ZAM's First Look At Global Agenda

With Hi-Rez Studios' Global Agenda going live in a few short days, ZAM checked it all out to see if GA could be the next big MMOFPS.

Of all the MMO genre blends out there that still have a lot of untapped potential, the MMORPG / FPS twist would definitely rank as one of the toughest gaming genres to do. Perhaps the most influential and, arguably, most popular MMOFPS has been SOE's epic game, Planetside. Now, almost seven years after the release of Planetside (and around five years since SOE has done any legitimate development on the game), there are hundreds of thousands of players eager to find something new, and running at the forefront of these next-gen MMOFPS games is Hi-Rez Studios' Global Agenda.

Well, with the closed beta of Global Agenda wrapping up today and the official launch coming in less than a week, the ZAM staff got to check out the game to see just what kind of MMOFPS Global Agenda wants to be.

As we first entered the world of Global Agenda and began our character creation, it was easy to see how big a graphical upgrade GA has over pretty much any other MMOFPS game. The game is pretty, we'll just say that. Moving on from here, players are treated to some fancy in-game cinematics, where the brief back-story of their character unfolds, although for us, our jetpack wouldn't equip, so we couldn't finish the tutorial, and ended up skipping it.

Following that, we were deposited right into the main social hub of the game: Dome City. Now, Dome City is a pretty bleak place, filled with concrete and neon lights, and soon it became clear that this place was designed with utility in mind, as opposed to comfort. There are no wandering NPCs in this city, it just has an armor shop, a dye store, a crafting hall, an auction house, a training arena, a shipping and receiving office and a "neural programming" center, which is really just a place for players to change their talent trees around.

Of course, Global Agenda is certainly not about sightseeing, and so by pressing M anywhere in Dome City, we could easily access our PvE and PvP map, choosing whatever mission we wanted to queue for. After a few moments, the queue popped and we were instantly whisked away to our first PvP match.

In our Global Agenda summary we noted that much of the game is instanced, and this was to prevent objective games from becoming giant zerg fests, and whoever had more players to throw into the fray would inevitably win. Hi-Rez Studios was aiming more for team coordination, so the maximum number of players on any given PvP map is 20, with 10 players on each side.

There are currently four classes in Global Agenda, and each of these classes is quite distinct from the other. The Assault class, which has access to giant machine guns, rocket launchers, bonus shields and a skill that makes the player completely invulnerable for a few seconds, is very clearly the "tank" of the game, designed to rush in and soak up damage. The Medic is, obviously, supposed to heal, and although Hi-Rez notes that the medic can also spec towards an offensive combat style that infects the enemy team, most medics end up healing. The Robotics class, which is basically the engineer of the game, can build all sorts of helpful things, like rocket turrets, force fields, medical stations and scanning stations, to detect stealthy recons. Finally, the Recon class is the sniper and the light infantry of the game; with a sniper rifle, they can take down enemies and turrets alike from afar  and, with an automatic rifle, they can fight at the medium range just as well.

Global Agenda employs a fairly unique system when it comes to outfitting characters with weaponry and bonuses. Since Hi-Rez wants players to be able to create unique builds for their characters, there are three "off-hand" devices that can be equipped, as well as one "specialty" skill and one weapon. All devices, weapons and specialties come in four ranks, with a Rank 4 item dealing more damage or being much more efficient than a Rank 1 item. The interesting thing here, however, is that all players have a maximum "device" limit of 15 points, and Rank 1 items are worth 1 point, whereas Rank 4 items are worth 4 points. In this way, players can just go for 4-point devices, but they won't be able to bring a lot of toys to the fight, or they can get some 2 or 3-point devices and be able to bring more devices. More devices get unlocked as players gain levels.

The other MMO aspects of Global Agenda come from its talent tree system, which is fairly standard as far as talent trees go, although the bonuses do allow a player to specialize themselves quite a bit. As well, GA uses "upgrades" for gear, where players can craft and purchase upgrades that give minimal bonuses by themselves (IE; Run Speed +1%), but when stacked with a lot of these upgrades, players will eventually notice the change. In Global Agenda, armor and helmets are actually considered cosmetic changes, and all of these can be purchased from nearby NPCs. Thus, if a player valued performance over aesthetics, they might very well stay with their basic armor right up to the level cap, using their money to purchase upgrades instead of cosmetic additions.

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