There are moment when a multiplayer game hits its stride and just works. For Planetside 2, it's the moment when you look up into and see literally dozens of player-controller Terran Liberators circling in the sky as flak explodes all around them while tanks roll across the field below.
Planetside 2 has long pitched itself on that sort of scale, which dwarfs that of even Sony's now-defunct shooter Massive Action Game (may it rest in peace) with its ability to support up to 2000 players per continent. At its best, it largely makes good on that promise for a shooter experience that can rightly be called exhilirating. At its worst, it can be a buggy, laggy, unbalanced experience in which vehicles camp doorways for free kills, and Level 100 players prey on newcomers utterly bewildered by the lack of a tutorial.
With Planetside 2 due out on the PlayStation sometime before the end of 2014, there's some hope that it will be more of the former than the latter. But having now been delayed at least once, and with an open beta nowhere in sight, it's easy to wonder what whether Planetside 2 will suffer the same problems out of the gate as the PC version. With that in mind, let's take a look at the best and worst case scenarios for the PS4 release, shall we?
The Best Case: Planetside 2 is strong out of the gate and enjoys much the same as DC Universe Online. With the additional time afforded by Planetside 2's delays, Sony Online Entertainment irons out many of the bugs that have plagued the PC version while addressing the problems with the lag. Though initially greeted with little fanfare, positive word-of-mouth gives it a significant boost as newly-minted PlayStation 4 owners start logging in over the holidays. It eventually becomes one of the PS4's most popular and longest running shooters.
This may be a bit too optimistic an outlook for Planetside 2, which has been largely anonymous on the PC, but it can certainly fill a niche on the PlayStation 4, where a dominant multiplayer shooter has yet to materialize. Up until this point, Planetside 2 has been on a crowded platform, and has seen its popularity suffer a bit in part due to its high system requirements (not to mention the fact that it barely ran on most AMD chipsets at launch). That won't be an issue on the PlayStation 4, where it will be locked at 60 FPS and outputting at 1080p. Its strong production values should help it to stand out amid the relatively paltry selection of free-to-play games currently available on the PS4.
Since its original 2012 launch, Planetside 2 has likewise added quite a bit of new content, including an entirely new continent, achievements, and implants, which as serve as customizable stat perks. Planetside 2 is also due to pick up a new aircraft soon—the Valkyrie—which will serve as a gunship that can hold up to four players at a time. Though not dramatically different from launch, it's certainly cleaner and more polished than before, and that should carry over to the PlayStation 4.
The biggest advantage Planetside 2 will have on the PlayStation 4 is that its performance issues will largely be a thing of the past (barring any major lag spikes), allowing its large-scale combat to stand out that much more. SOE is also reportedly working on a way to ease players into the action, possibly a tutorial mode, which will help mitigate Planetside 2's steep learning curve. With those issues out of the way, as well as a large base stemming from being free-to-play, Planetside 2 should be in position to succeed on the PS4. The Worst Case: Planetside 2 is plagued by lag, performance drops, bugs, and server crashes at launch, just as it was on the PlayStation 4. The engine, while still decent, visibly suffers in comparison to the likes of Destiny, which ultimately steals much of its thunder. A small, extremely hardcore base of players begin dominating Planetside 2's community, making it frustrating for new players to join in and have fun.
To be honest, Planetside 2 still seems a bit rough on the PS4. Since the map being shown was set during the night cycle, it wasn't as easy to make out some of the environmental textures. As a consequence, the somewhat blocky vehicles and characters were front and center, and they seemed to be a noticeable step down from similar shooters like Battlefield 4. It's running fine for the most part, but it's apparent that SOE still has some polishing to do ahead of its launch in late 2014 (assuming its not delayed again).
At present, Planetside 2 is largely dominated by experienced players who have all of the best equipment, which is a common occurrence in XP-based shooters. That will almost certainly be the case with the PS4 version as well, but it should benefit from an early influx of newcomers, which will help to balance out the skill levels a bit. Moreover, characters are not transferrable from the PS4 to the PC version, so there will be no Level 100 players running around causing havoc. Planetside 2's microtransactions are largely limited to cosmetic purchases and the ability to unlock certain weapons sooner. The somewhat slow progression toward purchasing new items can be a bit of a drag, but many of the balance issues have been ironed out over the course of multiple patches, making it less essential for new players to immediately purchase weapons like the Liberator Tank Buster.
Based on SOE's track record to this point, it's fair to say that Planetside 2's biggest concerns out of the gate will lag spikes and bugs. Being such an ambitious game, both are probably inevitable, but two years of experience with the PC version will hopefully limit them somewhat. As for whether Destiny steals Planetside 2's thunder, well, we'll just have to see about that. Looking ahead, Planetside 2's biggest assets will be the fact that it will be free-to-play. Just the fact that it will be easily available will make it attractive to a large number of incoming PlayStation 4 owners.
That said, it's still fair to be skeptical of Planetside 2's chances of being a breakout hit on the PlayStation 4. It will attract a lot of players at the outset, but unless Sony seriously addresses the steep learning curve of the original game, those same players are apt to leave just as quickly. In that regard, Planetside 2's ambition may also be its undoing. It's great fun to be on a massive battlefield, but the need to work together with other players requires a somewhat higher level of engagement than, say, Call of Duty, where it's possible to jump in and jump out of a match with relative impunity. By its very nature, it's a hardcore shooter, which is readily apparent in the PC version.
Assuming it doesn't suffer from significant problems at launch, Planetside 2 should be buoyed by positive reviews and an influx of curious new players. After that, it will probably regress back to about where it's at on the PC right now, making it a shooter that will continue to fly under the radar as casual players move on to Destiny and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.