Hands on Impressions: MAG


Developer: Zipper Interactive
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Also on: N/A (PlayStation 3 exclusive)
Console Played on: PlayStation 3
Release Date: January 2010
Age Rating: PEGI 16

I’m walking about all over this massive place.

Tired, lost, exhausted and didn’t want to see no more of what I was seeing. It was made me angry seeing what I was seeing. It was not the ideal place to be in a massive place like this.

Then I seen two locals, they pointed me to the way to the Merrion Hotel in Dublin, so I could see MAG. What? Did you think I was referring to a battleground in the game and giving you a moral speech on war? Not me I’m afraid.

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Once there, I see a bit of the game thanks to other people playing the game, set up from eight demo pods. But after about five minutes of watching other people playing the game, Sony told me and other journalists to take our seats to see Zipper’s Creative Director Ed Byrne give a PowerPoint on the game. He started off by showing us the history of Zipper before moving onto MAG itself.

Once the half hour PowerPoint finished, I and fellow journalists were given a chance to ask our questions to Ed in a Q&A session. Needless to say, he did fill in some key aspects of the game like PvP, how much space the game has taken on a Blu-ray (he says they aren’t going to fill the Blu-ray entirely like Naughty Dog have with Uncharted 2 did, especially with stuff like “the making of the music of MAG” as Ed put it) as well as one other key aspect: DLC. Even if he couldn’t really answer it.

I cannot comment on that,” said Byrne, who was raised in Dublin, but was born in New Jersey. He does it admit though that it would be great” to do DLC for the game.

Once the Q&A session was up, we were free to go hands-on with it. Back when it was revealed last July at E3 2008 at the Shrine Auditorium, shown at the end of a conference which had kicked off with a demo of Resistance 2 which had a multiplayer of 60 players, a 256 player multiplayer concept sounded like madness. It wouldn’t work. The biggest problem would be lag. A 128 x 128 battlefield was just asking for trouble.

It’s good news then that in the hands-on in Dublin as well as my time with the beta back home, MAG mostly performs lag free. The scope of it is certainly something never done in a videogame anyways outside that of an MMO.

When you boot up the beta for the first time, you’re greeted by the choice to create your own character as well as pick which PMC you will be fighting for in the game: S.V.E.R., Raven and Valor. In a way, the character customisation is slightly similar to that of SOCOM: Confrontation. Once you’ve created the character you wish to go for and picked the PMC you wish to fight alongside with, you then go into action.

Once there, you’re at the menu where you can select gameplay modes to play in the beta. However, only one gameplay mode is available. You then join a queue to play in the game with your PMC alongside the other two to join in the “Shadow War”.

Why the queue though? You see, even when you’re not playing MAG, the Shadow War continues as a hierarchy. Even when you’re not playing, your PMC will be continue to fight as other players and depending if they’re winning or losing, they could be losing ground or picking up on it, even when you’re not on playing the game. If you want to be kept up to speed every day in the Shadow War, its best you get your war game, log on daily and get to it, soldier.  Once in, you then join up in an eight-man squad to play the game, as you take on other PMCs in battle.

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Once you’re in play, you squashed into an 8 man squad, commanded by someone who will have already gained enough experience to lead the squad. Even then, the eight man squad is a part of a 32-man platoon led by someone who will have had enough experience, rising up as a soldier and a squad leader. But to cap off the chain of command, you get your army commander. He will be the one who will be overlooking the four platoons which add up to 128 players per faction.

It’s worth noting that the chain of command can be led by you. As you progress in the Shadow War, you can work your way up to a position which can lead to you being a squad leader, a platoon leader or the leader of the entire army. This isn’t something the game does by itself. If you reach a position of power to lead a squad, platoon or army, you get to make the decisions which could affect the outcome of a battle. Every decision you make is unique and completely up to you.

Some of these leadership decisions include everything from calling in air strikes, HALO landings, and on-the-ground tactical decisions. Some of these decisions can affect the outcome of the battle you’d be in as you play, so be careful on what you do. You can go out and do your own thing if you feel like these commands are what you want to do. But the way the commands are tossed about, although unique, are similar to what the A.I. did before with Resistance 2, giving you different objectives each time

Needless to say, the scope of MAG is impressive. I think that much I have said already, but it can feel a bit too much sometimes. Although Zipper is implementing smaller modes then the main 256 mode, it can get a little daunting and confusing sometimes. Death is at every corner, so you’d need to keep your wits about you.

If you do go down, you better hope someone gets to you quick as you only have seconds before you bleed out and die. That is someone gets to you of course in time to save you. Oh, and prepare to go back to the old days of shooters, regenerative health is a no-no here. Lose health and you lose it for good, so hope you can take down some bad guys first before someone outwits you and kills you. So either hope someone with medic capabilities comes and rescues you or bleed-out, die and respawn. Speaking of which, depending on the mode you’re playing, some decisions from other factions can lead to tiny little things happening in the game besides the big battle defining decisions, like respawn time delays.

For example, you’re five seconds away from respawning after dying from a headshot by a sniper, when all of a sudden an airstrike comes in and blitzes an entire area. Respawn time has now gone from three seconds to roughly twenty five seconds. Hell, you may get unlucky and the blitz takes out the bunker you can possibly respawn in (although of course, you can respawn elsewhere).

Once your game is done, you are then taken to the stats screen. There, you see how much XP you have collected from the game (more XP is collected if you do certain objectives in the match), as well as see if you’ve ranked up a level or two, and see if you are one step closer to becoming a leader.

I have to admit there is a couple of niggling things about the beta though. Of course, it is a beta and there is still time to fix all of these, but why on earth do I have to press L2 and then R1 to use a grenade? Instead of letting me cycle through to go through certain things to get a grenade and then pressing another button to use it, just let throw a grenade with one button.

And L3 doesn’t seem to be doing anything unless I am not noticing something. That MUST be used as a melee sort of button. It’s a must now for all shooters to have some sort of melee button for CQC. It just doesn’t feel right without it if I am honest.

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Overall: MAG has the potential to become something special in the shooter genre, maybe even as a whole for gaming if done right. An MMOFPS with 128 vs 128 256 players and little to no lag is something which can become a benchmark for gaming.

But again, if only done right.

And so far, bar a couple of things needed to iron out (especially the controls), it seems to be on the right track.

2 Responses to “Hands on Impressions: MAG”

  1. “Lose health and you lose it for good”

    You can purchase a healing kit which heals you once you get a few skill points.

    “And L3 doesn’t seem to be doing anything unless I am not noticing something. That MUST be used as a melee sort of button. It’s a must now for all shooters to have some sort of melee button for CQC. It just doesn’t feel right without it if I am honest.”

    L3 is run and R3 allows you to use a knife even though it is a bit crappy and they do need to make it more effective in the full game. But again you can upgrade it using skill points although you need to use quite a few to do so.

    Other than those points quite a good read.

  2. Luke Evans Says:

    still waiting for the beta competition winners to be annoucned