It’s no doubt that by now, if you own a PS3, you’ve downloaded the MAG open beta and run it through its paces a bit. And by this point you’ve probably made the decision if you are going to buy it or not when it comes out on January 26th. And chances are, if you played the game for less than an hour-or-two, you’ve decided to not purchase the game and have gone back to playing MW2.
So if I’m right and that’s your story, I have written this mini-review on the beta just for you in hopes that you’ll give MAG a little more time—because if you haven’t put in a good bit of time getting to know the game, you haven’t really uncovered many of the things that make MAG so addictive. Sure, once the full game comes out later this month my little review will probably mean squat, but it should at least give you an idea of what to expect with the full release.
Let’s first start out by addressing the pink elephant in the room: MAG’s graphics don’t look to be on par with a certain shooter that came out a few months ago. Frankly, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 makes MAG look like a PS2 game. But once you consider the amount of action going on and the ridiculous number of players on the screen at once, you see that the subpar graphics are justified. If MW2 had as many players as MAG does playing in one game at the same time, you could bet your noobtube you’d have complete network failure.
Zipper Interactive has really raised the bar in terms of player-count on consoles. Gears Of War 2 maxes out at a mere 10 players. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 allows only 18. Battlefield: Bad Company has room for 24. Killzone 2 boasts 32 players. MAG lets 256 (TWO-HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FRIGGIN-SIX) players shoot at each other at the same time and runs near-flawlessly while doing it.
Impressed? You should be.
MAG’s not running perfectly quite yet, though—occasionally servers would go down and drop me from games (usually when I was doing really well, which was maddening). And sometimes it took a while to get in to a game, but only a few times did I experience lag during play—and it was always very minor. Of course, these things are to be expected with such an ambitious player-count; and that’s why the beta is public, after all. By the time MAG hits shelves, most of these issues should be fixed.
Now lets look at the actual gameplay of MAG. Playing with 256 players is as hectic as it sounds. In the two game types available in the beta, Sabotage and Domination, your main goal is to either attack or defend control points across the game’s large maps. Sabotage is like “Domination-Lite”—as you only have three structures to attack or defend and only 64 players playing at once. Think of it as training for the enormous Domination, which Zipper probably figured was too big to jump right in to and start playing. Domination, as stated before, is seriously huge. It has the same basic premise as Sabotage but adds manned-turrets, bombing-runs, UAV’s, advanced squad-perks and a vehicle-or-two that you can control.
Some of the advanced features (like airstrikes and squad-perks) require you to be a Squad Leader, Platoon Leader or Officer in Charge. Becoming one of these leader-types takes quite a bit of leveling up but gives you abilities that can change the tide-of-war in a second for you and your comrades.
The whole thing sort of plays like a mash-up of Battlefield: Bad Company, Modern Warfare and SOCOM. And at this point MAG may not be as good as any of those—but it definitely deserves a good portion of your time. Zipper has crafted a game that finally makes you feel like you’re a small piece in a really large war—which is probably how you would feel in an actual war. Trust me, MAG will inspire developers to think bigger, and that’s good for all of us. Can you imagine playing Call OF Duty: Modern Warfare 6 with 500 players? I can, and it’s all thanks to MAG—the father of Massive Action Games.