Global Agenda – updated impressions

Massively multiplayer games follow certain rules, while team-based shooters follow others, and strategies a third set. Until now they’ve lived safely in separate chambers of the Great Gaming Venn Diagram. Games that attempt an overlap, such as Destination Games’s disastrous Tabula Rasa, or Sony’s criminally overlooked PlanetSide, still tend to fall mostly into one category or another. Global Agenda takes ingredients from all three genres, and from what we’ve seen so far, has the potential to create something substantial.

At first sight it plays like an MMO. You pick your character class (Assault, Medic, Recon, Robotics), choose a look, and then make your first picks from the skill trees. The interface continues the theme: a traditional MMO tray of icons, health and power bars and unlimited ammo. So then you try the first PvE mission – perhaps you’re a sniping Recon, attempting to take out an evil robot, and you’re dying. Many times. Until the moment it clicks, your perspective zooms out, and you realize this is actually a third-person action game you’re playing. You need to run, dodge, hide, cloak, throw bombs and dive for cover.

And jetpack. Every player has a jetpack that makes the fighting a lot of fun. It’s not quite Tribes: Vengeance – there’s a limit to how long it lasts, and the replenishing energy it uses is the same that powers your weapons and abilities. It’s a resource to manage, a balance to strike. This lends itself to the action, letting you jump from roof to roof, catching ledges, crouching behind defenses.

Get into PvP and this distinction becomes even clearer. Your team of 8 to 12 players, working together, fight in arena combat scenarios closer to Team Fortress 2 than World of Warcraft’s battlegrounds. Your augmented weapons and arsenal of abilities are still in that MMO tray, but you’re going to need them assigned to hot keys to deploy them in time. It’s fast, explosive and deeply tactical. It’s when you ask why you’re doing it that the perspective needs to pull back even further.

There’s been a third world war, as there so often is. Emerging from the ruins is an evil Orwellian NPC faction called the Commonwealth. The character you play is a fugitive from these oppressive leaders, escaped and now seeking a new agency to create or join. Once you’ve aligned yourself you then enter the game’s third layer, the strategic scrap for territory. So long as you pay the monthly fee, that is: the boxed version will offer a free month, but after that you have to take out a subscription to take part in these fights.