It’s not like we haven’t had enough shooters over time.
In fact, we could probably fill up a Scrooge McDuck sized vault. But MAG (Massive Action Game) is trying to do things a little differently. How is it possible after all this time to have a shooter that is any different you ask? Well, throw in 256 players into one map and you are certainly paving the way for some epic firefights.
In MAG, the storyline really seems to take a bit of a back seat. Don’t expect any riveting dialogue or action sequences approximating anything from Call of Duty Modern Warfare, or any BioWare title. The game does however have three factions which seem to be fighting it out for control in the year 2025; it's a world where the Millennium Accord prevents entire nations armies from leaving their own borders. They fight for the economic control, and sell their services. The story develops as you play, however some questions seem to remain around continued expansion of the plot as time goes on, particularly with the high user interaction in the game.
MAG really throws you into the fray, not just as an individual soldier, but as a member in a squad, who is part of a platoon, who reports to a company. A high ranking player will control the company, commanding them on the battlefield. This right has to be earned by levelling up your player, and as the game progresses you will find yourself parachuting out of planes over the battlefields, and suffering airstrikes in order to gain those elusive ranks. It all takes place on some pretty massive maps too.
The game is online only, meaning that if you haven’t got your PS3 connected to the internet, then you really don’t want to be picking this one up (unless you want to replay the training mode over and over.) Just like most modern shooters, the game rewards you for playing by upping your level and giving you access to improved skills. As your level increases, you gain access to a more advanced hierarchy of progression, so the game eases you into some of the more exciting (but also more complex) levels. This progression works really well, owing in no small part to the obvious influence of the Call of Duty franchise. As you upgrade you will improve things such as your characters bullet detection (how well your character can determine when he is being fired upon) as well as enhanced recovery from sprint, or simply faster reloads. Whatever you invest your points in, it will make a considerable difference to your survival chances.
Insofar as gameplay is concerned, there's certainly nothing wrong with MAG. If anything, some of the controls can get a bit confusing in a hectic gunfight, but the overall experience is solid. Movement and firing is well implemented, and the only really irritating thing we noticed was that when firing down the iron sights, it becomes very difficult to keep track of where your enemy is due to your muzzle flash, potentially making normal firing the better option. This really shouldn't be the case, as the much precise nature of the iron sights should win out. However it encourages you to get into the fray rather than sitting in a corner camping, which judging by the pace of the game (and the fact that every spot has access from behind due to some very well designed levels) is going to be difficult anyway.
One of the best elements in MAG is that running and gunning, simply put, will get you killed. When you are running into an entire patrol of enemy infantry it's best to stick with your unit and take a more tactical approach. Blow some smoke before your assault, or ensure you have the right guns in the right places. Keep in mind you won’t just be facing infantry - with players being able to pick up a few vehicles here and there in the later maps, the tide of the war can turn pretty swiftly.
The graphics are certainly not what could be described as "off the hook". Again, it's no Call of Duty. But MAG has very good visual effects that serve the purpose well. Here again, full credit to the developers simply for achieving 256 players to a game. It's a feat that I can’t help but marvel at, over and over. It makes for an incredible online experience, more so than most other games of the genre.
MAG is an amazing online experience. It struggles to compete with the all-round solid experience of the likes of Call of Duty Modern Warfare, but it does do very well to create a whole new genre almost, at least on consoles, of massively multiplayer shooters. Who knows what doors this will open in the future, and we can certainly feel hopeful that this is but a taste of things to come.
It's not perfect, but its definitely worth picking up. The lack of a single player element knocks it back considerably, but as I always say, do one thing and do it well. And in this case there’s no question.