MAG is like a bottle of wine, getting better with age. An online-only game exclusively for the PlayStation 3 developed by Zipper Interactive, also known for its long-running PlayStation exclusive franchise SOCOM, MAG garnered a lot of hype before launch for its massive 256-player battles. Despite the excitement and game’s massive scale, MAG didn’t fully win over reviewers or the gaming community, but now MAG 2.0 is officially here, bringing with it a boatload of updates and Playstation Move support. Sit down and strap up because there is a lot of ground to cover.
MAG is war, plain and simple. When first starting up the game players have to choose which faction they want to fight for: S.V.E.R, Raven or Valor. Each has its own unique set of weapons, clothing and equipment to set it apart from the others, and you can customise your character’s appearance, voice and armour as well. This character creation does a great job of pulling the player into the game and faction, giving the game a more realistic approach instead of the random characters and game types we have seen for years. Training is very short and simple and shows you nothing but the standard controls, before moving you on to customise your weapons, equipment and armour load outs and deploying you into your first online battle.
Instead of being allowed to drop into a 256-player battle straight away, MAG eases players into the game. The first deployment starts off with a simple Suppression game type with 64 total players; it’s nothing more than a standard Team Deathmatch battle but it’s a great place to start getting a feel for the game, gain a few levels and get used to the controls.
MAG uses Suppression as a stepping stone for the real battle that quickly ensues. After ranking up a few times the ability to deploy into Sabotage and Acquisition battles becomes available. These are your first tastes of the real MAG experience: Sabotage offers a 64-player battle over three objectives and Acquisition offers a 128-player battle, in which players fight for vehicles to control the tide of the battle. These game modes are great on their own and could easily be enough to turn MAG into a successful game, but it doesn’t stop there: Domination, unlocked at level 8, is the game’s real crowning glory.
Domination is the 256-player online battle that gives MAG its unique edge. The maps are massive in scale but perfectly balanced: bunkers, anti air weapons, mortars and more surround the outskirts of the centrally located buildings that hold the main capture points. Domination is massive to say the least, so to control it all MAG uses a system that works in actual battle: leadership.
Broken down into 128 players per side, 8 players per squad, 4 squads per platoon and 4 platoons per company, someone clearly needs to take charge. Level 10 players can assume the position of squad leader, setting targets for their squad to attack or defend as well as use mortars, air strikes and more. As you progress in rank you command more troops, a key element in MAG as the leaders’ orders control the battles. It’s a huge risk by the developers and gives the gamers the control of the battles, but it works: battles for bunkers rage on throughout entire matches, holding back attacking forces from the central areas whilst repairing blockades, doors, bridges and many other hindrances to keep attackers out. If the outside defences are ever broken the attackers then can start bringing in helicopters and armoured personnel carriers to spawn the attackers closer to the main capture point. This is truly when MAG stands above the rest: the number of soldiers that can be seen is simply staggering at times, with troops rappelling from distant helicopters and paratroopers parachuting into the battlefield amid sniper fire. Buildings start to fill with grenades, gas and gunfire everywhere, attackers flooding in through every entrance they can blow into. It truly feels like being a very small part in a very large war.
It’s not all run and gun though: MAG features skill trees, akin to those seen in RPG-type games. Players can customise their character into whatever type of soldier desired: Assault, Sniper, Vehicle Specialist, Medic; it’s all here, as well as skills to boost health, endurance, resistance and more. By playing well and gaining experience in battle players will level up in rank, earning skill points to redeem for extra abilities in battle. These skills are vital to success in MAG as players start off with weapons without attachments. Due to the realistic game MAG strives to be the weapons have accurate recoil; instantly the desire to level for better weapons, skills and attachments kicks in. MAG does a great job here with captivating players right from the first deployment.
MAG 2.0 brought with it more updates than can possibly be listed in this review. One of the biggest features is the addition of Playstation Move controls that deliver a very different control style with its own benefits and setbacks. For starters, anyone new to MAG already has so much to learn about the game itself, and the only Move tutorial is the same for the standard DualShock controller, only showing the very basics of the controls. This leaves players learning Move controls in actual battle, trying to adjust the sensitivities to player preferences until finally finding a setting that works. Once the adjustments are made Move offers a much higher level of accuracy in battle, letting players quickly aim from one side to the other and making multiple targets much easier to take down. Of course gun recoil is still a factor with Move, so great precision only comes with the necessary skills and attachments, as it should be: in MAG 2.0, Move users and DualShock players go face to face with each other, so balance is key.
Move brings a much more advanced control setting to the game, and for players willing to put in the time to perfect the controls they could find an advantage over the DualShock controller, but the learning curve is very steep. In our time with Move we were unable to match the average game stats we could achieve with the DualShock controller, but considering the thousands of hours spent with DualShock pads in the past, picking up Move and instantly being able to dominate the DualShock simply isn’t reasonable. The biggest drawback to Move controls is found in close quarters battle: knifing an enemy requires a swiping motion that will spin the camera around frantically on higher sensitivities, leading to frustrating deaths at times. Trying to pan the camera around all over your surroundings from a high point can be a chore in itself too, but having to perform tasks such as laying down prone, repairing and reloading that need to be performed quickly are quite difficult to get used to with the Move controller. In our time with Move we never felt as comfortable as we did with the standard DualShock: the game’s Move controls seem aimed at players looking for an advanced control scheme, and anyone seeking a simpler control scheme with Move need not apply.
MAG 2.0 brings with it so many refinements that we could hardly scratch the surface in this review, but Playstation Move is the biggest new implementation to the game. From the very beginning MAG set out to be different, creating a community more concerned about leadership and the art of war than scoreboards and leaderboards. Move support is yet another way for players to refine their skills in MAG, and although Move may not dominate the standard DualShock we are so comfortable with, it offers a unique control style that we think many gamers are likely to become attached to and master. MAG 2.0 is here and with the power of Playstation Move now in our hands the time to enlist is now.