MAG: Massive Action Game

MAG: Massive Action Game Preview for PS3

On: PS3
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7Out of 10
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Everything you see in MAG, from smoke plumes to aeroplanes, is player driven.
Everything you see in MAG, from smoke plumes to aeroplanes, is player driven.

Everything you see in MAG, from smoke plumes to aeroplanes, is player driven.

The MAG open beta, which concluded last week, began with a disclaimer: “The MAG public beta is a work-in-progress and not the final game. The graphics, gameplay, features, audio and performance is not representative of the final game. The game content and experience will change and improve for release of the final game.” Whoa there tiger. We get it: betas only tell half the story. Unfortunately, in this case, the first half of the story doesn't bode well for the finished article.

What is MAG? It stands for Massive Action Game. And it's true: it really is a massive action game. How massive? 256 players massive. It's an online only first-person shooter set in a near future in which three private military corporations battle against each other for lucrative contracts in a persistent, MMO-esque "shadow war". MAG is Battlefield Bad Company meets World of Warcraft; Modern Warfare 2 meets Tribes.

Eight-man squads tend to focus on their own objectives, which keeps things manageable across the giant maps. But the downside of that is the game often feels like you and your squad mates are in your own little world, despite technically fighting in real-time on the same map as hundreds of other players. Still though, MAG does an impressive job of making you feel like you're engulfed in bewildering, complex chaos, with constantly shifting objectives and relentless AI alerts letting you know something you don't understand has just happened somewhere on the map. But developer Zipper Interactive, of SOCOM fame, has come up with an interesting way to tackle the 25-aside school playground football farce problem: leadership.

As is FPS de rigueur, you gain experience points as you play. You get them for doing pretty much anything that benefits your faction, from capturing control points to killing enemy players. As you level up through the ranks, you gain skill points which can then be used to purchase new weapons, attachments, gear and abilities. The Medical Kit, for example, gives you the ability to heal other soldiers as well as yourself. The Resuscitation skill gives you the ability to revive others using the Medical Kit. It's a deep system, but it is not until you reach level 15 that you can truly become a leader of men.

At level 15, you can lead a squad of eight players. But as you climb the PMC career ladder, you'll eventually be able to lead a four-squad platoon of 32 players, and then, when you're no doubt so gruesomely battle scarred and desensitised to violence that a nuclear explosion in your back garden wouldn't phase you, lead a company of four platoons containing an eye-watering 128 players as an “officer in charge”. But, as Spider-Man's Uncle Ben said, with great power comes great responsibility. As a leader it's up to you to co-ordinate your team's attacks, dishing out orders via a headset and generally making sure everyone's singing from the same hymn sheet. You can even call in air strikes and grant your squad mates bonuses. This is what MAG is really about: strategy, planning, co-ordination and, above all, teamwork.

MAG's persistent "Shadow War" tracks how well each of the three factions is doing for each of the game modes

MAG's persistent "Shadow War" tracks how well each of the three factions is doing for each of the game modes

MAG's big problem (it has others, which we'll discuss later) is that, for some reason, PS3 owners tend not to use headsets. Why is this? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that headsets aren't bundled free with PS3s, as they are with Xbox 360 Elites. Whatever the reason, it is an unfortunate reality of PS3 gaming, and an unfortunate reality for MAG. It seems essential that Sony bundle one with the game.

If you're in a game packed with scores of lone wolves, MAG is, frankly, an exercise in frustration. It is not a run and gun shooter. It is not Halo. It's more like Counter-Strike in that sense - all it takes is one or two bullets to kill someone, or one to the head if you're using one of the sniper rifles, which by the way, are overpowered. You fear exposing yourself, you fear popping your head around the corner, and you fear death. That's not the problem - some people love this kind of skill-based hardcore shooter experience - but it is part of the problem.

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clangod's Avatar

clangod

I never did download the beta and I guess I'm not too concerned as this preview has justified my initial scepticism.

My main concern would be the connection quality closely followed by the ability to connect to fellow gamers who actually play MAG the way it is designed to be played. That said, and with so many other games due out such as Bad Company 2, I may sit it out to learn exactly how MAG is received by the PS3 community. I guess for an online only fps with such a concentrated focus on squad based gameplay, it's inevitable that its success will be measured by the players who adhere to the cooperative mechanics. This may make it a cult classic as time goes by. Apart from all of this, I also feel that the comments made about the graphical inferiority and the potential games spent end on end with gamers who treat it as a "lone wolf" skirmish like game may ultimately make it somewhat forgettable.

So, I guess I will wait for it to drop in price after release. At least one might be able to expect that any gamer still playing MAG after some time will be doing so because they've managed to adapt the specific squad and leadership requirements so that MAG plays as intended. Otherwise we'll all just be running around as part of one big poorly orchestrated mess.
Posted 04:00 on 18 January 2010
renegade's Avatar

renegade

Hmm i just listen to your podcast about it, Wez you moan about the 20 seconds, which it ain't like on all maps as you know.

But Mag is not MW, this preview proved one things, this game was not intended for you, I mean you played wow. So im sure you died in pvp once 30 seconds wait, o dear....

The fact you all spawn out of a plane at once is epic!
Posted 18:36 on 11 January 2010
SexyJams's Avatar

SexyJams

Cheers Wes,
gave me much more of an insight as to what exactly this game is about.
Awesome preview man.
Posted 18:13 on 11 January 2010
renegade's Avatar

renegade

Yes :S, Because me and my mates would play the same faction, Im pretty sure that is the point
Posted 18:10 on 11 January 2010
mikejosh1978's Avatar

mikejosh1978

Halo was 1st thing that popped in my head but still my point is that if you bought an online only Halo ( you never know it may happen ) & you could only be 1 or the other of the sides in battle for £40 a pop would you buy it Knowing that you effectively aliienate half your buddies list ?
Posted 17:27 on 11 January 2010
renegade's Avatar

renegade@ mikejosh1978

Using Halo as an Example is not so wise, be better saying on BF 2 you can only Play the US, What is the harm in that?

On wow you play Horde or alliance?

This is my point Console gamers are not Ready for this yet, all my mates thing MAG is cool being Massive Battlefield (the real one on PC) fans this is like the next step

You can have a lot of fun in this game if you get the right squad and with a Beta you get all the people playing, people who buy it are people who want to play thus making it more fun :)

However I predict a review score of like 7 for this game from VG unless it redeems its self in the credits saying We <3 Halo
Posted 12:26 on 11 January 2010
enviro-bear's Avatar

enviro-bear

I'm almost glad (not that I hate PS3s) because if this game turned out to live up to it's promise; I would almost be forced to splash out on a PS3.

good preview btw
Posted 12:21 on 11 January 2010
mikejosh1978's Avatar

mikejosh1978

You missed another aching issue Wes my man - The beta only allows 1 profile meaning you had to delete it & restart from scratch which meant casual friends who wanted to play were unable to without much annoyance . MAG has all your issues but for me if this isn't rectified for full release & you can't have a profile for each faction then £40 with no headset currently is a con & this will indeed fail.
Imagine Halo online& picking spartan or covenant & never being able to change, ridiculous .
I had high hopes but this & the massive lag in 256 player games along with SVER's dominant weapons & map layouts leave this sitting alongside Slant 6's Socom as a good idea but badly executed though the recent map pack has shown what could have been.
Posted 12:01 on 11 January 2010
renegade's Avatar

renegade

Oh the Graphics have nothing to do with all those 256 players on screen no no, Zipper got lazy?

Sadly MAG will struggle because people will not in brace it, Console gamers Ps3 or 360 are not ready for a game of this scale, if it works ill take back my words, but this is still a game designed for the PC why do you think Battlefield Bad Company is so different to say BF 2?

This is a game I will probably pick up along with a headset because im pro like that
Posted 11:54 on 11 January 2010
Wido's Avatar

Wido

Good preview Wes. Pretty much answered my questions which I was unsure about.

I will most probably skip this to be honest. Not really barking up my tree. Sure, it has 256 players, but who is to say the bad connection you are going to experience. SOCOM is plagued by bad connection and yes, this really is for the 'hardcore' or in other terms 'FPS fanatics'.

This will get over shadowed by the other releases which are coming out. I will definitely wait till the price of this is about £20 or less.
Posted 10:56 on 11 January 2010

Game Stats

Release Date: 29/01/2010
Developer: Zipper Interactive
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: MMO Shooter
Rating: PEGI 16+
Site Rank: 875 27
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