Zipper Interactive, creators of the popular SOCOM game series, have made their first sortie into PS3 territory with their massive first-person-shooter, MAG. The game promises huge 256 player battles delivered exclusively online, on PlayStation Network. This technological feat, along with player customization, and the fine-tuned trappings of a current-gen FPS attempt to edge this past competition like Modern Warfare 2.
Back in the day, first-person-shooters used to be my bread and butter. I’d play constantly, and was always on the top of my game. I now play a much broader variety of games. At that point, though, my chosen weapon in any multiplayer title was the sniper rifle. When I picked up MAG I was psyched about jumping in and restarting my sniping career.
After creating a character and choosing one of the three in-game factions, Zipper Interactive then offers players the chance to build out their character’s gear and purchase skills that allow for more fine-tuned play per class. I of course set out from the start devoting all my hard earned points into the marksman category, but others are available that benefit rifles, shotguns, sub-machine guns, and support classes. It’s a nice touch, and I always welcome any form of customization in a first-person-shooter.
Choose wisely though! If you come to regret your skill purchases, and would like to change them, you’ll have to save up a ton of “respec points” that allow you to reset your character. On top of that, make sure you pick a faction you want to stick with because if you change your mind, be prepared to delete your character and lose all the hard work you’ve already poured in.
Once you get through creating your character, you need to get a few levels before you can utilize all four of the game’s modes. The four being:
Domination – An all out war between 256 players that tasks squads with holding defensive positions, or attacking them depending on your side.
Acquisition – 128 players battle it out over either stealing, or defending, two prototype transports. This mode is very vehicle centric.
Sabotage – This mode has become my favorite as it’s the least chaotic, it’s a battle between 64 players in which one side is tasked with defending two objectives, and then if all else fails a third final objective.
Suppression – The first game mode you have access to is also a 64 player battle, but is labeled a training exercise in which you battle members of your own faction. It basically translates to team death match.
One of the biggest downfalls of MAG is the lack of variety in maps. Each game mode, besides Suppression, has three different maps – one for each faction. Suppression additionally has one map. This makes for a total of ten different maps. Playing these maps gets incredibly tedious. What also contributes to this is that in each map your faction will always fulfill the same role. You will always defend in your home map, and always attack in the others.
This brings me to my next issue – the fact that I feel the maps aren’t balanced. Each game mode will display the amount of players participating from each faction, and the numbers are skewed. As a member of the Raven faction, you’ll often find only 900 participants in Domination; versus the over 2000 players each of the other factions are fielding. The reason being - the maps are often lopsided. Raven players prefer Acquisition because it is much easier to win. This can prove frustrating if you’re interested in trying out a different mode.
The game-play is what you would expect from any modern day FPS. Though, Zipper Interactive decided to go the health point’s route versus what is seen in games like Modern Warfare 2 – where they aren’t visible and rapidly refill if you fall back. Other than that it is solid, smooth, and fast paced. Even with 256 players the game always ran consistently at a high frame rate, and I didn’t find myself having any lag issues. That in itself is quite the achievement, especially on such a large scale.
My last huge beef with MAG is the balance inconsistencies in class. What I find is that most people tend to use an assault rifle, and for good reason. Up close, they do heavy damage rapidly, and at a distance they are virtually as accurate as a sniper rifle. This can steadily get more and more trying. As I said earlier, I decided to completely spec Marksman. I’m completely decked out with all the best sniper gear, and hang back usually at about 120-160 meters. Enemies in my scope are often the size of an ant, and I have to be prone, using a bipod to keep the rifle steady. If the enemy catches wind of where I am, someone toting an assault rifle can dispatch me more easily than any enemy sniper. The reason being – they spray and pray with their incredibly accurate rifle, and rip through my light armor in an instant.
With the games map and class imbalances aside I feel MAG is a great game. I think these issues can easily be addressed with patches and DLC, and hope Zipper Interactive will do so. If you’re a hardcore first person shooter gamer or a fan of games like the Battlefield series, I’d highly recommend picking it up. If there are other games on your radar, I’d suggest you wait till the price goes down, and the patches come out. I give MAG a 7/10.