Hands On With No Man’s Land
When Sony announced Playstation Home back in 2007, it was met with as much intrigue as it was disinterest. A 3D virtual world where you create and customize an avatar, hang out and chat with your friends’ avatars in a virtual 3D world, and play games together all for free? Sounds pretty cool. The problem is, since the open beta launched in December of 2008, there hasn’t really been any reason to use the service. Why sit through a long download and several load screens to hang out with your friends when you can just hop on one of hundreds of social networking sites and get the same results? Well, the games of course, and No Man’s Land is the most ambitious title on the service yet.
First, let me just say that this isn’t a review. No Man’s Land is a free to play game, so scoring it like I would any other game doesn’t seem fair, especially since you won’t get the full experience without dropping some real life cash on weapons and armor. No, this is more just my impressions of the game.
Once you download the game, you get a brief “cutscene” that consists of animated stills and a voice setting up the world in which the game takes place. It’s the same old post-apocalyptic America we’ve seen a thousand times. War torn cities. Bleak, gray skies. Buildings crumbling from disrepair. The voice in the intro lists a number of possible reasons for how things ended up this way, but it turns out, no one really knows. It’s been so long since it happened that everyone that could remember is now long gone.
The first thing you do in the game is a mandatory tutorial. It’s short, so don’t fret. The main thing to take away from the tutorial is how to use the unique cover system. What makes the mechanic so different is that there is no free movement. That’s right, pushing the left stick forward doesn’t move your avatar. Instead, it highlights the nearest cover. The best way to describe it is point and click. Move the left stick toward the cover you want to hide behind, press X, and voilà, off you go. It feels weird at first, and can be a little frustrating, but it works surprisingly well. Once you’re moving, you can aim at the next piece of cover and press X while running and your avatar will vault over any obstacle in the way in one fluid motion, kind of like parkour. Once you get the hang of it (which doesn’t take long) you’ll moving around like a digital ninja.
Unfortunately, once you decide to finally dig in and get down to business, the game shows it’s biggest weakness: the shooting. While you’re in cover, the game controls like any other third person shooter you’ve ever played. Pull L2 to aim, and R2 to fire. If you don’t want to risk poking your head out, you can blind fire by just pressing R2 without aiming. You can move freely while aiming with L2 in cover, but release L2 and you’re stuck, which can be a problem when an enemy has a clear line of fire on you from an angle. Gunplay is stiff and boring, and I noticed more than a few times that I was missing shots when I was clearly aiming directly at an enemy from about four feet away.
You start out with an incredibly slow pistol and basically no armor. That’s where the real money comes into play. You can buy weapons and armor between matches at stations in the pre-game lobby. Obviously, you don’t HAVE to pay for better weapons if you don’t want, but it can seriously cut into the fun when you’re in a match with guys with full body armor that have assault rifles and grenades. As of now, there is no other way to get different weapons and armor other than shelling out real dollars at the in-game store, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be eventually.
There are two game modes: Team Deathmatch and Scavengers. Team Deathmatch is just that. Nothing special here. Scavengers is basically capture the flag, except you’re picking up salvage packs instead of flags and there are multiple salvage packs per match. Run out, pick up the salvage, bring it back to the salvage dump. First team to collect all of the salvage packs wins. Neither mode is anything special.
One other cool feature is that your in-game avatar is the same as your Playstation Home avatar and it’s the same look and graphics of the Playstation Home hub. It gives the feeling that the game world is a living, breathing part of Playstation Home’s 3D world.
All in all, it’s hard to complain about something that is free. This is definitely the most ambitious title I’ve seen on Playstation Home to date. It has some cool features like the unique cover mechanic, but other than that, I can’t exactly say I had fun with it. If you’re bored and broke, Check out No Man’s Land on Playstation Home now.