(http://www.mag.com/) Rated Teen by ESRB. In another bold move to bring online gaming to PS3, Sony released the online-multiplayer only title MAG. The Redmond-based developer Zipper Interactive seemed promising for this title with their long history of SOCOM games, with plenty of experience making tactical shooters. With the tactical element, MAG offers more than the typical rush-out-and-die pattern found in other shooters. Seemingly unable to satisfy its ambition with just being an online-only console game, MAG is a massively multiplayer first person shooter that features a mode capable of supporting 256 players. While 256 players sound to be a lot of people, MAG is far from being an organizational mayhem thanks to its thorough design.

(http://www.mag.com/) Rated Teen by ESRB. In another bold move to bring online gaming to PS3, Sony released the online-multiplayer only title MAG. The Redmond-based developer Zipper Interactive seemed promising for this title with their long history of SOCOM games, with plenty of experience making tactical shooters. With the tactical element, MAG offers more than the typical rush-out-and-die pattern found in other shooters. Seemingly unable to satisfy its ambition with just being an online-only console game, MAG is a massively multiplayer first person shooter that features a mode capable of supporting 256 players. While 256 players sound to be a lot of people, MAG is far from being an organizational mayhem thanks to its thorough design.

Presentation:

MAG takes place in the near future on Earth, where nations agreed to no longer use their military outside their country. This in turn gave rise to private military companies that took on various military campaigns on behalf of the countries. But that background information is not nearly as significant as the 3 major factions who are available for the player to join. Upon connecting to MAG’s server for the first time, the player is greeted with recruitment videos from the three factions. Then the player will pick the faction that their one and only character will stay with for quite a while, as his loyalty is ensured digitally.

As an online multiplayer game, the experience with MAG is largely determined by the player base. The makers of MAG had gone to extraordinary length to ensure the presence of the community of players. The standard features include adding friends and joining a clan in-game. The most convenient part about having friends and clanmates is that it allows the player to join in midgame, therefore eliminating the need to wait for a friend to finish a game in order to play together. On top of that, the group invitation feature conveniently allows groups to travel from game to game as a squad, and it’s often used by clans to stick together among the thousands of players. While not having access to the game, a player may still go online to check out the lively forums or the factions’ page on various social media to stay tuned to the faction’s progress in the global war. These features allowing players to connect with one another is simply superb.

The experience with MAG’s connection is quite impressive; there are only a few episodes of lag considering the large amount of players one battle can have. Connecting to a game is also a breeze as most queues will only take 1-2 minutes before the battle starts. 

       

Graphics:

If there’s one main gripe about MAG’s graphics, it is its indestructible environment. It is now distinctive when a wooden fence doesn’t get blown off when hit by a grenade launcher, as though us gamers had been spoiled by realism in video games. However, it is forgivable due to the sheer size of MAG’s maps, which come littered with objects of various sizes that may or may not be wise to use as a cover. It would take quite awhile to get from one side of the map to the other, although that is perhaps not the best idea to try.

There is also a limited amount of character customization, player can only choose from a pre-made set of heads for their character initially. Although troops of a company all wear the same uniform and therefore similar, there are unlockable gears that will change the character’s appearance to varying degrees. The guns in particular have 3 attachments, which can upgrade the gun’s performance and change its appearance.

 

Sounds:

Like the preset heads, there are also a set of voices the player may choose from, and that is the voice which the character speak his commands and requests with. However, it is much more effective to communicate with a headset. Apart from its hybrid orchestra-meets-modern-percussion theme song that is perfectly fitting for an apocalyptic war-zone, the rest of MAG’s soundtrack can be difficult to experience. Three different composers were hired to write the soundtrack for each of the faction. Playing as Raven, the adrenaline-pumping industrial beats come in for the first few seconds of every match, but no music will present itself unless the player goes on a streak of sorts. That is not to say that MAG’s battlefield is aurally empty, because the fighting is never quiet in the jam-packed battles of MAG. In fact, there is always so much going on that a 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound system will surely give the player an extra edge.

       

Gameplay:

Although MAG may not be the best of them all as a plain shooter, its tactical component is where it shines. Each game contains up to 4 platoons depending on the game type, each in turn have 4 squads of 8 players. The squad and platoon leaders have special abilities that can greatly favor the team at opportune times. The squad leaders especially have access to setting FRAGO (fragmentation order), which are tactical objectives that will give players extra experience points for any favorable action within the vicinity. The FRAGO are primarily defending a location or destroying an object; killing enemies, reviving or healing teammates, setting charges, or repairing are some of the ways to take advantage of the FRAGO bonus.

The tactical element also welcomes players who find it difficult to put another player between the crosshairs for moral or technical reasons. With roles such as medics and engineers, these players aid the team to victory while stay away from active gun fire. Field support is not the only specialization here, as the other specializations all offer different style of play although some maybe more effective than others when given a specific map.

Even though MAG went through several phrases of beta testing, the current version still experiences a number of balancing issues. Some of which include the excruciatingly painful headshots from shotguns and machine guns, which are weapons that don’t require as much aiming and are excluded from getting headshots in some other shooters. Another frequently noted issue is the map designs tend to put a faction at an advantage or disadvantage that outweighs the factions’ innate specialties. But as an online game, the developers have dedicated themselves to continually fix problems that arise.

       

Innovation:

The basic shooting mechanic isn’t anything unheard of, in fact, there are even are a few missing features in comparison to some other shooters. For instance, the existence of the small handful of ladders in the game points out the lack of vintage points found in other shooters. But the simplicity allows the players to better concentrate on the many other points of interests on the battlefield, which is vital for the teamwork and tactical planning. But however one may try, it can’t help but to notice that one man’s effort can hardly alter the course of a battle due to the large scale at which these battles happen. The large scale battle is where the charm of MAG lies, as teamwork determines winning or losing as well as the overall enjoyment of the game.

 

Longevity:

For a FPS, MAG has an incredible amount of satisfying grind. The player will always look forward to their next must-have skill as the xp bar counts toward the next valuable skill point after every battle. The massive skill tree provided in MAG is lengthy and diverse, comparable to those of the RPGs. Starting out with a basic assault rifle, machine gun, and sniper rifle, the player will level up through battles and may spend their hard-earned skill points on assortment of skills, attachments for their weapon, gears, and even new weapons. While some of these “training” allows for higher efficiency in killing, a good portion is dedicated to survival as well as team support. To encourage replayability, MAG includes an option to re-spec the character, spending the slowly-accumulated “respec points” in order to re-do the skill tree; which is a thoughtful inclusion for players who would like to try out other roles and specialization on the battlefield during their MAG career. But even with an in-depth skill tree, it is well-balanced for the most part for it doesn’t completely shut out the newcomers.

Apart from character skills, once they reached the level to be allowed as a squad leader, characters will also accumulate leadership points for completing FRAGOs as well as winning as a leader. With the leadership points, a squad leader eventually qualifies as a platoon leader or even the Officer in Charge. It’s another point of replayability for some players although being a leader may not be for everyone.

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