At Gamescom, Planetside 2 is squirrelled away at the back of the one of Koelnmesse's vast halls, kind of tiny and unassuming. It was, after a brief chat with DayZ designer Dean "Rocket" Hall, my first port of call. In the booth, SOE are letting players come and go on banks of PCs. But it's just running. Planetside 2. Just there, open to the public to come and go.
Planetside 2 feels way too good to be true. It's a stupidly ambitious FPS, the kind of game dreams are made of: a perpetual online war between players waged across continents. My fear had been a simple one: that it would have to be at least as good an FPS as Battlefield or Tribes, but you know, big. In the previous game, that scale meant compromises. Guns that didn't feel like guns. Odd movement physics. Planetside 2 doesn't have that. It just works.
I played for at least an hour, defending a tower from waves of foes. It brought back great, great memories. By the end of it, I wasn't just convinced that Planetside 2 was going to work. I was absolutely entranced. The basic mechanics are essentially the same as those of the first game. You join a squad, you can spawn on that squad via a drop-pod falling out of the sky. You can spot targets by pressing the Q button. You shoot guns by pressing the... You know all of this stuff already. It just works.
Here's what made it special. In the heat of Gamescom, with players coming and going, with an unfamiliar mouse, with people still trying to work out the game, with everything set against it, I think I just played the most fun round of guns for years. There was a moment - I spawn with my squad, two guys in MAX suits, the other a sniper, and we're creeping toward the objective. It's night, so tracer rounds are lighting up the tower we're fighting over. The guns far above us sound distant and quiet - a calm kind of shootout.
We come across another squad and scatter; MAX suits pounding away. I drop to a crouch and take aim - as another player spots the rest of the opposition. It's all over in a second. We're congratulating oursleves by jumping up and down and being hilarious when a enemy Vanu tank crests the hill and takes aim. Ffffuuuuuuuu.
It's just a tiny moment, a snapshot of a battle. Not even that interesting. But it felt so right, so real. Even on a throwaway account on an anonymous machine in a separate country, you could feel the weight of the war that would continue without you.
Holy shit. It works.