For those of you who have been reading my columns for many years now you'll remember many a harp string plucked for the concept of MMOFPS. All born out of thorough enjoyment from Planetside 1 I've looked to games like Global Agenda as the solution with fleeting success, in fact the closest I've come to similar enjoyment was from Battlefield 3. Now Planetside 2 is nearing release and the dream might just be realised.

First of all if you're reading about this with any aspirations of competitive play, think again. This is a Sunday afternoon game! At least that was when I lost most of my hours to Planetside 1, Sunday afternoon when there were no clanwars to play during the fading years of RTCW. I was playing a group of RTCW veterans from WTF, most of whom are now all laying low after the Jimmy Saville revelations. Though Planetside 1 was buggy for most of its existence the core elements that would draw an RTCW player over were there.

For your then $9.99 a month you got class based vehicular warfare on a massive scale. The objective was as it still is, join one of three races to conquer territory. Very similar to Battlefield 3 in that respect only conquering an area of land would take an hour, you'd take the outer smaller bases before moving in. You'd use vehicles to cover more ground and move quickly, but when you got into the main base it was all on foot.

In 2012 EA has refreshed Planetside 2 with improved graphics (not quite BF3 standards, but for MMO they're good) but a very similarly feeling engine. Movement feels halfway between ID Tech 3 and ID Tech 4 engines, by that I'm referring to the freedom of movement and weight of your character. You won't be strafe jumping across a map but at the same time you wont feel a Samoan wrestler. Aiming and targeting is as you'd expect relatively simple and in the beta I've had few complaints of hitbox registration.

In Planetside 2 you chose your character and like any MMO, as you progress through the game with experience you unlock attributes for your characters and improve your loadouts. You can save multiple loadouts and qualifications to weight you into the certain roles you wish to play. Where Sony Online Entertainment have changed things this time around is that they've migrated from a subscription based model to a micro transaction model. Indeed every time I log into the beta I'm prompted about a special $40 deal that is available only to beta users. This allows you to jump the experience portion of levelling and straight away get more weapons and loadout options.

On the Vehicle side things are pretty well balanced. Ground Vehicles are broken up by a fast mover to quickly get you back into the action, an APC to move troops and then you have a light one man tank and heavy two man tank. In the air its similar that you have light and heavy, plus a people carrier that like the APC can become a spawn point.

When in full combat for a base you'll have probably 500-1000 people per side in the fight, vehicles are well balanced that there are no mass splash damage weapons and that with the right class you can take them out. Vehicles also aren't over used, should you wish in any battle you can get into a normal SMG battle as opposed to vehicle. There is ALWAYS an inside battle to be had no matter what stage the battle is in. In order to be successful in your particular battle, be it to take an outpost just take out an enemy spawn point you need at least 5 people with you covering all the classes, when it comes to actually taking the final base everyone will do that together.

As a beta it is very well polished, those who played Planetside 1 will remember the horrible bugs that made the game unplayable for the first 6-12 months of the game and that plagued its existence thereafter. To those veterans I say fear not, indeed ever since I first played it at E3 in June I've been impressed by how 'smooth' the experience has been.

Sounds good? A non buggy, class based, free to play game. I would urge you all to give it a try but...something is missing. When I first installed BF3 I was hooked, I put up with debilitating bugs for the 5 playable minutes a map I'd get. I was largely playing on my own despite a few cameo appearances from some of Crossfire's finest. In Planetside I can't play for longer than 30-45 minutes, Its a lot easier for me to get frustrated and quit. Why? Why am I not engaged? Because this is a bad game to play on your own. Joining squads is pointless, there is little cohesion and that's in a beta where everyone is supposed to be high on the games crack. You're only push to join a squad is 'Hit insert to join a squad'.

The success to MMOs in my opinion is not the Massive part of the experience its the Micro experience within it. Your small group's role within a much larger experience. Ultimately whether you're playing WoW or Planetside - there's only such much fun to be had on your own.

Planetside 2 is released next Tuesday and is free to play! So go on, give it a try!

:: Official Site