The first time you log into PlanetSide 2, and are dropped from orbit right into the middle of a bullet-and-bomb-filled warzone with hundreds of players fighting for every square meter of land, you can easily pick up on just how expansive PlanetSide 2's idea of large-scale warfare can be. Battles will vary from brutally short to long and drawn out, and aside from a few setbacks, it's an impressive action experience.
PlanetSide 2 sends players to the distant planet of Auraxis, where three factions; the Terran Republic, the Vanu Sovereignty and the New Conglomerate, wage an all-out war for the planet's resources. You'll start off creating your character and choosing your allegiance to one of these factions, and although they possess all the same basic classes and vehicles, they each have their own distinctive visual style and weapons along with a few unique entries into their vehicle pool, such as the Vanu's Magrider hover tank and the TR's lightning-fast Mosquito airship.
If you've played an FPS like Battlefield 3, the combat in PlanetSide 2 will feel very familiar. Most firefights end up being a mix of players on foot supported by other players piloting vehicles either attacking or defending a control point. You can easily switch infantry classes whenever you spawn into the game world, and each territory has multiple consoles where you can swap out your gear or spawn vehicles. Hopping into a tank or airship lets you take a break from slogging around on foot for a different style of combat, and depending on how they're used, lets you make a visible difference in how a battle might pan out. The heavy-duty Sunderer APC for example, can be outfitted to deploy as a mobile spawn point anywhere on the map, and a fully-crewed Liberator gunship can devastate armored units from overhead. As exciting as that sounds, though, other than a YouTube series and some tooltips that appear during the loading screen, there's oddly no in-game tutorial to explain how exactly to fly or drive anything. If you're up to the challenge of providing close air or armored support, expect to spend a few minutes playing around with vehicle controls, but once you understand their functions it can be a lot of fun strafing enemy infantry with a futuristic fighter jet or engaging in tank duels with a double-barreled cannon.
Depending on how many regions your side controls, you'll passively earn resources to use for things like purchasing tanks or refilling your grenades and ammo. Resources are finite and your character can only carry so many at one time, so players who consistently want to deploy gunships or hulking MAX battle suits will need to work together to capture (or defend) territories to keep their faction's supply line going. Thankfully, it's as simple as pressing a key to join up with a squad or outfit (PlanetSide 2's equivalent of a group or guild, respectively) of fellow players to organize a plan of attack, or at least find out where's the heaviest fighting.
Where PlanetSide 2 gets interesting is how almost any skirmish can become incredibly complex in a very short time span. You might get into a small engagement with a handful of players while trying to take over an outpost, only for it to escalate a few minutes later into a huge, intense free-for-all with hordes of soldiers, tanks and gunships from all three factions throwing themselves into a conflict that might take an hour or more to resolve. The larger fights, where you run around with your team trying to find a way to tip the scales in your side's favor while the sky is filled with dogfighting airships and you're moments away from getting run over by a hostile tank (or a friendly one, if the fighting is extremely hectic), are definitely the most awe-inspiring and the most fun.