MAG: review

  • Format: PS3
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
  • Developer: Zipper Interactive
  • Players: 1 (+Online Multiplayer)
  • Site: http://www.mag.com

Firefights can get quite intense!

Zipper Interactive made bold claims when they announced MAG. The thought of a 256 player online FPS had many salivating at the prospect of a full-on online war game, which went beyond the snack sized Team Deathmatch modes offered in other shooters. So how does MAG stand up to the peerless Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises?

The answer is very well. The game is a lot more tactical than Modern Warfare and its ilk, and using a headset is a must to organise squads of troops with there being so much at stake. When you start the game you must choose which faction you wish to join. You have a choice of Seryi Volk Executive Response or S.V.E.R, who are a coalition of forces from war torn countries in the Middle East and Russia, Raven industries who hail from Western Europe and have access to high tec equipment; and Valor Company, who are a coalition of troops from the US, Canada, the UK and Mexico and utilise standard military hardware. You must choose carefully as once you join a faction you’re stuck with them, unless you delete your character and lose any experiece they have gleaned. Once you’ve chosen your faction you get the option to customise your character, from his face to his in game voice. You can then select the weapons your Action Man carries into battle, whether you are the sniping sort or the all-guns-blazing type of player. The different factions all have similar weapons and upgradeable skills, so are all pretty well balanced. If you end up defending you can choose to become an engineer and repair gun emplacements and gates, which are crucial in slowing the attacking enemy down. Medics are also essential to keeping your troops pushing forward, and snipers can cause some damage from a distance. Once chosen it’s off to fight the Shadow War, which sounds like an episode of Doctor Who!

Parachuting leaves you open to enemy fire.

There are four game types to choose from when you start a game, although to begin with only two are available, with smaller 64 player battles: Suppression, a team deathmatch equivalent, with the two teams having a depleting ‘health’ bar, which reduces after each kill. Whichever team loses all of the bar loses the game. The other game is called Sabotage, which has the factions fighting over points A and B on the map. If the attacking team captures the two points, a third objective is unlocked, C, and the winning team is the one who captures or defends this point.

To be honest if you’ve only played these two modes you will think the game is above average, but nothing stunning. To really see the game at its best you need to work your way up the rankings until you unlock the final two game modes: Aquisition and Domination. The Aquisition mode features the attacking team’s attempts at stealing a vehicle from behind enemy lines, and ups the player count to 128. Domination on the other hand uses the maximum 256 players, but rather than pitching them all in together, which to be honest would be chaotic, they have split the war into smaller battles. Each squad has a leader who designates targets to acquire, and who has access to poison gas or cluster bomb attacks when required. If you follow your leader’s instructions, you gain double XP for your troubles, so lone wolves really need to fall into line, or they face a long arduous journey to getting promoted.

The massive levels have plenty of cover to cower behind.

The Domination mode features the strategic capturing of objectives, which then lead to the unlocking of central command points that when captured, end the battle. As well as these game winning objectives, there are a series of bunkers and facilities that when captured, give the attackers spawn points, and mounted turrets that the defending team need, to hold the attackers back. There are also facilities that supply vehicles, with the ability to traverse vast sections of the huge maps quicker than on foot, and adding firepower to your arsenal. These side objectives are not crucial, but can play a huge part in how the battle pans out.

The levels themselves are huge with plenty of sniper nests and buildings to negotiate, and are well designed. Although a lot of the levels feel quite similar; which shows a lack of imagination. The graphics are functional rather than exceptional, although that could be down to the number of players involved. During play we never noticed any lag in any game mode, and were never disconnected from the fray, which is a positive over the Modern Warfare games. Especially considering some game modes can last for 20 minutes! Zipper should be applauded for what they have done, and with a bit of polish in other areas this game could’ve been a classic. Perhaps in the inevitable sequel they will sort out the niggles, as the core of the game is sound. It does, however, feel very similar to the Battlefield series, with the vehicles playing an important role, and with Battlefield: Bad Company 2 looking especially good and ready to hit the shelves soon, they may struggle to hold their current audience for long.

MAG can be initially underwhelming compared to Modern Warfare 2, which has more realistically weighted weapons and smaller, more focused games. But give it time, and the unlocking of the later game modes really shows you what the game is all about. When you become a commander the game becomes more of a tactical affair, and designating targets and calling in support can be really enjoyable and satisfying as a result. Using headsets in the game is a must, but there still seems to be only a minority – mainly Americans – who actually do use them. As a result some games can be disjointed with some people doing their own thing, rather than following orders. But if you end up in a squad where there is a lot of communication, the game reaches a giddy height. It’s not quite the COD killer that Sony was hoping for, but it does bring something new to the battlefield, and is rewarding for those who put the effort in.


8/10

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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

One comment

  1. Shooter!fan /

    Ah shooters, gotta love-em. There’s Modern Warfare, Battlefield, Counterstrike, Team Fortress. You got Halo and Killzone, and there will be lotst more like Brink, Rage, Doom and Quake.

    And there’s MAG. MAG is about getting the job done with your squad, and move on. What a relief:) The true Modern Warfare on console.

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