GOONL!NE Review: MAG

Developer: Zipper Interactive
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Also on: N/A
Console Played On: PlayStation 3
Release Date: January 29th 2010
Age Rating: ESRB M, PEGI 16

When MAG was first announced, there was one number in the forefront of everyone’s mind. 256. On the PlayStation 3 Resistance 2 was the former champion for large scale online play, with 60 players in a game it was at the time considered large-scale for a console, but at E3 2008, Zipper blew everyone away with their claim of 256 players, making the game effectively an FPS MMO in scale. Ambitious? You bet it is. Successful? Well, almost.

The online first person shooter genre is dominated by the ubiquitous Modern Warfare 2 so let’s get the comparison done early in the review and get it out of the way. Like Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising before it, trying to apply tactics from Infinity Ward’s shooter here will end in you getting a prompt kick up the backside. MAG is all about working as a team.

If you end up in a squad of like-minded individuals, it’s a highly satisfying romp packed with action galore, but end up in a team of individuals who want to go off and do their own thing, chances are it’s all going to go awry. Indeed, you might find many a match where Modern Warfare 2 tactics will be applied and it may ultimately descend into chaos but despair not, persevere and the true MAG will show itself.

In a similar vein to all online FPS’s post-Call of Duty 4, there is an online ranking system where progression brings with it perks to unlock, be they better guns and attachments to upgrading your solider. Character creation is similar to that of SOCOM: Confrontation in that it allows moderate customisation of your solider but not to the extent that some pedants might enjoy.

You have the choice of 3 PMC’s to choose from at the outset of the game. There is Raven, smart and at the forefront of technology, they offer a classy option. Then there is Valor who are basically the Americans and lastly there is S.V.E.R., who are a coalition of war-worn soldiers from nations in the Middle East and Russia. Even when you’re not fighting, your PMC continues to wage war against the other factions, leave the game for a week or two and the whole war could be turned on it’s head.

The ranking system in MAG is a highly satisfying progression, through which you don’t just unlock new guns but become a leader of men in the process. Lowly ranked soldiers are mere grunts in the grand scheme of things but hardened veterans are rewarded with the ability to lead squads into battle and help dictate the outcome. This helps MAG to differentiate itself from other FPS’s.

As for the actual gameplay mechanics behind MAG, they’re pretty solid, a halfway house between the heavy feel of Killzone 2 and the slick, arcadey feel to Modern Warfare 2. MAG harks back to the old days before regenerative health, you get shot in this game, it’s gonna hurt you until you can get your hands on a med-kit. Getting shot to the point of critical results in two things; you bleed out and die quickly to get into the action, or you can lie there in the hope that some kind soul comes along to revive you. More often than not however (due to the large scale of the game) there’ll be someone nearby with some medical expertise to get you back on your feet.

General gameplay consists of 4 main modes, most of which will be similar to you if you’ve played an online FPS before. There is nothing startlingly out of the ordinary that’ll take time to really get used to. All the gameplay modes split you into either the attacker or the defender. The first mode you’ll encounter is Suppression, essentially team deathmatch with 64 players; Sabotage, again featuring 64 players, where your objective is to destroy three targets on the map.

After sufficiently levelling, you start to unlock the big boys. Acquisition doubles the player count to 128, where your mission is to steal enemies vehicles deep from within their compound and escort them to the extraction point. Last up is Domination,where you get to experience MAG in it’s full 256 player glory. The aim here is that you’ve got 30 minutes to take down a series of objectives culminating in the destruction of the defender’s oil refinery.

Design wise, MAG isn’t going to set the world on fire. The game looks solid, nothing more than that, though hooking the game up to a surround sound set-up, it does sound fantastic. Outside of the combat, menus are functional if erring on the side of being slightly clunky.

Final Thoughts: At the beginning of the review, the question was posed as to whether MAG was successful in what it set out to achieve, large-scale warfare. Well, almost and possibly are two answers that will stand by that question for the mean time. The game will live or die by the strength of it’s online community. At this stage, it’s bulging at the seams with life, and as it continues to mature, the gameplay should improve. Players will become more in-tune with what needs to be done to win games, and that can only boost it’s credentials.

However, some may find MAG too bland, too middle-of the-road, and with Bad Company 2 edging closer and closer by the day, many players may find themselves unable to resist Battlefield’s trade-mark excellence online.

Gameplay: 8 – Well-paced and has reasonable variation, and when working with a team can provide some fantastic moments, though players acting thinking they’re John Rambo and can can win a battle by themselves could sour the experience.

Graphics: 7 – They’re… alright. Nothing here is going to blow you away by any means but there is nothing that is going to offend your eyes either. Some odd glitches were encountered like bodies spasming in mid-air but there is nothing game-breaking present.

Sound: 7 – No killer soundtrack, just the standard fare of manly grunts and shouting coupled with lots of explosions and machine gun fire.

Overall: 7 – Invest time and MAG will reward you greatly. MAG is a great technical accomplishment by all accounts but a lack of variety may leave the game only appealing to the hardcore.

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