The next-generation First Person Shooter, Massive Action Game or ‘MAG’ takes place in the year 2025 where a global war — The Shadow War — is in full swing. Three Corporations battle for the same concepts… resources and global dominance. Each network has their pros and cons and you’re asked to join one of them. But choose wisely because this will be the only corporation you can play for going forward. One character per PSN account. Stripped of a single-player campaign and only playable online, just how will this FPS and their “claim to fame” of 256 online multiplayer hold up?
Let’s get this out of the way now. MAG is a First-Person Shooter that can cram place up to 256 players on one of several maps. Developer Zipper Interactive has done a great job avoiding noticeable slow downs or lag. In huge games I felt smooth gameplay throughout. Although the game is said to be “Epic” (as in the scale of the game) it’s hard to notice that many players are on the map. Due to the battle structures and numerous and confusing objectives, at times you’ll “feel” like it’s a 16 vs 16 match. I felt MAGs larger battles increased the anonymity of your character. Due to the amount of chaos ensuing, you never felt like one particular opponent had you in his scope. The same is true when you’re attacking. Fighting against one soldier was not as inviting as picking off a group of 3 or 4. In this game the statement, “One bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” was not true. It’s a Massive game, so Massive killing is a pure turn on and should be the priority.
If you’re a solo artist, MAG is definitely not for you. This game screams Teamwork and you’ll immediately notice that before you hit the battlefield. You’ll want to stay connected with your squad talking through your headset along the way and plan out your mission(s). Take note, after you die you come back with “Squad Respawn points”. Thus letting you attack the opposition in waves so there’s a timer. Expect to wait up to 20 seconds to rejoin the battle. There are one of three game types which include Sabotage 32 vs 32 (destroy 2 terminals, then destroy final terminal), Acquisition 64 vs 64 (acquire transport vehicle and deliver back), and finally Domination 128 vs 128 (each platoon attacks a two pairs of towers, a pair of computer terminals within 3 stages).
Ranking up through Command structure. A full company of 128 players will be made up of four platoons, each of which are made up of four squads, each of which are made up of eight players. Designated players will command squads, platoons and companies. Sticking close to your squad members and leaders will increase your buffs such as faster reloads and increased re-spawn rates. Don’t just jump the gun yet as those “designated” players need to have the proper rank to command so “rank up”. Frago points are additional bonus points that are awarded when a squad leader gives a tactical objective (i.e. destroying a bridge) and you initiate a kill, heal, revive a teammate or destroy said bridge.
Visuals are for sissy’s. When I first played, I noticed similarities to Command and Conquer: Generals –the 3 factions, global dominance etc. Resembling graphics similar to Call of Duty 4 and Battlefield 2142 gives you the visuals and health system that make up MAG. MAG does not have regenerative health but instead your damage is healed with med kits. Because you can carry so many different types of weapons scrolling through the correct one on the battlefield is cumbersome. Don’t look for the best of graphics either. I mean it’s not terrible, but it’s OK for a FPS this late in the game running in 720p. MAG does boast sound quality from THX.
Select Private Military Corporation. This is where it all begins. Creating your character begins with choosing from 3 corporations (PMCs). Raven based in Vienna, Austria; Valor based in Alaska, United States; and S.V.E.R from Grozny, Chechen Republic. For those who love their colors, Ravens are represented in Purple, Valor in Green, and S.V.E.R. in Orange. When it comes to the battlefield, your team in always “blue” while the opponent is always “red”.
Barracks and Upgrades. Once you’ve gained enough XP points you should head over to the “skills” tab under “Barracks”. This is where you can customize your player with unlockables using “Skill Points”. Here you’ll be able to unlock weapons, perks and most importantly buy a Medic Kit. This kit is essential to any soldier on the battlefield to heal himself. If you upgrade your Medic Kit you’ll be able to revive fellow squad-mates or anyone who’s bleeding out and laying on the floor. And you’ll want to help as each resurrection gives you 10 XP over 5 XP points for a kill. Lastly, don’t forget to RESPEC your player when you surpass the amount. RESPECing your player will allow you to reset your “Skill Points” on any previous upgrades you’ve made. Simply press, square while in the “skills” tab under “barracks”. Consider it a “do over” if you made a poor judgment upgrade.
The gameplay of MAGs FPS mechanics are solid. They did not re-invent the wheel and kept the controls and buttons very similar to other FPS thus avoiding any learning curve. Believe me you’ll appreciate that when a quick decision pops up and you find yourself aiming with L1 and shooting with R1. The norm in the PS3 FPS genre.
My gripes with the game are primarily the lack of a second (or third) faction to choose. For example, I ended up joining the S.V.E.R. network but found out I had some friends who were part of Raven. I can see why Zipper Interactive decided to make this choice static instead of dynamic but the lack of “change” has many people crying out. If you did want to take the plunge and join one of the other two remaining PMCs, you’ll have to delete your character and rejoin… and start all over. No perks, no rankings. A Private! There’s also maintenance times that will prevent you from playing. While the times are short, MAG being solely an online multiplayer game you’re forced to play something else. The down times for the MAG servers are typically 4:00 am eastern time – 6:00 am eastern time.
– 64 up to 256 players on one map
– Squad based bonuses
– Large battlefields avoid bottlenecks
– One character per PSN account
– Online play only (no single player)
– Server maintenance = downtime
Final Thought: Fans of the Call of Duty series (COD4, COD:World At War and MW2) will find the engine satisfying and comparable. Take away MW2’s insta-knife-kill and you have a descent alternative for a FPS in MAG. However, I did find MAGs gameplay a bit slower than MW2 which could be a good thing for those who want to slow things down a bit. Comparing MAG with the highest grossing FPS on the market, Modern Warfare 2, is not fair but it’s what most gamers playing this genre know, myself included. Exclusive to the PS3, Zipper Interactive has dealt their cards and I believe they should “stay” on 16. They developed a great shooter with a chance to succeed, but shouldn’t over do it. I feel MAG will appeal to many different types of FPS fans. While this is a team based shooter, the soloist can still impact a match preferably as a sniper. For those who love MW2 you may find MAG fills in some gaps i.e. vehicles, medics and a command structure. And then there are the types of gamers that are never pleased. For the gamer who just wants to shoot, MAG should be on your list.