I began playing this game about a week ago.
I am a huge hater of games like APB that give real money advantages to other players.
This game does have weapon upgrades and xp boosts for real money.
You do NOT have to buy these to be competitive.
Every race has different specialties, Terran Republic for instance has a stock pistol that is one of the best in the game. Everyone gets one of these from day one who chooses this race.
Vanu has one of the better submachine guns and definitely the best plane,(scythe) stock, no money spent.
New Conglomerate has one of the best noob sniper rifles. Sure, it's range and damage is not as good as the purchasable one, however it's rate of fire is better and it can one shot unsuspecting light infantry.
With all that said, I DID spend 50 bucks on station cash (yesterday during the special 3x station cash bonus) and it was nice to get some new guns. I still find myself swapping to non purchasable guns for many situations, however, so their utility should not be dogged because they are not purchased weapons.
All weapons in the game are sidegrades, not upgrades.
I would highly recommend you try it out. It's free. What have you got to lose?
Also, get into an organized outfit. It's really important to have an organized outfit or you will be kind of floating in limbo and not really know what to do.
I am currently running with the Devil Dogs, http://www.planetside-devildogs.com/ which is one of the largest operations in the game, and I love it.
There are other large operations as well for each faction, Vanu and TR, and the beautiful thing is, that at the end of the day, the large ops all still have respect for eachother and still work together to have huge battles over the continents.
If you are interested in a live stream, check out the twitch live streams and you can see for yourself how the game plays from the friday night ops:
Honestly, those that feel this game is currently milking people like LoL by being pay to win are certainly mistaken.
If you simply put 20 bucks in you can get your class outfitted with every weapon you'd want for multiple play styles, or you could just farm the certs (basically xp) for a week or so and have them as well. It is really free, I just CHOSE to put money in, not because I was impatient, but because it's really a good game and I felt 50 bucks was better money spent than if I bought another CoD clone.
As for the folks talking about aimbotters etc, they are horribly mistaken.
I can pop a guy in the head from 130 yards currently as they are running with my sniper rifle. It takes practice, but it can be done. There are some speed hackers out there and some other folks doing whacky things, however it is such a low rate it has no bearing on the game. If you are in an organized outfit, you just send 40 guys at the hackers spawn and he's dead. He cannot get back and his little cheese game is ruined in a few minutes.
So yes, this game is the real deal. I am not affiliated in any way with Sony, and you can also tell by my post history and my SD number that I'm not some new guy just making shit up. So yeah, download it and try it, if you like it come on and hang out. IF you roll NC on Connery give a shout out to the devil dogs, and if you roll TR or Vanu, feel free to die by my hand you evil emperial or alien scum! :-)