Back in the dim and distant past, anyone who was anyone and had a (for the time) pornographic amount of RAM was playing Planetside – the MMOFPS that was surely surely the bright future of PC gaming. Actual FPS, not vague cursor aiming and damage based on your stats – it was about reflex and precision, and military tactics.
Four years later, we’re not playing it any more. Well, some of you probably are, but we Men of RPS at least lament for a dream lost.
Planetside’s enormous battles and classless levelling proved to have an impassable ceiling on them. All those hard-fought skirmishes, those tragi-epic Alamo defences of critical towers – after a few months, the lack of ultimate purpose to them became overwhelming, like that dark teenage moment of self-awareness when you suddenly realise you’re just another slab of meat shuffling through the years. Do you shrug off the existential crisis and make the best of existence nevertheless, or give up entirely? For Planetside, we chose hara-kiri, and logged off for the last time.
Locked in our Warcraftian and Eveian coffins, we dreamt. The fantasy of some Planetside + never went away, and we searched hungrily for news of something to fill those big boots. Publisher SOE made noises about revisiting the concept, while Tabula Rasa seemed for a while like it might be looking at similar ideas. Its revelation as WoW with lasrifles was thus a sad one. Hellgate? Don’t talk about Hellgate.
One name kept cropping up – Huxley. This was catching our eye back in 2005, and reportedly it’s finally out this year – though since missing its mooted 2006 release, it had slipped off our radars due to lack of news, and more importantly a lack of details. Vehicles, levelling, 100 man vs 100 man battles, MMO-like special powers, questing – that’s about it. It didn’t quite have that Planetside vibe- more like massed UT2004 – but it was at least having a crack at a similar concept. I fear after all this time, and now I’m that much more familiar with games’ giant promises proving unrealistic in practice, that it’ll be a) much smaller in scope or b) more akin to the traditional MMO model than first expected, but that Planetside hope remains.
Developers Webzen’s most notable prior game is Mu Online, very much in the Lineage vein – and most reknowned in these parts for being the game that a South Korean chap played for 86 straight hours before unsurprisingly keeling over from a fatal bout of deep-vein thrombosis. It’s an unlikely heritage for the sort of persistent world FPS I’m hoping for – but hey, at least we know it’s not about Elves (the two playable races are both offshoots of future-humans), so Webzen clearly aren’t hanging on to K-MMO stereotypes.
Truth be told, I’d completely forgotten about it until I clocked this story about a late-2008 release on a download service yesterday. I’ve not heard of iiji.com before, but this will be Huxley’s home. I’ll have to have a look at some point, as it makes bold promises such as “the greatest online military FPS game you will ever experience” about one of its free-to-play, micropayment (or ‘money’)-supported titles, the rather brown and Counter-Strikey Solidier Front Reportedly nearly 4000 people are playing Soldier Front right now. Still, it’s odd company for what was once considered a very high profile title. Does this suggest that, after this long wait, it’s no longer high profile, or just that it’s been very canny about selling to the highest bidder?
Here’s the most recent trailer, from last September, showing off Huxley’s current (vaguely Gears of Warlike) look:
Oh, Huxley, what will you be? I’ve had my heart broken so many times whilst searching for The One.