battle, it’s easier to have the functions you utilize closest to you as opposed to reaching across the keyboard.

The steering controls for the air vehicles are a little under par. Trying to find a comfortable marriage between the horizontal and vertical sensitivities is rather painful but once you find your settings, it’s all good. Joysticks can also be used to control the various air and ground vehicles and is highly recommended, at least for the air vehicles.

Graphics / Sound

PlanetSide uses a homegrown engine built from the ground up specifically for PlanetSide. For the type of desired game play it has to deliver, it does a rather impressive job. Large scale battles consisting of not just ground troops, but also ground and air vehicles over huge open terrain, as well as inside large facilities. This is all handled impressively with the only load times being when you zone from continent to continent and when you respawn after you die. Even at medium settings, it is also able to provide some rather impressive visuals during combat.

The weapon, vehicle, bulilding and player models all have to be kept at a respectable poly count given that it’s an online game, but they are still pretty well done, except for the starting rifle, but luckily you don’t have to look at it for very long. All three factions have very unique armor styles for each of the five types. It would be nice to see some more polys for the models but one can hope.

Unfortunately at higher resolutions above 1024x768 with the settings turned up, there is some noticeable chunkiness with the engine during medium and large- scale battles, even on my machine (P4 3.0 800Mhz FSB, 1 Gig of RAM, Radion 9500 Pro). The most noticeable slowdown is when the hard drive is caching resources; this can be quite painful.

There is foliage in the game which looks really cool, but unfortunately it only serves any real purpose up close, it won’t provide any cover if you’re at a distance since it’s only drawn within a bubble that surrounds the character. I had it on when I first started playing because it was nice to look at, but I have since turned it off in hope of a slight performance boost.

The sound effects in PlanetSide are pretty well done and work rather well. After playing, you will start to associate the different sounds of the vehicles and the unique sounds attributed to each faction’s different weapons. I did have some sounds weirdness with my Audigy2 card, with the latest drivers, mostly with vehicles and when things got really busy during combat.

Weapons, Armor, Vehicles

There are plenty of weapons distributed between the three factions: anti-infantry, anti-aircraft, anti-vehicle and heavy weapons. Since the three factions all have their own unique style, their weapons vary not just in look but in functionality as well. The Terran Republic and New Conglomerate favor weapons with bullets while the Vanu Sovereignty favor their energy weapons. There is a pool of common weapons for all three factions and if a player has the proper certification, they can utilize not just their own weapons but those of their enemies as well.

Along with assault rifles, rocket launchers, grenade launchers, etc., players also get to play with three types of grenades: devastating Frag grenades, damage-over-time Plasma Grenades and Jammer grenades. If they have the proper certification, Hacking, they can hack into enemy bases, vehicle terminals, and even take control of enemy vehicles. Players can also learn the Engineer skill, which will allow them to place mines, defense turrets and repair other player’s armor when damaged. The other skill players can learn is that of the medic. With this skill, they will be able to heal other player’s wounds, and at the 2nd tier of the ability, they can even bring players back to life.

The lowest armor type is the Standard suit, which has the protection equivalent of being naked. The next in line is the Infiltration suit, which can be cloaked and used for sneaking up unnoticed on enemy troops or sneaking inside enemy bases. It provides no protection though, and you only get room for one pistol or hacking tool and a small backpack space for ammo or tools. The next is the Agile Exo-suit, which offers better armor support as well as room for a rifle, pistol and average backpack space for ammo, mines, health packs, etc.

The second to last suit is the Reinforced Body Armor, which offers the best armor support short of the MAX suite. You can carry two rifles, two pistols, and it has a good amount of backpack space for all your battlefield goodies. The downside is that it’s slower than the Agile Exo-suit and some vehicles can’t be piloted while wearing the Reinforced armor. The last in line is the MAX suit, which comes in three different flavors: anti-aircraft, anti-infantry, and anti-vehicle. When you wear a MAX suit you can’t use any other weapon other then what comes standard with the suite. They are as slow as molasses in December, but you can sacrifice your ability to shoot and engage the auto run feature, which will increase your run speed significantly. Another nifty feature about the maxes is that each faction’s MAX suit has a unique secondary feature. For example, the Terran’s MAX can plant itself and double its firing rate, the Vanu Sovereignty’s MAX has jump jets, and the New Conglomerate’s MAX has a personal shield.

In the long run though, there really isn’t much difference aside from the size changes from small, medium and large. The way the game is setup there is no way to customize your armor other than displaying your Outfit’s badge, that is if you’re even in or choose to join an Outfit. So you will have no choice but to look like every other person wearing the same armor you are.

There are currently nine ground vehicles in the common pool and five unique vehicles for each side. A sample of the ground vehicles: you have small, fast attack bikes that can cover distance fast but lack any real protection or fire power, buggies capable of holding two players that speed along wreaking havoc on air and ground targets, and large tanks that have room for a driver, someone to man the large canon, and one to man the machine gun.

There are only four air vehicles at the moment, one of which was added in a recent patch; hopefully more will follow. You have a bomber, which holds three players and can unleash devastating carpet bombing payloads, a quick striking fighter, a fast gun ship capable of unloading salvos of rockets (my favorite), and a giant personnel carrier that is able to transport a squad of troops along with one vehicle into combat. All of them are useful and play their own roles when used correctly in battle.

Here’s a list of the current weapons available in PlanetSide: [Link]
Here’s a list of the current vehicles available in PlanetSide: [Link]
Here’s a list of the current armor available in PlanetSide: [Link]


To be perfectly honest, my hype level was at a minimum when I first came across PlanetSide last year and it didn’t change when it entered beta. I think it was attributed to me never getting into any real hardcore battles during the beta. However, playing PlanetSide after release was a whole other story. I had an absolute blast joining up with friends to fight in huge battles, trying to find a combination of Certification points that finally worked for me; I love sniping in PlanetSide. There are a couple issues that need to be addressed before PlanetSide can really take off. The first major issue that needs to be addressed is the performance of the game in heavy battles. They keep improving on it with every patch, but it can still be painful at times. Another thing I believe PlanetSide is lacking is that there is no way to be unique from everyone else. There’s a ranking system in the works, but that won’t make you look any different on the battlefield. People like to establish their presence in online games and currently that’s just not possible in PlanetSide. The last issue is the lack of updates, which plagues all massive online games. Let the community know what’s going on and try to get patches out at least once a week if anything.

My rants aside, PlanetSide offers up a fun, 24/7 battle royal over giant continents with lots of toys that will delight FPS players of all skill levels, and with a free downloadable trial version of the game, you can give it a test drive for yourself.


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