Review: MAG

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Sony made huge promises two years ago with MAG. We got a surprise announcement at E3 about a game that will support 256 players. This was unprecedented in console gaming. With the power of the PS3 and Zipper Interactive’s history, I was confident they could pull it off. Although the first beta I tested out left a bad taste in my mouth, once I played the final code I could rest easy.

Anytime you do something as massive as this on a console, sacrifices have to be made. While some may say the graphics are sub-standard for a PS3 game, I think the balance between the look of the game and the solid gameplay is justifiable. In my opinion, MAG looks as good as a first gen PS3 title. There’s lots of detail in the characters and environment. It lacks the special effects and polish of a Killzone 2 game, but has faster paced gameplay. There may be some that will tell you graphics are more important these days but I will ALWAYS put gameplay over graphics.

What is MAG all about? Because of a huge world treaty called the Millennium Accord, countries were no longer allowed to invade other countries. They were allowed to defend their country behind their own borders and that’s pretty much it. Because of the Millennium Accord, there were also restrictions on military sizes. This forced governments to hire mercs and soldiers of fortune. MAG is the stage for a huge shadow war that is fought between 3 PMCs(Private Military Companies). PMCs are on a higher level than mercs. They handle dirty work for their governments and because they have no allegiance, they can pretty much do what they please. The 3 PMCs in the shadow war are Raven, SVER and Valor.

There’s no single player campaign in MAG. It’s all multiplayer online. After customizing my character I was dropped into the meat grinder. The first thing you might say to yourself when you play MAG is, “WTF do I do?” There is a learning curve to this game. There is so much going on that your best bet is to listen to your squad leader and the in game voice prompts. There are 6 different game types for you to choose from. Directives randomly pulls you into a battle that you’re needed in. In other words, if your character is needed somewhere, this mode will find a spot for you. Suppression is MAG’s version of deathmatch. The goal here is to accumulate kills. Sabotage is similar to Domination in MW2. You have to secure 3 objectives. When you secure the first two a third one will open up and if you secure the third objective you win the game. In Aquisition you must steal 2 vehicles from the enemy and escape. It’s harder than it sounds. Finally in Domination, you have to destroy your enemies fuel facilities. After securing 2 towers you move on to the next 2 and then to the final objective of securing the enemies control panels.

The PMC is broken down into platoons and squads. There are 8 people per squad, 32 people per platoon and 128 people per army. It kind of reminds me of Planetside because as you level up and gain leadership abilities, you have access to more goodies like mortars, strafing runs, UAV, tacticle strikes and rapid deployment. This game has so many things you can do it’s overwhelming. What’s even cooler is the highest in command, the OIC can speak to the entire army over the radio. This game is heavily dependent on communication and usually there are only 2 or 3 people per squad who are communicating. With this in mind, imagine how frustrating it is when you are lying on the ground bleeding out and several medics just run by you and let you die. Funny thing is, communication isn’t needed to know a man is down. It’s all on the radar.

There are 30 different guns in the game. Raven has the slickest arsenal. They have all modern up to date weaponry while SVER’s guns look like they’ve been resold through illegal arms dealers. The guns are great but it takes a lot of play time to unlock the guns you want in your skill tree. Once you find that weapon that nets you the most kills, stick with it and use your points for other skills like Anti-Personal mines and resuscitation.

Not unlike MW2 and BFBC2, MAG has load outs you can setup. You can mix and match weapons and gadgets depending on what you want to use that loadout for. I have an engineer load out, 3 medic load outs and a sniper load out. All of these can be fully customized. For those who finish their skill tree and aren’t happy with it can respec and do the entire tree over again. If you’ve played games like World Of Warcraft you’ll know that this is standard practice. If you like being a medic than specialize in it. If you are a CQC guy, then build your spec to suit that.

Fighting in MAG is a mixed bag. I have a lot of trouble sniping because people never sit still. It’s hard to sit still in this game unless you are a sniper. So it becomes a game of ‘Enemy At The Gates’. Then again I haven’t updated to the LRSS yet which is MAGs version of the Intervention. I’ve also sat on a bridge and plugged bullets into at least 15 players and not taken them down. Players LOVE the LMG’s in this game as they are instant killers. 9 times out of 10 I was getting killed by an LMG or Sniper rifle.

While this game should be heavy on communication it’s not. I’m also to blame for this because I hate my bluetooth headset so I don’t use it. Also, I’m more encouraged to communicate with people I know instead of strangers. Those have been the best games I’ve played.

MAG really needs a hardcore mode. There’s nothing like dumping 8 bullets into someone just to kill them. It would also be nice if they fixed the splash damage on rockets and heavy vehicle weaponry. If a shell lands next to a body it should go down. It would also be nice if there was an offline mode for the game. Maybe something with bots that you could practice in. If the servers are down, you aren’t playing and for $60, I should be able to play whenever I want.

MAG was a huge gamble and it looks like it has paid off. It’s an FPS experience unlike no other on consoles. It doesn’t use the most modern tech graphically, but gameplay wise, MAG will grow on you as it did me. There’s vehicles, parachuting, heavy weaponry and chemical warfare. I can see myself playing this game after other AAA FPS games are released later this year. Take your time, give MAG a chance and you may just love it.

Final Score: [Rating:3.5/5]

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