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When it comes to MAG - Massive Action Game, What is all the fuss about?
MAG is a risky game, without a doubt. First of all, how can someone put 256 people in the same server and expect there isn't going to be lag? We will get to that in a second. First off, in case you didn't know: MAG forces you to join one of three PMCs (Wiki Knows All) unless you plan on giving up your experience points to reroll your character.
Once you have chosen your faction, you may choose to the tutorial or hop right into battle. The tutorial isn't much, other than learning to jump, shoot, and crouch. The real way you will be learning in this game is trial and error, because there isn't much information after that.
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The Good News:
First of all, I must say that lag isn't an issue. Other than the rare times when it takes awhile to get into a server because no one is up at 3.am. playing MAG, there is rarely issues with the networking. It is amazing how Zipper streamlined their server and this game well enough to handle 1 host to distrobute to 255 other players, all positions and actions; it is just amazing to open up the mini map and see all those dots constantly moving and disappearing.
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Finally, Team Work Driven Objectives
There are a lot of shooters, almost all of them, that claim you need teamwork to survive and win the match. In MAG, its all about focusing on your squad, doing the small time objectives to help the larger scale of combat. If squad members seem to stray all over the battle field, your squad isn't going to complete its objective, and your platoon won't be able to advance as quickly.
The real teamwork comes from the attacking side however; I'm not saying coordination on defence isn't important, but offence is where it really shines. Obviously attacking is also harder because the defending team has had time to dig in.
I also must say that because of this, MAG isn't for everyone. If you play like a one man army you are going to die, a lot. Regardless you will be dying a lot, but it is going to be a lot more frustrating if you do it alone. Another note: if you are going to play MAG, get a mic, use your cellphone's bluetooth headset if you have to.
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The Sound of Silence
In a game like call of duty, the developers have all sorts of ambient gunshot noises to play so that it feels as if there is a grander battle taking place near-by. You may never see it, but people are firing off guns at varying intervals just for kicks. In MAG however, when you hear distant gunfire, its because someone is getting shot at. MAG gives off the feeling, probably because its true, that there is a large scale conflict going on, everywhere nearby.
To remind myself that there are really over 200 people in the game that I'm playing, I open the mini map and watch little dots vanish and reappear, its a nice break from being the one getting blown up.
Needless to say the sound is epic, especially if you have surround sound. 5 out of 5.
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For the Jarheads
When you reach a certain level you can apply to be a squad leader, platoon leader, or even the OIC (officer in charge). Each of these titles comes with 2 abilities that can be used to change gameplay: UAVs, bombers, commuication block, etc. They also allow different comm. channels to communicate with other officers.
Normally you can only hear your squad, as a private, and anyone nearby (so medics can still hear cries for help) but if you are a commanding officer, you can hear other officers. This comm channel is normally quiet for a few reasons: Not many ps3 users have mics, no officers care to talk strategy, and some officers don't know how to use the comm stations.
The game does not come bundled with a mic, because the game had high development costs. Rarely is strategy between squads needed. There isn't any training on anything but shooting, so most officers don't know when they are broadcasting (everyone on the platoon can hear the officer, but they can't speak back(sometimes can be very annoying)).
It is a shame really, because when I have had the rare opportunity to speak to other squad leaders, it has been beneficial. Coordinated joint attacks are always stronger.
One last note in this section: If you are a natural born leader, you can have a lot of fun barking orders at your squad. Have at it soldier.
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The controls are almost identical to Battlefield: Bad Company. If you haven't played that, just know you have two weapons, and various tools at your disposal. You can also go prone, unlike Battlefield. There are also various control schemes to choose frome, but that is the default.
The game handles fine, although everyone will differ on opinion here. All in all, it works as any solid shooter should.
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Different GUIs for different factions
After choosing a faction your GUI changes to better suit that PMCs style. Raven is dark blue, SVER is red, and VALOR is green I believe. The user interface is quite important in MAG, at least when you become a commanding officer. The mini map is used to issue orders and plan air-raids. Apart from that the user interface feels to fit the setting as a futuristic military shooter. It doesn't affect immersion at all.
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The Ugly Truth: The GraphicsThe game doesn't look pretty. It is unfortunate, mostly because we are spoiled: uncharted 2, killzone 2, flower, etc. However this game isn't about the looks, its about how many humans are running around shooting at the same time in the same place; that being said, the graphics are sub-par, and the animations aren't all that natural. It isn't a large draw-back for me, however there are many out there who define a good game based on graphics. If you are one of those people, MAG is not for you.
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Geographical Choke Points
Defending is easier. Always, even in real life, militatry tactions take the high ground and camp. However certain aspects of the level design in MAG make it almost uncanningly impossible to break the line, as the attacking team. Some areas have single choke points they must cross, or crossing a river is also a dangerous feat. That being said, the level designers could have helped the attacking team a little more to balance things out.
This only happens as certain squads on certain maps, and sometimes if you have a good squad it wont matter. Othertimes, you are going to spend the whole map-time running into a wall of lead.
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Not for the RPG- Savy.
There aren't too many guns. There aren't too few, but there also isn't much to level up for. The game doesn't promise to be an RPG; however in an online only game, one would hope for a little more to progress towards. The game is over quickly if you consider winning as getting all the unlocks. This game isn't about the unlocks or customizing your character really, its about the intense battles.
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Parachutes and Snipers
As seen in the screenshot to the side, you may parachute during certain parts of the game. The only problem being is that I have an awful knack for shooting paratroopers before they reach the ground. Heres the issue: the plane always spawns the enemies in the same spot in the air, every 20 seconds. I have averaged about 2-3 hits per airdrop. I'm going to assume this is fairly annoying for the squad on the other team. I have also been on the jumping out of the plane side, and while parachuting is quite fun to do, it is very difficult to not get frustrated at a sniper picking off paratroopers.
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64? 128? Hell no, give me the 256.
There are 3 game modes: Suppression (64 player deathmatch), Aquisition (128 player - Capture the flag (Actually an APC)), and Domination(256 player - Hold the territories). Lets be honest, I didn't get this game because I could play with 65 other people, or even 127 other people. I got this game, so that I could be in a server with 255 other humans and shoot at stuff.
To be quite honest, when I unlocked Domination (level 8) I stopped playing the other game modes. They just didn't suffice. If I wanted to play a game mode with fewer humans and prettier graphics I'd pick up Uncharted 2. Sorry Zipper, but if you had made supression or acquisition 256 players, I would play it.
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In the end, MAG is an excellent run of the mill shooter on steroids. It smoothly handles over two hundred live connections, and has an excellent structure for PMC simulations. It is a solid shooter, that controls like Battlefield: Bad Company. The graphics may turn a few people away, and it is no where near as easy to play as Modern Warfare, but it is a different type of shooter that a lot of folks have been waiting for.
So if you are into hectic gameplay that requires true teamwork, MAG is your title.