One of MAG's better features is the skill point system. As you level up you're able to improve not only your weapons, and unlock new weapons, but improve the abilities of your operative.
Unfortunately, MAG's clever structure is undermined by some design decisions we can't quite understand, or forgive. MAG is a brutally hardcore shooter for hardcore shooter fans. Zipper can argue the toss until the military grade cows come home, but that's the reality of the game it's created. Its huge, sprawling war-torn environments are designed to make mince meat out of any and all who dare to step out into the open and walk its muddy soils. Running and gunning Rambo-style will get you killed; quick. There's no shield to soak up enemy plasma fire, or regenerating health system as you cower behind a rock. No. In MAG, a single bullet can kill you. In MAG, a single bullet – one that's travelled a long way - often kills you.
That's fine. We can accept that some games are all about "teh hardcorz" in the great Counter-Strike, Operation Flashpoint tradition. But MAG commits some cardinal gaming sins that make it unpalatable for all; mega hardcore shooter fans and, well... everyone else, alike.
In some FPS games, when you die, you wait a few seconds then you spawn at a predetermined spawn location. In MAG, when you die, you bleed out. During this 30 second countdown (I know it's 30 seconds because I timed it), in which you're writhing around the ground in agony, another player can trot along to your position, point his or her medical kit at your body and revive you, granting you a second chance.
Again, that's fine. MAG encourages players to revive each other by granting twice as many experience points for doing so than for a standard kill. But - and this is our experience – healing is a rare occurrence. The overall feeling is one of boredom as you wait half a minute for a revive that never comes. Sigh.
Exacerbating this problem is MAG's rolling spawn system: players spawn every 20 seconds; you have to wait for this countdown to end before getting back in the action. This, in combination with the bleed out system often means you're out of the action for up to 50 seconds. 50 seconds! That's almost long enough to make a cup of tea, or, well, go on the internet and do that thing no-one likes to admit they're doing.
MAG's unforgiving nature, coupled with the amount of time you spend waiting to spawn, makes the game awfully frustrating. This is how most of our game modes felt: sprint for a minute to get back into the action, fire some shots, get killed by a sniper holed up behind some rock half a mile away, wait nearly a minute to respawn, rinse and repeat.
There are a number of simple gameplay additions that would have made MAG better in this regard. Why not have infinite sprint, for example? Not particularly realistic, but, let's be honest, MAG isn't particularly realistic, anyway. Or why not display the rolling spawn countdown as you bleed out, so you can time your spawn just before it resets? Or how about being able to do something meaningful while you wait to spawn, like check out other players and their load outs, or get some tips on the game mode you're playing? That alone would have improved the experience immensely.