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MAG – The PS3 Attitude (p)Review

Submitted by on Tuesday, 26 January 20105 Comments

Last week, as many of you following the #MAG256 tag on Twitter will know (and if you’re not following @PS3Attitude, now would be a good time to do so), we and 127 other gamers were invited to try out MAG.

A mixture of journalists and community members battled it out through the day, leading up to a 256-player match against Zipper, the developers behind the new FPS on the block.

Whilst we received our review copy of the game the very next day, the servers to allow play weren’t switched on at the time, so we have decided to do something a little different with our MAG review.

MAG is set in 2025. The storyline itself is one we’ve seen before; full scale military has become useless thanks to the ‘Millennium Accord’, a treaty that states no army can leave its own border. In place of traditional military presence, Private Military Corporations (PMCs) rise up in their place.

PMCs compete with each other, which lowers the cost of going to war. And they are allowed to work for any country or organisation, anywhere in the world.

The PMCs eventually end up battling each other in an attempt to reduce the effective numbers across the competing factions, ensuring they are more likely to win the all-important contracts that bring revenue into the business. This ‘shadow war’, as Zipper call it, leads to the eventual practice of each faction fighting for the right to win the most contracts.

The three factions available in the game are as follows:

  • Seryi Volk Executive Response, known as S.V.E.R. (and pronounced ‘Sever’) – a bare-bones force with personnel drawn from war-torn countries in the Middle East and Russia. At PS3 Attitude, we like to think of them as the Spetsnaz GRU.
  • Raven Industries – a faction with high-tech weapons and armor, comprising of West European soldiers. Our real-world parallel for this team are the Korps Commandotroepen from The Netherlands.
  • Valor Company – whose are equipped with standard weapons that feature limited technological advances, who comprise of seasoned veterans from the United States, United Kingdom and Mexico. They look like Marines, act like Marines and sound like Marines.

So now you have the back story, what kind of review can this possibly be, given we had around 12 hours of exposure to MAG via both the European Beta programme and the MAG256 event?

Well, not much of one, as it turns out. But there’s a good reason for that, and we think you should keep on reading.

You see, MAG is not going to be one of those titles that you can just pick up and play, and then put down again until you’re in the mood. To play MAG in such a way would be folly, and counter-intuitive to what Zipper have planned for the title.

Let us explain.

War, huh! What is it good for? Winning contracts, apparently...

Unlike other recent FPS blockbuster titles, where the graphics are ‘better-than-average’ and the ranking system allows you to gain a few perks here and there, MAG is a different concept all together.

The graphics in MAG aren’t going to make you sit up and say ‘wow’ like you did when you first played Killzone 2. Neither are they going to make you say ‘yuck’. Zipper clearly needed to make some concessions to ensure that 256 players could enjoy a simultaneous battle experience, but they have still done a good job with the general look and feel of the game.

The sound in MAG isn’t going to win any awards either. You’re not going to hear lots of chit-chat from real people around you, and the chat system relies on you being close enough to your team-mates in order to be able to hear them. That level of realism will be liked by many, and some will be annoyed that you can’t enjoy a ‘squad radio’ effect.

And the controls aren’t exactly standard either. You have to switch to a grenade before you can throw it – no single-button lobbing in this game. The control mechanism does require a little extra practice at the beginning, just like it did when you first tried to climb a ladder in Warhawk.

But given all these things there is one clear feeling that MAG left us with, both in the Beta and during the massively multiplayer event.

MAG is fun, and likeable.

Unlike his 127 mates, Clint decided to leg it...

Indeed, Warhawk is the closest we can come to a real comparison. Sure, Warhawk wasn’t the prettiest game on the block, but you wouldn’t roll over it in bed to get to Haze. And the controls were a little quirky, but that just meant you needed to give the game 20 minutes before they became second nature.

But the reason people kept going back to Warhawk time and time again was because it was just sheer good fun. And with the DLC made available after release, it was the game that kept on giving. Added to that the fact that Warhawk always had variety thanks to the range of vehicles available, allowing you to vary your attack strategies on the fly, or plan them in advance.

MAG feels just like Warhawk to us in every way – including the vehicle choices. But here’s the best bit, and the reason we can’t review this title fully today.

MAG takes place in a persistent battle-space that will take a month to complete each time. You’ll join a faction, and then your actions and the results of your team-mates will decide whether your entire faction wins one, two or no contracts. As you go along, you’ll earn skill points that allow you to upgrade and update your weapons, armour, equipment and clothing to ensure you become a better killing machine as time goes on.

That level of expansion, persistence and customisation just cannot be reviewed without playing for 30-60 hours on live servers.

So the best way we can review MAG is in two parts. We hope this early (p)review has given you enough information to base a buying decision on, but we’ll be back in a couple of weeks to give you our final verdict in Part Two.

That’s when we’ll be able to tell you whether the persistent battle works, and we’ll reveal more on how Zipper incentivise you to work as part of a small team, ensuring that you and your 127 buddies win the battle-du-jour in unison.

If that wasn’t enough, look out for our interview with Zipper later this week, where we’ll be answering all the questions you – our delectable followers – asked us via the @PS3Attitude account on Twitter.

Until then, dear readers.