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Sometimes Less is More

  • Jan 26, 2010
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MAG is a game that's been getting quite a bit of buzz lately.  It's an interesting idea.  Since online matches are big and FPS are big... why not make unusually BIG FPS Multiplayer matches?  MAG sets the bar in terms of how many people you can put in one match, but that's really all it does.  There's really not much else to MAG aside from that.  Certainly 256 people is a lot... but quality is far more important than quantity.

MAG stands for "Massive Action Game."  Certainly MAG is massive.  It's a technical achievement for the PS3... but there's not much else to it than simply going into an arena and killing people.  This is well and good for some people... but games like Battlefield 1943 (which you can get on the Playstation Network or XBOX Live Arcade) do stuff like this already... there may not be as many people but at least you're not paying sixty bucks for it.  To shorten a long point I'll make it simple: MAG is just too expensive for what you get.  A technical achievement?  Definitely but there's NOTHING to the game outside of going into an arena and killing the enemy team.  MAG doesn't even do it as well as a whole slew of other games.

There's a short training tutorial that starts things off rather nicely to teach you the controls of the game.  From there you basically drop into matches that are already in play to decimate the enemy team.  You'll start off at rank 1, of course but you'll be surprised at how fast your ranks will grow and how quickly you'll accumulate points.  Especially when you start playing in matches with 256 people.  And that's MAG's biggest selling point.  The fact that 256 people can compete in a single match without things getting slowed down.  And believe me, it's impressive.  So far I've experienced no frame rate issues or anything like that.  That's not bad considering the game is easy on the eyes as well.  It's a beautiful looking game where 256 people compete against one another.  You're on teams, however.  A red team and a blue team (bet you didn't see THAT coming, huh?).  Even that has small problems, however.  While this is a true technical achievement for the PS3, it just doesn't do a whole lot to enhance the experience.  You'll get points quickly and you'll have A LOT of fun (I'm sure) but what you'll find is a game that's mostly bare bones.

To start.  Obviously if all you can do is compete online and whatnot... you're not going to be doing ANYTHING without having an Internet connection.  The game warns you of this on the front.  It will specifically tell you it's "Multiplayer Online Only."  So don't put down the money for this unless you have an established connection to the Internet.  Second of all, you're getting a lot of crazy shit going on in a match.  It'll start off rather tame because you'll only be able to enter matches with 64 guys.  But as you rank up you'll get into matches with 128 and ultimately 256.  Once you start getting into playing 256 people... you're going to go down fast.  That's not a joke.  You'll die quickly... but not without racking up points quickly as well.  This has an upside to it, though.  It means even the most experienced shooters will go down quickly.  Remember there are 256 guys running around.  With that in mind, it means even if you're horrible at First Person Shooters, you're bound to rack up points, even if they're just assists.  Meaning, even those who are bad at the game can be content that they'll reap the rewards.  Those who are awesome will still reap rewards faster, but with so much chaos going on, people just won't last that long.  On the downside, however, some will find that their level of skill just doesn't matter.  Anyone can rack up points--fast, but what good is being a great player when you'll instantly find yourself going down the moment you kill someone?  You'll be happy to know that the levels are huge at least.  

Throughout this the game insists on putting you on teams.  This is where MAG makes its first stumble and it's a pretty big one.  There are two teams one red and one blue... but in the end you'll find that even your team mates will kill you a bunch.  This is because in the heat of combat it's just hard to tell your enemies from your allies.  There's also so much chaos going on that you'll find most of your team mates just won't care.  MAG is filled with players with itchy trigger fingers... and probably because it encourages it.  This means that as you die you'll notice it's your team also killing you as well.  It's even worse because sometimes it's just hard to tell one team from the other.  They have icons above their head but they don't really look that distinct from one another.

Another setback just might be some of the controls.  You'll shoot with R1 and you'll hold the thumbstick to dash, but you'll have to take time to adjust to other things.  With the exception of R1 all the shoulder buttons are used to cycle through weapons.  There are two things in particular that you'll have to get used to with MAG, however.  The first is that you'll actually have to heal yourself.  It's been a long time since I played an FPS or even a game online where you had to find a safe spot in the middle of combat, switch to something and heal yourself.  There's no standing around and waiting for all the red marks to leave the screen (or the color to come back).  You'll have to find a safe spot, switch to a healing item and heal yourself.  The second thing you'll have to get used to is, surprisingly, the fact that you have to switch to your grenades.  Many games make it a point to put Grenade throws to a simple button press.  Not MAG, you'll actually have to change to it to throw it.  It seems strange to say, but yeah, these things actually take a moment to get used to.  The healing yourself in combat isn't actually so bad.  Even if you didn't have to do that you'd probably die rather quickly just waiting for your health to regenerate anyway.  Once you adjust, though, you'll find MAG plays smoothly.  Just like any game, it takes a moment to get settled in.

Along those lines if you actually do go down in combat you'll have a chance to be revived.  Although as I played I was actually wondering if people know you can do this.  You'll bleed out like you do in many games that allow for reviving.  Yet in MAG this seems like a useless feature.  There were many times I sat there bleeding out and my team ignored me.  The good news is you can just get it over with by pressing the X button, and that's often the better choice.  Hopefully this feature will be improved upon in the future.

It can be fun to drop into a match and have a go at it.  On the other hand it is a little disturbing that in the midst of it all there's nothing else to it.  There's no single player campaign to get into or anything like that.  It's a drag.  All you do is go into battle, die, respawn... rinse and repeat.  That's quite literally all there is to the game.  There are some unlockables such as how you can customize your character but there's nothing within MAG that stands out aside from the fact that you can put 256 guys in one match.  If you're the type that loves playing online you'll benefit from it.  Still, it's hard to justify putting down sixty bucks for a game that essentially has nothing but the bare bones to it.  It's a technical achievement that the PS3 should be proud of but only the most dedicated FPS fans will get something out of it.  It's sad to say there's not much else to MAG.  There's no campaign or objective based co-op or anything like that.  Just you, the arena... and 256 people within it.  On paper that sounds really impressive but once you actually start playing it isn't as awesome as it sounds.

It's a huge game in terms of size because of what it does with putting 256 people out there that aren't AI controlled.  Those 256 people are being controlled by human beings on the other end.  It breaks ground in terms of just what the PS3 can really do, but in order to do that it sacrifices a lot.  There's really nothing all that special about it in the long run.  The developers seemed to focus almost entirely on the fact that they can have you in an arena with 256 people running around.  Unfortunately it just doesn't give you much of any other reason to want to play.  And a 256 person battle royale just might be enticing enough for some people.  In the long run, however, you gotta give gamers more.  Especially because games such as Modern Warfare just happen to the do the multiplayer thing better than MAG does.  And that game is giving you more bang for your buck by giving you a lot of different game modes as well as multiplayer.  Even Uncharted 2 manages to have an addictive multiplayer... and while it doesn't have as many people as MAG it's still more rewarding to play based on the fact that it gives you so many options.  MAG just doesn't do that.  And considering the multiplayer is ALL there is to it, it would be nice if there was more variety to it.

The point is simple... more doesn't mean better.  256 people in one match is great but there's nothing that makes going in that match worthwhile.  You'll get lots of experience and rank up quickly, but unless you're a really hardcore FPS fan there's just not much that will keep you coming back to MAG when so many other games just provide you with more variety in their multiplayer... and they've also got other game modes to fall back on in case you don't want to engage in multiplayer all day long.  In short, MAG seemed like a good idea, but it's just not as well executed.  So much was put into getting 256 people online at once that they didn't seem to care much for doing anything else.  That's not to say you won't get a lot of enjoyment out of it, but it is to say that the games with fewer people in an arena seem more enjoyable in spite of a smaller population.

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January 28, 2010
Great write up but I am pretty picky with games now (since I came back) and a less than 4 or 5 rating means a skip for me (until it hits the bargain bin) Thanks for sharing!
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this video game


MAG is a massively multiplayer online first-person shooter that is unique in a variety of ways. A PS3 exclusive, MAG allows up to 256 players aligned with different private military corporations (PMCs) to battle each other at the same time across a global battlefield. Within this persistent game world players engage in campaign and mission play that elevates their character from the ranks of a lowly grunt, all the way up through the intricate command structure of the in-game officer corp. Along the way players players experience in-depth character customization, a robust leveling system and large-scale MMO shooter gameplay that makes MAG a game not to be missed by fans of the shooter genre. dent { list-style: inside disc; text-indent: -15px; } table.callout { font-family: verdana; font-size: 11px; line-height: 1. 3em; } td.vgoverview { height: 125px; background: #9DC4D8 url(http://images.amazon.com/images/G/01/electro...ail-page/callout-bg.png) repeat-x; border-left: 1px solid #999999; border-right: 1px solid #999999; padding-left: 20px; padding-right: 20px; padding-bottom: 10px; width: 250px; font-family: verdana; font-size: 12px; }
MAG game logo Leading your squad into combat in a wooded residential area in MAG
256-player MMO shooter gameplay.
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Small scale squad-based combat in an industrial setting in MAG
A robust and flexible leveling system.
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Russian S.V.E.R. forces taking fire in MAG
A unique command system.
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A troop airdrop in action in MAG
A persistent battlefield game world
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The Raven PMC fighting their way out of the docks in MAG
Extensive character customization.
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In the near future, governments are supposedly at peace, but a shadow war, fought by private...
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ESRB: T for Teen
Number of Players: 256
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Zipper Interactive
Console: PlayStation 3
Release Date: January 26, 2010
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"Sometimes Less is More"
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