Playing PlanetSide 2 is like being eight and riding a bike without holding on to the handlebars. Mum! Are you watching? Did you see that sniper shot? Were you watching when I jumped off the roof of that building, clamped C4 to a tank’s hull, jetpacked over a cliff edge, and pressed the detonator? Did you see the time I spawned a Liberator gunship and picked Chris up at a base south of a bio lab being taken by the New Conglomerate? He hopped in the gunner seat, mum, and together we destroyed the enemy’s only Sunderer! We blunted their advance mum! Mum! Are you still looking? Keep looking, mum, I’m going to do something cool now!
You’re never more than a few minutes from something cool in PlanetSide 2. Vehicle spawn delays mean you can’t spawn the same vehicle too soon after producing a previous one of the same type. Rather than frustrating, this provides me with an excuse to run the gamut of PlanetSide’s varieties of warfare. I usually start fights in a one-man Mosquito fighter, trying to swat enemy pilots out of the sky with air-to-air missiles. When I crash or get shot down, I change pace and climb aboard my Sunderer battle bus, providing a respawn point for my pals and healing any other vehicle that comes near with my engineer’s repair tool.
When that, too, meets an explodey fate, I retreat to the relative safety of my Prowler tank chassis, the thick armour offering some relief against boom-happy enemies. Until, inevitably, I get shot in the rear with a rocket and I have to begin the whole chain again. This time, maybe I’ll spawn a Liberator and try to cajole someone into gunning for me.
Other shooters do the best they can with one form of combat. Battlefield 3 tries mid-range vehicle fighting. Call of Duty does close-up reaction shooting. Only PlanetSide 2 offers everything. Most impressively, it does them all well. It’s a well-stocked tasting menu of a game: what would sir/madam like to try tonight? Some quad-biking with a base-capturing squad? Certainly, it’ll be right out. May I recommend the massive armour column? It’s really very good.