(It should be noted that this review is about the current version of MAG. A massive patch will be coming out in late September / October that seems like it will be changing the entire experience in a major way. A followup piece will be written on it in the future).
I’ve really been down on FPS lately. I’ve gotten to that point (yet again) where I have tired a bit of shooting generic, duplicate enemies over and over again. This seems to happen every few months, and usually ends after a few weeks with me popping in Duty and re-learning to love filling faceless beings with lead.
That being said, you can only imagine my enthusiasm when Jeremy messaged me singing the praises of this MAG game for the PS3. After telling me how completely awesome it was, he ever-so-smoothly hinted that he wished he had someone to play it with. Seeing as how the last thing Jeremy and I thoroughly played together on multi-player was Mercenaries 2, I figured we were due up to play an actual good game together. Since I was in need of something new to play, and since Jeremy is so damn sad looking when he cries, I went out and picked it up.
I had heard some good things about it, but also some bad. I can honestly say I was very intrigued with the concept of it from the start, but could also see how having 200-some folks running around on the screen could not make for the most pleasant experience in the world. I’ve been playing for a few weeks now, which I figure now fully qualifies me as an expert on this game… so here are my thoughts.
MAG is an online-only multi-player shooter. This means that there is absolutely NO single-player portion of the game and if you aren’t into MP or for some odd reason don’t have your PS3 online… you’ve purchased yourself a real nice $30-$60 coaster. The game is set in the near future, and to make a long yet somehow very empty story short, there are three major factions that are shooting the shit out of one another in an effort to gain resources.
There are pretty long-winded descriptions available online for each faction, but once again I’ll cut to the chase and tell you all you need to know about each one.
- Raven: High tech soldiers who apparently gained their experience from training videos and playing a lot of Doom.
- Valor: A more traditional Army-like outfit. Enjoy Southern rock.
- S.V.E.R.: A gang with a bunch of guns.
The first thing you do when you start the game is choose a side. This is important because this is the team you will be playing for for the rest of your “career.” You can erase your character and start over if you want to play for another faction (or purchase another character slot for a buck on the PSN), but otherwise I’d suggest reading up on the different teams (my descriptions above are all you need to look at) and sticking with one so you don’t waste all of your time spent leveling up.
Each team offers different perks and weapons. The game seems to try and achieve some sense of balance between the factions, but I do have to say that you usually see a certain faction win out over another 9 times out of 10. Overall, I’d have to say that there are balance issues but I’m playing on the cool team that wins a lot so I’m not complaining.
Does Size Matter?
In the event of sexual intercourse, yes it does. Nobody likes a fatty. In the event of this game, yes and no. The main draw of this game was the fact that some match types can have up to 256 players at a time. Considering most console FPS allow 16 players at the most, this is a pretty staggering thing to take in.
[imagine there is a video here until someone can replace it - Amanda]
As you can see there are some pretty impressive moments and some pretty tense situations. I can usually handle 2 or 3 guys running at me in Duty, but the first time I saw 15+ soldiers storming toward me the feeling of helplessness was incredible. I got off one shot, which shockingly did not scare them all away… and instead all that remained of me was a limp body in a puddle of blood and a yellow liquid that I will not clarify the identity of.
There are some other awesome moments that such a large amount of players can cause. The first time you march toward an enemy target with 20-some team-mates, you get a feeling of bad-assery that is hard to duplicate in other games. Also look to the skies on occasion and you’ll get a pretty striking visual of dozens of enemy players parachuting down toward you (I’ll address what you can do besides just enjoy the view in a bit).
Though there are moments when you will be fighting alongside and against a large amount of players, it is a little deceiving when you think you are about to jump into a 256 man war. While that many players do occupy the game, the maps are so incredibly large that chances are you’ll encounter possibly 1/8 of the total players. Teams are split into several sub-groups and you are usually given the orders to protect / destroy a couple of targets. Most of the time you stay in your general area and fight your portion of the fight, but one quick view of the map really shows you just how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things. Sorta like that .gif floating around that shows all of the massive planets and stars out there in relation to Earth, which then causes me to really look at things and then think about my own mortality, and the next thing you know I’m popping one of those head-pills I’ve been rationing.
So while it’s cool to be involved in such a massive game, don’t expect to normally see hundreds of players occupying your screen at the same time. This isn’t really how I (or probably most people) thought the game would play out, but honestly I don’t think there was a better way to pull it off.
You Gonna Shit on This Game or What?
While most of my complaints so far have been minor, I do have a few slightly larger problems with this game. While none of them are game-ruining, you can expect a few headaches.
Unbalanced Factions: While the game does a semi-decent job at balancing things, it really does fall short in some respects. As God-fearing Southerners, Jeremy and I both started off fighting for Valor. We had a good time, but found that victories were few and far between and our guns left a small bit to be desired. Then again, the only reason we joined them to begin with and stuck with them for so long was this little Southern rock guitar riff that plays when the round starts and when you get 4 kills in a row. Forget UAVs or air-strikes or anything like that, I want all of my FPS games from now on to have a rock ditty I can raise my lighter in the air to.
We eventually ditched Valor and joined with Raven, both becoming $1 poorer in the process. I personally noticed an almost immediate difference. Guns were more accurate, generally more powerful, and we had a not-as-good but still serviceable little electronic tune play when we hit 4 kills. Winning became common, shame faded away, and drinking problems slowly vanished.
I was very surprised with how different the factions feel. Valor really gives you that “America, Fuck Yeah” feeling, and Raven does have this futuristic, cold feel to them. You could almost sense that the Valor guys are all going to have a party after the battle and drink beers around a pick-up truck, and the Raven guys are all going to get online that evening and spam memes back and forth to one another.
I don’t have a clue what S.V.E.R. is like. They never win shit anyway.
Parachuting to Your DOOM: Earlier I commented on how incredible it is to see so many enemies parachuting down your way. I’m sure you’d like to get a closer look, so pull out the sniper rifle and look down your sight. While you’re at it, go ahead and start picking them all off one by one because you can totally do that while they are COMPLETELY HELPLESS. I always seem to be the guy on the receiving end of this, and I have to say it is a little bit maddening. You can steer yourself left and right while coming down, but there is no amount of dodging you can really do to stop even the shittiest sniper from taking you down. So after waiting up to 20 seconds to spawn, you could conceivably (trust me) not even reach the field of battle before being capped and sent into waiting another 20 seconds. This happened to me three times in a row. It would go on to cause me to unleash a cry of “SHIT” so loud that the cat did that weird “please be quiet” blinking thing with its eyes. I never do listen to that nonsense, so I think I stomped my feet or made a point of it to talk really loud until it just ran out on to the porch in defeat.
256 Players and 255 are Morons: When your team is full of good players, you’ll have a great experience. When your team is full of idiots, you’re gonna need to ask everyone to leave the room or get a good pillow to scream into. Team-work is pretty essential in this game, so you can only imagine the frustration you’ll be feeling when you encounter folks who won’t heal you (despite having the equipment necessary for such), or sometimes the even worse folks that will heal you even when enemies are surrounding you so you both just end up dying. You’ll also get the FPS standards such as your spawn-lurking opponents, team members who refuse to do anything but camp out a good long while and snipe at the trees, and your occasional ghetto Rambo who storms in shooting up a building and takes you and two other of his own teammates out… then uses his medkit to heal himself.
Should I Also Buy This Thing So You and Jeremy can Finally Form a Clan?
If you enjoy FPS I’d say this is pretty much a lock for you. I know this thing has been out for awhile, but the game still seems to have a pretty solid following. A patch is announced for the near future that is apparently adding a lot of things to the game, so company support is still there. I grilled Jeremy thoroughly to make sure I didn’t waste my money on this bastard only for MAG 2 to come out the next week, and he assures me that a sequel is going to happen but not anytime soon.
There are some frustrating moments, some amazing moments, and a pretty damned addictive guitar riff if you play for Valor. I’d say pick it up… mostly because we need to get this OMGJ clan up and running so we can feel superior and so when I’m not around Jeremy doesn’t have to mope so damn much.
Plus on very rare occasion, something cool like this might just happen…
A Southerner, Billy seems to be the most adult of us all. Especially in that shady, seedy kind of way.
Contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org