Wednesday, February 3, 2010

MAG - Massive Action Game

MAGMAG is, without a doubt, the biggest shooter to ever hit the PS3 ans it has finally arrived to the wanting public. MAG, or Massive Action Game, is a team based shooter that promises to deliver online play on a scale unheard of to any console game. But is what the game promises enough to pull people away from Modern Warfare 2?

The game's story line takes place in the year 2035 where the world as we know it has devolved into an arena for three different paramilitary corporations that engage in global battles in the name of "world peace". Players can choose from three different factions. The first is Valor, which is primarily North American forces. Then there is Raven, a latte-sipping European force with high-tech weapons and finally there is S.V.E.R which is comprised of the former Warsaw Pact nations as well as the Middle east.

Being a semi-futuristic game, most of the weaponry is still familiar with assault rifles, SMGs and rocket launchers. Most guns are not licensed which means your gun may look, feel and act like an AK-47 but run under the name of an AK-12. When you first start off you are only allowed to use the most basic weapons just as you do in MW2 with more advanced weapons being unlocked as you gain notoriety in your faction.

As you level up you earn points by gaining one point per level gained. Minor skill upgrades, like longer grenade tosses, only cost you one point whereas most weapons attachments (grips, sights, etc...) cost two with new weapons costing you three points or more. You can unlock whatever you want whenever you want to providing you have the points and you can even reset your points every 10 levels. Just like in MW2, weapons and equipment can be added to one of 5 loadout templates that can be switched during respawn times. Each of your loadouts consists of one primary weapon, one sidearm and then can be upgraded with rocket launchers, explosives repair kits and tons of other niffty items.

MAG focuses it's experience rewards on teamwork by doing things like giving you twice as much XP for reviving a downed teammate as you would earn from killing an enemy. Unlike in MW2 your health does not regenerate so medkits are very very important. This adds a whole new mechanic to the online play. Instead of insulting your teammates for sucking you will need to ask for help and thank them for helping you which, as many of us know, is something you hardly ever hear in an online shooter.

The maps in MAG are massive (as the title hints to) and there are objectives everywhere which means a lot of things are going to be happening at once making the channeling of troops difficult. This is where the game's squad leaders come into play. Each game has players split into 8 squads with each squad being split into platoons making up the offensive or defensive forces. At each level, a leader is assigned (i.e. Squad Leader, Platoon Leader or Officer in Charge (OIC)). Squad leaders have the ability to call in air strikes or artillery, set up waypoints or provide directives called FRAGOs which consist of things like protecting or destroying buildings or objects. If players obey the squad leader's commands then they will receive bonus experience. If you ignore them, which most players will tend to do at first, you won't lose any xp, just the fight.

Platoon Leaders and OICs can not assign FRAGOs but are capable of applying physical bonuses to nearby troops. By doing this the Platoon Leaders and OICs can receive things like UAVs, scatter bombs or bunker-busting ammo. But again none of that stuff matters in the game when people do not listen to their Squad Leaders and people just do not like working together in online shooters. The way a person becomes a leader is also somewhat flawed. The position of Squad Commander is unlocked when the player reaches level 15 but in order to advance to positions like platoon leader and OIC you need to earn leadership points by actually leading your troops which is hard in a genre where nobody listens to anybody. The choosing of a leader where multiple people are eligible is completely random and it may take you a long time before you get to take control. Add this to leaders without microphones or ones who only complain about their team and you are in a no win situation.

Now when the developers entitled this game Massive Action Game they meant it. MAG supports insane 256-player matches and there were questions as to whether or not the PS3's infrastructure could handle it. Well MAG handles it pretty well. There is some lag in the gameplay but no more than you would expect in any other shooter. The network code for MAG is solid but the rest of the game is a bit weak. At its absolute worst the game can feel like a tech demo and there is also a complete lack of a single-player campaign as well as any useful training. The game also has repetitive character models, bland atmospheres and generic sound effects making the game lack a certain personality that other games, like MW2, seem to have.

MAG stands for Massive Action Game which is exactly what it is and which is the sole biggest strength and sole biggest weakness of the game. The lack of a tutorial makes for a steep, experience only learning curve, the weapons need more variety and the graphics resemble something that we may have seen at the launch of the PS3. Despite these issues the game can be really fun or really bad depending on the community you are playing in. If you can get yourself on a team with competent teammates and a leader that knows what he is doing then you will have a truly unique and enjoyable experience. This PS3 exclusive is available now.

Source: G4TV

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