1.8GB of patient downloading later, Game Update 4 for Planetside 2 arrived. I have to say, SOE are really earning their wages with the update schedule of this thing, cracking on with many and significant improvements month by month since release, to a game that didn’t even launch that broken in the first place.
You can find the full patch notes here:
PS2 Official Forums: GU4 Patch Notes
Loads of things there as usual, but the big headline item is the new VR Training Area, which I’ve already had a run about in and think is genius. Accessible from the Warp Terminal screen as a small button beneath the islands, this takes you to a Star Trek Holodeck inspired mini zone containing terminals, shooting ranges, a large bit of Indar-Greenery style terrain to drive and fly about on, and even a practice Watchtower structure in one corner. Apparently, it even has a Quad Bike racing course, which as yet is incomplete, but Soon…
There is a separate one for each Empire, naturally, but the place continually spawns random ‘NPC’ troops and vehicles to shoot at. This isn’t really PvE in any real sense; these entities have no AI at all, and will simply stand there, unmoving and unshooting, but are still useful for proper research into numbers; how many shots to kill what, with what, etc, and in a far less panicked environment that in battle. Some of the spawned troops and vehicles are your of own Empire, which you can still shoot at. It does the ‘bloop’ noise but gives you no actual grief points, which is handy for recognition training, etc.
More importantly, while in the VR Training Area, everyone gets everything unlocked. While there, it flags you as having already bought everything it is possible to buy with Cert Points. It doesn’t unlock anything that is ordinarily SC only; camo, horns, skulfase, etc, but all the rest, including the cash-shop guns.
This is hugely important for a variety of reasons.
Firstly this greatly improves on the previous ‘Try a gun for half an hour per 30 days’ system of the Trial Unlock Button, which is now effectively rendered obsolete, although there may still be a use in trying a gun against real enemiesnow and then. Players contemplating buying cash shop guns can now really put the thing through its paces in VR before putting down the SC, which is great.
Secondly, it lets you discover that a thing is something you actually want to buy in the first place. Despite becoming a quite good Gal pilot, I’d given up the Scythe up as a lost cause early on, being barely able to clear the warp-gate before slamming it into a mountain, let alone dogfight in it. Thanks to the VR, I now know that the Hover Stability Airframe 3 Upgrade totally transforms the thing, greatly reducing the minimum forward velocity and making it handle a lot more like the Mosquito and Reaver from the first game, offering much greater control in a fight, instead delivering one burst of fire, then zooming uncontrollably out of range. Unlocking Hover Stability Airframe 3 costs 700 Certs in total (100 +200 + 400), not a casual sum, and not something I’d plan on saving up towards, without first getting some idea of exactly what I’d get for that. I now know, because in VR, it gives you everything to try out anyway.
Thirdly, it gives you somewhere safe to practice. Using the Scythe as an example again, it is very much a vehicle you need to practice, but previously, the only place to do that was in and around the Warpgate on a continent where your folks had built up a buffer zone of friendly hexes. And even that was no guarantee of safety from lone Mosquitoes and Reavers, chancing their luck on deep strikes. The VR zone is relatively quiet, so good for fledging first flights. Even better, the VR charges no resources and has no cooldowns, so crashing your first Scythe doesn’t then make you sit there like a lemon for 15mins before letting you try again; you can respawn and get straight back to the flight training.
There are some downsides; VR K/D stats don’t count toward anything, Certs can’t be earned in there and so on, and there is a danger that the place will be so popular, it’ll drain forces from active duty, certainly while it’s new and different at least. There’s also a current bug where consumables (med kits, grenades, mines, etc) cost real resources, but that’s to be fixed soon I expect. These are minor things though, and on the whole, this addition to the game is a fantastic one. It isn’t a new idea, mind you; Planetside 1 had something similar for a very long time, and was similarly useful there too.
Thinking about it, I’m not sure they even need to bother with actual Sanctuaries now; the VR and Dropship Terminal were the only useful bits of the place, and both mechanics are now in PS2.
Other Interesting update notes:
Flash: The Flash now takes a ‘rumble seat’ passenger, who sits on the back and can fire their own weapons as a kind of ad-hoc turret. It can now also be given the Wraith cloaking system, like the PS1 variant, allowing the whole quad bike to cloak if being ridden by an infiltrator. This cloak uses its own battery, not the Infiltrator’s and is quite generous at a default 40s. The thing still makes a lot of noise though, so watch that. To top it all off, you can now buy a side mounted shotgun for the Flash, in addition to all its usual machine guns options.
General Blast Nerf: Seems like almost all the splash damage explosives have had their radiuses dropped somewhat. Should make life easier for Infantry survivability, particularly vs Tanks. Gunners and Grenadiers now have to be somewhat more accurate.
Ammo Capacity Buff: Most infantry weapon ammo capacities increased. Engy Resupply Nerf!
Magrider Hover Tweak: Should be a bit more floatey on hills and such again, after it’s previous harsh but necessary over-nerfing.
Prowler P2-120 HE Nerf: Blast radius reduced 30%…. thank god… Those things have been everywhere lately…
Vehicle Kill XP Buff: Huge increases (+400% in many cases) in XP for vehicle kills, by type. This is the Vehicle itself, pilotless or otherwise. I think you get separate extra XP for killing people inside them anyway.
Minimap Zooming: use [ and ] to zoom in and out a bit. Useful!
Rejigged Respawn Map: Uses the normal zone map now – much more useful. Can now edit waypoints while dead, handy for Squad Leaders for whom there is only peace in the grave…
Watchtower Redesign (again!): Vehicle Spawning now to one side of the ground floor drive-through. Less collisions when trying to get a Sundy in there!
Plus the usual huge amount of world and equipment tweaks and adjustments. All in all, impressive. And to top it all off, they rotated the warp gates again; new and relatively unfamiliar ‘home territories’ for everyone!