Review: MAG (PS3)

I’ve never been a big online shooter fan throughout my time owning various consoles and PCs over the years, yet here I am doing a review for the online only, first person shooter, MAG (an acronym for the straight forward title of the game: Massive Action Game).  But therein lies the opportunity to look at this title with a fresh set of eyes, optimistic about the chaotic idea of 256 players online simultaneously on a single map yet expecting to be hampered by my unwillingness to socialize with PSN strangers.  Considering this, I dive head first in what has been promised as a different kind of shooter and enlist in the Shadow War.

The Pros

If you’re only looking to test your twitch reflexes in standard FPS modes and concentrate on your kill/death ratio then a game like Modern Warfare 2 might serve you better. Where MAG works best is not as a competitor to the guns blazing type of first person shooters, but more so as purveying the grand scale of a fully fledged war and your specific role within it.   That and that itself is well worth the venture into MAG, regardless if you are an experienced FPS player or not, whether you approach it as a lone wolf or consistently communicating with teammates, the game offers a certain gratification for anyone who participates within the ideas MAG attempts reinforce.

The game starts off with you choosing one of three factions (Raven, S.V.E.R., and Valor), where in the not-so-distant future the management of war is outsourced to PMCs (private military corporations) each vying for supremacy and reputation.  Whether you play casually or frequently, the online “Shadow War” will continually rage on as the game tracks the stats of every battle/match played ultimately contributing to the overall scoreboard between the three PMCs.  In the battles itself you start off with you’re standard deathmatch mode entitled “suppression” to wet you’re feet, but then eventually unlock objective based modes highlighted by the 256 player “Domination”.  It’s in these objective based matches you’re split up into squads of 8 where you cycle through tasks given to you by your squad leader (a position available to you once you garner enough XP) on the field of battle.  The idea is not that you’ll always immediately get straight to the main objective of the match (i.e. in “Aquisition” the main objective is to steal/defend two prototype vehicles) but every sort of task contributes to the end goal and are subsequently rewarded with XP by doing so.  Regardless of the task set before you, once completed successfully you can’t help but get this feeling that you’ve contributed to something larger than just you as an individual player and that you’re playing with the bigger picture in mind.

The best example of this is in the much hyped 256 player Domination mode.  On one huge map 256 players are simultaneously active and organized in platoons, further grouped in squads each with their own set of objectives for the squad and platoon leaders to strategize and plan out.  Though you see and hear explosions off in the distance as well as feeling the overall chaos of the situation (all of which would be a direct result of other players in the match), you begin to realize that the best you can do to realize a win for your PMC is to complete your specific tasks while putting trust in your squad and platoon leaders along with the other 128 teammates on the map to do the same.

This gratification is still accessible by newcomers or players with no familiarity with the others in the squad as it really can be as simple as following the orders to complete tasks set out by your squad leader, regardless if you want to communicate back or not, ultimately still contributing to a potential team victory.  However, if you do take the time and initiative to organize and communicate with your squad then the payback is that much more satisfying when you see a plan in motion and successfully realized.

One last thing I’ll mention is the broad customization options available to you as an individual.  Not only concentrating on attack based upgrades, skills that benefit the team (i.e. healing, repairing) are equally represented and are not just an after thought to attack based upgrades.  The game also provides for up to 5 customizable loadouts allowing you to endlessly fiddle with the different options your character will take with them to battle.

The Cons

The major con is not necessarily the developer’s fault but it’s idea that in this specific type of online shooter everyone will adopt the same mindset. The concept that this game is about winning a match by completing what’s asked of you from an assigned superior as part of a bigger strategy might be hard for some players not to grasp but embrace.  At times a player will disregard their tasks for the easy kills unaware/not caring about the importance of the task they were responsible for that’s essential to an overall team victory.

If one must make the comparison of this game to other first person shooters, you might consider the graphics are pretty standard, while being slower paced than what some may be used to.  Other than that, in terms of maps/environments the games offers little in variety barely deviating from a constant color scheme.

Here’s the Deal

Though you can try to make the comparison of MAG to any other war themed console first person shooter, the result will be a shallow one at best.  Comparing the game to other premiere FPS’, MAG may not look like a stand out when you look at it’s exterior.  However, MAG is special in the sense that it’s the first FPS that gave me as a player the impression that I was part of something larger in scale, that regardless of my killing prowess (or lack of), there were more important things to be done to achieve victory.  This is only exemplified by the 256 player Domination mode where you’re thrown into a large scale battle where it’s impossible to win on your own creating a dependency on teamwork while contributing by doing what’s asked of you as an individual and a squad.  Let’s just hope all your teammates are on the same page.   8/10  Sean C.

~ by consolecreatures on February 10, 2010.

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