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Repost: MAG Review

There is something that has to be said about the desire to have a 256 online player multiplayer game. It could have gone two ways of being amazing or just a massive amount of people surrounded by an immense aura of lag.

Fortunately with MAG, Zipper Interactive used their previous experience with the SOCOM series and developed an online multiplayer experience that will probably not be rivaled this generation.

MAG does many things very well, from the start of the game as a simple grunt with a standard set of equipment to the Squad Leaders who know the game and how to achieve the goals of each particular map. The title is about teamwork because running off by yourself doesn’t just mean a sniper shot to the head, it means your PMC could possibly fail a mission because each member is important, and I haven’t seen that emphasis in many games recently.

As the game begins, three Private Military Corporations are available for choosing. These PMCs all play alike and equipment and weapons are just skins rather than having a bonus depending on which PMC chosen. The choice all falls to visual preference. Valor has more of the United States military look with a futuristic edge. Raven is a little sci-fi in their appearance, and S.V.E.R. look like citizen soldiers, normal people who picked their weapons off the ground and made their armor.

Once in the game proper, there are three options for the game: training, sabotage, and acquisition. Completing training does provide a nice bonus to level skills. Sabotage and Acquisition are the two modes that most will stay in until level 8 is reached when the other deployments are open. Sabotage and Acquisition run with smaller numbers of players while the last two modes, Domination and Directives run the full 128 vs 128.

Gameplay is the standard FPS game, though the different customizations that are available in the skill tree are what make each soldier an individual. Each weapon or secondary item in the game have enhancements available, whether it be a scope or resuscitation of injured soliders.

A smart move on Zipper’s part is the weight limit on equipment which makes the four customized loadouts important during the different deployment missions. Even armor have a few little extra touches that can use earned at specific levels.

Playing commando in MAG can work adequately in Sabotage or Acquisition, but once entering Domination and Directives, working in squads is paramount. Medics paired with commandos are important against the tides of battle during the timed matches. Once players enter the 256 player matches, the maps are a cluster of smaller battles where respawned soldiers will rush towards objectives to either defend or attack.

Voice chat is important and when working in a team who works together is immensely helpful, but in the Sabotage or Acquisition there are more voice spammers than actual teammates.

MAG‘s visuals work very well for the title, it might look a little less detailed than other FPS titles, but the sheer amount of action that happens in the game are well worth the minuscule drop in graphics. Honestly, looking at the environment isn’t as important as finding the sniper in the brush or aiming the RPG at the group of advancing soldiers.

The maps are full of detail and the larger scale maps are almost a maze to move through. Watching a group of spawned soldiers parachute in is an amazing sight, almost as much as it is fun to shoot them out of the sky.

On the audio side, MAG completely envelops players if they have surround sound. The post-Level 8 matches contain so much gunfire and explosions which are pushed by the 5.1 THX Surround Sound that it is a huge aid to know where gunfire is coming from.

Voice chat over the headset is localized and doesn’t come from the speakers, but other voice chat will peek through during matches. It isn’t annoying, but listening to other squads isn’t really helpful during matches.

MAG does have a few glitchy annoyances though. Healing allies in some of the matches becomes a fish in a barrel situation where invading soldiers will continuously kill teammates. Hit detection varies from perfect to “how many bullets will it take to kill this guy?” There were also collision glitches during movement around the map. A couple times I was stuck behind an object and couldn’t get out.

Maps are also chosen based on the number of players in each PMC and without enough players, I repeatedly was forced into the same map which got a little old. I understand that MAG creates these matches for good gameplay experiences, but sometimes I want to be more than the defender.

I would consider these issues with the genre as a whole and not MAG since the servers ran smooth without any noticeable lag. Even in the 256 matches, I was never penalized with slowdown or dropping frames because of connection issues.

There isn’t much better than MAG for a FPS fan. The skill tree is balanced for customization and gaining experience is won through many different means not just shooting because being a soldier is more than killing people. The promise of smooth 256 player matches were met and I can see this title having a long life, especially with possible DLC.

If you’ve sat out on MAG, you’re behind the curve, but jump in and experience an amazing feat of technical prowess that also includes a lot of fun beyond the normal multiplayer title.

Review copy provided for review purposes