RPS At E3: Global Agenda

By John Walker on June 11th, 2009 at 10:00 am.

A man by and explosion, yesterday.

Global Agenda requires you to change your mind. Despite being built in the Unreal 3 engine, and despite looking really rather fine, it presents itself as an MMO. It’s a third person view of your character, with a tray of icons along the bottom of the screen, health and energy top left. But try and play it like an MMO and you’re going to end up dying rather a lot. This is fast, it’s proper action, and until you accept both genres melded into one, you’re going to be rubbish at it. Or at least I was. And then it clicked.

World War Three has been and gone, and the world’s in a bit of a state. There’s an oppressive government, and a group of fugitives are rising up against them. So okay, Global Agenda doesn’t win any awards in the original storyline department. You’re a rebel with cybernetics in your head… Right, I know, it’s not getting better. You fight against robots? You form agencies as small factions, battling for territory? Look, it doesn’t matter, because what makes Global Agenda so interesting is how fun it is to play.

The first thing you realise is that you can crouch. Ever played an MMO in which you could crouch? And not only can you jump, but you can do various types of jump. Regular bunny hopping, wall jumping, and even grabbing ledges and pulling yourself up. Jumping only gets better when you kick in your jetpack. Yes, it has jetpacks, and thus meets the John Walker Criteria For All Games, which clearly states that, “All games must include either a double-jump or a jetpack.”

Further focusing the action on fun are the weapons. Based on recharging energy bars, rather than ammo, you’re given a generous amount of fire power. This is for your in-hand items. Off-hand items, such as heals and bombs, have recharge timers. There’s also melee weapons, which can attack and block. Crouching gives you greater accuracy. Weapons have alt-fires. Do you see? Do you see how this is a shooter, disguised as an MMO?

There’s two major approaches to play, PvE and PvP. Of the former I played a mission in which I was charged with killing a particularly tough robot. It was a fairly simple affair, but I was soloing (you can play missions with up to four players in co-op), and playing as a Sniper. There’s four basic classes: Assault (your heavy, can be specced as a tank), Medic (with the ability to hand out decent damage), Robotics (builds drones and turrets, etc, as well as with some healing abilities) and the Recon, specialising in stealth, decoys, melee and sniping.

Stop watermarking screenshots!!!

The decoy is a fun time. You create a false you, with opponents able to see both, but having no way of knowing which is which. The decoy will mimic your actions, so if you attack, so will he, leaving your opponent unaware which is the real target. Even better, you can cast a decoy and then switch on your stealth – a generous amount of invisibility that lets you make a sneaky getaway. Leave the decoy behind and you can watch your opponent waste his time as you hide and heal. Then from this vantage point, snipe them.

My first couple of attempts to make it through the mission ended in quick failure, because both times I played it like an MMO. I figured, I’m more powerful than one enemy, I’ll stand here and take it. I didn’t. Then I embraced it as a shooter, and started playing quickly. Using my skills, sneaking off, sniping from afar then whipping out my melee weapon and attacking close up, before vanishing (which results in some rather lovely confused robot noises).

Next I switched out to play an Assault class, and picked from the array of available extras. These wouldn’t ordinarily be available at the start, but for the sake of the demo I was offered a big selection of weapons and skills. Each is rated from 1 to 4, with 4 being the best and usually only available a way into the game. But cleverly you have only 15 points to spend with about seven slots to fill. You’re forced to select carefully, even when you’re a decked out player. Equipped with some rather excellent bombs, and a minigun with which I fell heavily in love, I entered a PvP area against a few of developer High Rez’s employees. We were in two teams, trying to capture territory. It was frantic, and felt far more like Quake 3 than any MMO you’d care to mention. Except, with the array of MMO controls on screen. And I was loving that minigun, mowing down opponents in an enormously satisfying way.

Hi Rez reckon it will take about twenty hours before you have a fully skilled character (although with the implants, the scaling continues indefinitely), which then lets you into the second phase of the game, the Campaigns. By forming Agencies with fellow players, you enter technology races against other groups, in a 45 day campaign to build and defend a base from which you launch your assaults. This becomes a game of gaining territory, gaining or stealing resources, and constructing facilities, all the while fought using the action PvP and PvE missions.

Quite how all this latter stage play will work is unknown just yet. But of the earlier stages, while certainly not a deep MMO, Global Agenda is a surprisingly fast-paced and shooter-focused one. This is by dint of using instanced arenas and limited numbers of opponents in any combat, hence being able to fight in real time (as opposed to the botched version attempted in games like Tabula Rasa). It’s going to be about good, tactical team play, lifting elements of TF2 and traditional team deathmatch shooters, combined with adapting skill trees, a selection of equipment, and the ability to re-spec your character in a way appropriate to the team you’re in and the battle you’re playing.

The visuals merit mention too. Unlike so many Unreal 3 engine games, it doesn’t look like it’s been smeared in Vaseline, but rather is crisp and stylised. It’s a distinctive and smart design, with plenty of hyperbolic special effects. Beta sign ups can be pre-registered for at the game’s site.

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44 Comments »

  1. Chis says:

    Oh god, make the “big guys with big biceps and big.. armour with big… *ahem* weapons” visuals stop! Seriously, how many more games must we have in this style? I’m getting sick of it. Every single game I’ve seen posted lately has been like this!

    But then the most fun gaming I’ve had recently has been the distinctly 2D Plants vs. Zombies, Alien Shooter Vengeance, and some Doom WADs. Why did I even bother to buy that Radeon? Oh yes, for TF2… :P

  2. Nighthood says:

    So many MMOs coming out. I’ll stick with APB personally, it looks the best of all.

  3. MD says:

    Woo, looks like the core mechanics might actually be fun. Took the MMO industry a while to think of that, but I guess if I said that to Blizzard they would wave hundred-dollar notes around and laugh in my face. Or pay someone else to do so.

  4. Lars Westergren says:

    @Chris
    Agree with you on lack of innovation in style. I was temporarily cheered up to hear that Max Payn was balding and slightly potbellied in the next game. I haven’t played the earlier games in the series, but liked the concept of his continuing noir descent, seemed to emphasis storytelling. But that brief cheer quickly went away after finding innumerable
    “Max is old and fat!? I refuse to play as that loser. This is going to be the worst game evar!”
    comments on game sites. Fantasy tits and no clothes on women, and fantasy muscles and square jaws on men is apparently what gamers demand… :-(

  5. Ludo says:

    Great first screenshot. It’s hard to fault an image where the even the explosions are exploding.

  6. Noerart says:

    “Fantasy tits and no clothes on women, and fantasy muscles and square jaws on men is apparently what gamers demand… :-(”

    Naaah… it’s what the brats demand. Unfortunately there are a lot of them, and they are quite vocal :-/

  7. Catastrophe says:

    This looks very interesting actually, kinda Planetside’ish but some good concepts. Any idea on System Specs and release date?

    It also looks a bit similar to a Half Life 2 mod – Dystopia.

  8. CMaster says:

    “Ever played an MMO in which you could crouch?”
    Yes, several.
    That’s not inherently that exciting, but I do know some people who are quite excited about this game having played the beta, so that is good.

  9. Terry says:

    Can’t wait for this game… may not be as customisable as APB but I think it will have a better FPS system.

  10. windlab says:

    I just spotted this linked to on their website:
    http://www.agentsvselves.com/
    I lol’d.

  11. CMaster says:

    @windlab
    That’s very similar to Neocron’s old “No More Elves” campaign.

  12. mandrill says:

    I sooo want to play this game its unbelievable, no indication as to when the beta is going to start tho :(

  13. MrBejeebus says:

    i registered for the beta, do you happen to have a referall code that would get me into the beta sooner Mr Walker? :)

    And that Agents v Elves thing is good

    its either this or APB for me, not sure…

  14. Matt says:

    Lol @ first post, Typically requires a stronger person to wear heavier armory. NT though.

  15. Tei says:

    Pro-TIP:
    Global Agenda > APB > Crimecraft > Gunz

  16. DrazharLn says:

    @Catastrophe

    Dystopia? Eh, I suppose the implants are similar and the classes. I just always think of the cyberspace bits when I think of Dystopia.
    Great mod though, if I were better at FPS, I’d play it more often.

  17. Diziet Sma says:

    I hope Global Agenda is better than Huxley. Through a bit of proxy trickery I got a USA beta key for Huxley and I’ve been playing it for a while. The FPS deathmatch esque bits I played are wonderfully old school but it just doesn’t feel right yet and I doubt it will have much longevity as an MMO. Might appeal more the FPS crowd who crave some variety though.

  18. Diziet Sma says:

    @mrbejeebus I have referral codes, trying to get on the forum so you could pm me but the email hasn’t come through yet.

  19. Smurfy says:

    I have a guaranteed beta key for this even though I know nothing about it. And it’s an official one, not one of the “maybe you will, maybe you won’t” invites. I’m just so cool.

  20. Diziet Sma says:

    @Smurfy ah then you should have referral codes too.

  21. Mortimer says:

    In essence Global Agenda is all about delivering superior shooter combat in a MMO/persistent framework. Planetside was remarkable for the massive feel, but it lacked quite a bit in the combat department compared to games such as Half-Life or Quake. Like Planetside, APB is going for a large-scale feeling to their game, and put a lot of stock in the overall experience and story rather than the core combat. If APB is a multiplayer GTA, GA is MMO UT/Quake/Half-life.

    I’m not saying APB will necessarily be very awkward in combat, but the fluid open world they’re going for by definition prevents the sort of balanced and structured competition that normal multiplayer shooters provide. I think the two games are so different in their focus (and in the type of player that they’re trying to attract) that it’s not really useful to compare them further.

    The hook with GA compared to normal FPS’s is that when the match ends, you don’t merely load a new map and start all over. The winner gains actual benefits (territory/resources/etc). So the real question we have to ask ourselves is whether that added persistence, and the ability to coordinate 60 people over 6 instances, is worth the subscription fee, because really GA has already proven to be able to hold its own with the core gameplay. From what I’ve heard, I’d go so far as to say that if they released GA as a simple shooter (with no persistence, simply endless instanced matches) it would already be a top-tier game on the level of HL2/UT3/CoD4/etc

    @Diziet Sma:
    I’ve talked to people that have played both games, and they say GA is much better than Huxley, so I’m not worried.

    GAMC

  22. diziet sma says:

    @Mortimer Ah good to know. It certainly sounds it, and the apparent shinyness of huxley’s graphics from previously release stills didn’t hold up when I played with it all set to max.

    @mrbejeebus Registration email came through, so feel free to pm if you do want a referral code. Not sure how much weight they add really but I’d imagine little.

  23. MrBejeebus says:

    the kind of key i want is 1 that would get me a definite place in it, it doesnt matter about other people’s keys.

    key please smurfy? :P

  24. MrBejeebus says:

    wont let me edit… anyway ive already signed up, i can still add a referall key tho

  25. Wooly says:

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one who thinks the U3 engine is fugly as hell.

  26. Grey_Ghost says:

    So… no vehicles of any kind?

  27. RasFrostwhisper says:

    Okay, Global Agenda is NOT the first MMO of it’s kind in any way.

    Check it out – Planetside. Not only has this game been out for 6 whole years, but it has tanks, aircraft, BattleFrame Robotics, all the guns you could ever want, and get this – 300 players on one map.

    When I played beta, the GA team said it was not likely to have battles larger than 16v16. The only MMO part about it was the cities where you could talk to and trade with other players. In planetside, that would be the “Sanctuary”.

    If anyone is interested in giving PS a go, my AIM is RasFW. My MSN is lollerkakes@gmail.com – I can set u up with a free trial.

  28. Eric says:

    Where in the world did this game come from? I haven’t heard a peep about this before, and after reading the all the material and checking out the vids, I suddenly can’t wait for it to come out. At least I got to sign up for the beta.

  29. ssaya says:

    I am very interested in how twitchy Recon is. The more the better. I like MMO’s but dislike time invested being so much more important than skill. If they could bring an MMO style community together with FPS strategy I would be sold. Anyone got an extra referral code? Really want to try it out. AIM = serpientex email = fjelliott.iii@gmail.com agenda forum name = ssaya

  30. diziet sma says:

    I loved planetside dearly… although it’s always amused me that I found the game far better in beta than after any of the patches they did post release. I’ll never forget swooping around the more temperate zone the first time I loaded it and gunning down a bunch of people, jumping and proceeding on foot to hack and take a little tower. Good times, shame they didn’t last.

  31. c0wb0y says:

    I have played this game. It plays like a half thought out mixture between quake and any mmorpg(take your pick). If you like well balanced combat or any amount of immersion this game isn’t for you. If you like mindless TDM then by all means dive in.

  32. MrBejeebus says:

    ssaya im part of a clan who’re interested in this, i dont know whether putting that into my beta app that theres 50 of us etc will increase my chances tho…

  33. Surgeon says:

    It doesn’t seem to offer the same appeal of a massive virtual war, unlike Planetside. Which is basically what I’m after.
    It’s like all the new style MMOFPS’s are taking small baby steps. Maybe we’ll get something like PS2 in a few years time?

    Anyway, RPS have made it onto the latest Global Agenda newsletter…

    “..what makes Global Agenda so interesting is how fun it is to play.”
    – RockPaperShotgun

  34. jon_hill987 says:

    Why does every action game have to be third person these days? I hate Gears of War for making this idea popular.

  35. Tei says:

    @jon_hill987: It looks cool, It don’t play cool but this is secondary on a game that is hyped/sell based on videos and screenshots. GA is different, because some classes can use invisibility skills, and TPS helps check if you are invisible or visible just now. I think is now a “convention”, and something that make games look more 2009-ish. And probably is more cheap, since you don’t have to model a extra model (the v_model). But It make harder to code the camera, since it has to have excellent beavior. I agree that is stupid, and a console fad that must go, but I don’t think in GA is totally out-of-place.

  36. Mortimer says:

    Um, no it’s not third person because of invis or because they want to avoid having to code the gun models. GA needs third person because it is a very movement oriented game. The melee combat is more complex than nearly every other shooter out there, and the jetpack/superjump/acrobatics that you can do are also benefited by a wider view of your character’s position. I’ll reference the Star Wars Outcast and Jedi Academy games here. They would have been terrible if restricted to first person view. That’s not to say melee is as important in GA as it was in those games, but after watching many videos I think they made the right call…. and if you’re desperate there are many guns that can have scopes, not just sniper rifles, and the scopes are first-person.

    I guess I didn’t emphasize this enough in my earlier post: Planetside and GA are two completely different games with different design goals. Planetside wanted battles to feel as epic as possible, and I did love it in the very early days (and beta) for just that fact. GA on the other hand wants structured combat that’s not about zerging and doesn’t lag, but still delivers top notch quality shooter fun. No one can argue that Planetside had as good core gameplay as non-MMOs like Half-Life/etc, it’s just the reality of the game, and that wasn’t really the point of the game anyway. I hope that’s enough said on that topic.

    I don’t see how “well balanced combat” disagrees with the structure of Global Agenda. From everything I’ve heard that’s the primary point of the game, and they’ve already nailed it in the ALPHA (but they’ll continue to improve of course). It’s impossible to have truly balanced combat in a game where the number of people on each side isn’t fixed (cough Planetside). Also how can you have a balanced fight when you can’t even control who your teammates are? The fact is that competitive pvp happens in instances and no where else, period. And if you complain about the lack of immersion in Half life, Cod4, and etc, then yes its true this has only slightly more… but obviously you’re missing the point of those games.

    Vehicles are basically not in GA, but the Robotics class has “pets” and some remote control drones that sort of act like vehicles. And also there’s the big mech in Capture the Mech (flag) which is indeed a vehicle.

    Global Agenda is for players who enjoy shooter games but want something more meaningful than endless repeats of matches with no effect. If you have fun playing counter-strike for years (as you have if you’re a real shooter fan), then you’ll probably like GA even more. Also this game is definitely complex and entertaining as a shooter. Unlike Planetside/APB/Crime Craft, it does not use the fact that it’s an MMO to excuse bad gameplay. (with APB I’m making an assumption here, but it’s obvious that planetside and crime craft could not compete with a game like quake 3 or half-life if they weren’t MMOs. Global Agenda, on the other hand, is meant to stand toe to toe with modern shooters in core gameplay, and then on top of that deliver more persistence and involvement. )

    I’d like to point out my favorite aspect of the game that sets it apart from normal multiplayer shooters. The 60v60 territory control mode is really the endgame for Global Agenda. There are multiple zones to separate the top tier and largest agencies from the smaller and more casual ones, allowing everyone to have fun with this game mode. There are also seasons in which prizes go to the winner of each zone at the end (about 45 days per season). Also, the territory control involves a hex-grid of resources on which the owner can build a variety of structures which will require a “grand-strategy” type of approach. Your agency will have to decide how best to use your territory to gain an advantage over the surrounding enemies.

    More important than all that is the 60v60 battle itself. The battle takes place across 6 instances, but the players can move between the instances to create small imbalances and surprise power-plays during the match (leaving them disadvantaged in the instance they left with only 8 people). Players do this by loading back into a staging area, where they can change out their gear-loadout if they want, and then loading into another instance of their choosing. Furthermore, the instances are interlocked so that capturing objectives in one instance immediately effects the other instances. This achieves the effect of reducing lag (by spreading the 120 players out into 6 instances) and eliminating zerg (there must be between 8-12 players per team per instance, so you can’t over-load an instance with like 20 people vs the enemy team’s 10), while still maintaining the structured nature of instanced matches (as opposed to open-world fighting where you can’t control the number of players or who your teammates are).

    It really bothers me to see people making judgments about the game based on a lack of information. Kinda like how I’m shocked at all the people who say APB looks great when all we’ve really seen is the character creator.

  37. Jason says:

    Disclosure Mortimer – what’s your involvement with Global Agenda? Your posts at the top of the thread sounded like “Interested Fan Guy”, now they sound like “Miffed Lead Designer Guy.”

    Which is it?

  38. Mortimer says:

    Sorry about coming off like that, I’ve just been following Global Agenda for a while and I get annoyed about the HUGE misconceptions that people have about the game. I’m not in the alpha, but I’m hoping to get into the closed beta pretty soon. Definitely not a dev, they’re much more polite than I am, just go read the GA forums, they’re pretty involved in the community… see there I go again.

  39. jon_hill987 says:

    @Mortimer: You don’t need third person to make a movement orientated game. Look a Mirrors Edge.

    I also wasn’t being specific to this game, I agree it will work in some, I just don’t like the general trend for third person/cover system that seems to be so popular at the moment. Red Faction, Damnation and the rest.

  40. ChaosTheory says:

    @jon_hill987: True, but ME was also an experiment to try and make a movement focused first person game.

    As for GA, I’ve been following it for a while now, and wouldn’t mind a chance to check it out myself.

  41. symulacra says:

    Sounds like the author, John Walker, had a blast with the game. I like the idea of having to adapt from the strictly mmo mentality to a fps mentality. I am excited for the long-haul teamwork aspect to the game and the aliance vs. aliance game. This article just got my mouth watering for a game that was also of my radar till E3. . . it’s like finding gold :)
    GAMC

  42. Bsherrill says:

    Really looking forward to this game. I played WoW and was 2K+ during seasons 3 and 4. I loved PvP in MMOs, but i hate the fact that it was more about gear than skill (not that skill didn’t matter). I also love TF2 because of its diverse classes in a shooter, and im still playing atleast 10+ hours of TF2 a week.
    That said, what makes Global Agenda truly shine, is the Agencies/guilds. The idea of actualy fighting for controll of land makes seem. The futuristic setting is a nice addition too. Also the unreal 3 engine will make everything look nice and pretty.
    GAMC

  43. sigma83 says:

    My opinion on why third person is required in this game is so you can clearly see the status effects being placed on your character. To my mind it’s a readability issue.

  44. Knifeparty says:

    Yeah. The way i see it, people are underestimating this game. Little content has been shown so far and only limited infomation has been released. The environment detail has been put down multiple times…In pretty much every article i have read, including one on Rock-Paper-Shotgun, the developers at hi-rez studios have said that they have toned down areas of their game so that they could improve other parts.

    My point is maybe they’re reducing the environment detail, to improve the gameplay.
    I don’t see how the environment is even bad to be honest. It looks better than world of warcraft, tf2 and most other games as such that i can think of.

    So pretty much i think people are just underestimating it and should wait a few more weeks when the Hi-Rez team releases more infomation and gameplay videos.

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