MAG – The PS3 Attitude Review: Part 2
Well, as we mentioned in our (p)review (or Review part 1, if you will) a few weeks ago, MAG is an ever evolving game. We saw it’s potential and recognised what Zipper Interactive was trying to achieve, and as such decided to play test the game for several weeks to really give you an idea of what MAG is about, and to do the game justice.
This will be no five hour ‘7 out of 10’ review – this will be the combined thoughts of Team Attitude who have dedicated a vast amount of time to what surely must be one of the great online games.
First up – a quick run down of how MAG came about. The game didn’t exactly have an easy ride to retail. Unveiled at E3 2008, Sony showed off a brief pre-rendered cut scene with an unbelievable claim – 256 online players.
There seemed to be a lot of negativity surrounding the game – no one quite believed the claims, but development continued nonetheless.
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.
Players can choose to be a member of one of three PMCs in their quest to dominate the ‘Shadow War’ – essentially PMCs trying to sabotage one another to gain the upper hand and win contracts. The PMCs are;
This choice does not really effect how the game plays, and we found it to be mainly cosmetic.
Jump into the main menu and you will find things are disappointingly sparse at first. I think most peoples natural reaction would be to jump straight into the big 256 match just to see if it actually works – but you aren’t allowed to do that, it needs to be unlocked by ranking up.
On the face of it that seems annoying, but it’s a very good plan by Zipper Interactive. To be able to compete effectively in the big games you need to practice. MAG isn’t in the same vein as other, flashier FPS games. If Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a ‘run and gun’, then MAG is a ‘sprawl and crawl’.
You can charge forward into the heat of battle, but you will be cut down in seconds. This is very much the patient, thinking persons FPS – and therefore takes a lot of getting used to.
When you start the game you are given very basic kit – which is unfortunately a bit uninspiring. Don’t get us wrong, the weapons are perfectly serviceable but they lack a bit of ‘wow’. Stick with it though, because the unlocks are worth it.
Ranking up will earn you skill points which can be spent on upgrading your character and weapons. A word of advice, think hard about what path you want to go down before spending your hard earned skill points – as once they are spent, you can’t unspend them for a long time.
Will you be a sniper? Or perhaps field support? Maybe infantry? The choice is there for you and has a huge impact on how you play the game – and how you spend your skill points.
Before each match every character gets to pick a ‘loadout’, comprising of a large weapon, small weapon, attachments and several other items such as a medical kit. This adds a nice little strategic flavour to proceedings, and followers of our MAG Monday articles will know that everyone eventually settles on a favourite loadout and will generally focus on upgrading that.
The weapons on offer feel and sound chunky, like they can do some real damage. Whilst you won’t be offered dozens of guns, the selection you eventually end up with is varied enough – and they can all be customized.
MAG also rewards its most dedicated players. Reach certain ranks and you unlock different items of clothing to lavish upon your character. Whilst this sounds a bit like a Nintendo DS game, it can prove psychologically quite effective. If you see someone running towards you with a rank 60 item of clothing, you just know you’re about to be shot – most likely in the face.
Step into a match and one of the first things you will notice is that MAG has a very definite structure;
There is regular infantry, which is where you start your MAG campaign.
Next on the list is Squad Leader, who is responsible for one squad of eight men and gives commands in the form of Fragmentary Orders, or FRAGOs. A FRAGO tells squad members to focus on particular tactical tasks.
Rank up further and you will make Platoon Leader, who is responsible for 32 men across four squads. An attacking platoon is given an opposing set of objectives as a defending platoon; it’s up to the Platoon Leader to make sure these objectives are accomplished.
Then there is the ultimate goal – Officer In Charge (OIC). The OIC is responsible for the overall success or failure of a mission and controls the command abilities of his Platoon and Squad Leaders. Become an OIC and the buck stops with you.
This adds a sense of progression to the game that other online shooters can’t match. Fed up with your OICs performance in the last match? Then rank up and become one yourself – put your money where your mouth is.
Without meaning to sound dramatic, even the smaller 64 player matches are intense. Whilst we would never suggest the game is realistic, you do get a constant sense that you are but a small cog in a much larger machine. Battles ebb and flow, and there have been times where all seems lost – only for a heroic fight back to occur. MAG makes you feel good, and more importantly, part of a team.
On the whole the MAG community has really grasped and understood what the game is about. Our biggest fear was that the game would just have 256 ‘lone wolves’ roaming around the map, and everything would descend into chaos – but this hasn’t happened.
Medics scour the field looking for injured team mates to heal, snipers take up position to provide cover for the infantry – who duly make their way towards the enemy base. It’s a joy to behold, and something Zipper Interactive and the community can be proud of. You guys have really made this game.
MAG isn’t perfect though. A few more maps at the start would have really gone down a treat, as hardcore players will have no doubt seen everything ten times over now.
The biggest problem though is how MAG presents itself at the very beginning to new players. It’s sparse and hard to get into, the pace is manic and on the surface it offers very little reward. To make the most out of this epic game takes perseverance, and we worry that with other games offering instant gratification, MAG won’t receive the accolades it deserves.
We can’t recommend this game enough, and feel it is something everyone should at least try once. Don’t let the games earlier BETA code put you off – things have come on leaps and bounds.
You can tell this game is a labour of love, as Zipper Interactive has been extremely busy listening to feed back and issues patches to make sure MAG is as good as it can be.
And with the news of impending DLC, we just know this game is destined for great things.
If you see us on the battlefield, don’t forget to say hi – unless you’re looking at us through a snipers scope, in that case move along!