MAG on Playstation 3 Hands-On Impressions.

It cannot be denied, MAG does exactly what it says on the tin; but only if you're willing to put in the effort it insists for payback. General consensus suggests MAG is little more than a flitting, and dire, cash-in on a popular genre - and without sounding like a complete and utter elitist, we'd like to suggest that's an incorrect opinion. It just takes time.

MAG's gameplay is fairly original. In fact if you strip it of its perspective, it's rather simple to see the game's heritage. This is from the people who developed the SOCOM franchise and it shows. MAG is a very team oriented game, as is instantly apparent going hands on with the latest beta.

The first mode that unlocks to all players is Sabotage, a simple defend or attack game mode for 64 players. Maps are split into two environments, setting two alternative squads with the task of storming (or protecting) a satellite uplink. Much of MAG's criticism comes from the larger opinion that there's not much scale in this game, and that's because Sabotage is a much more confined experience. Having said that, the way in which two completely separate teams are attacking separate objectives on the map, does give that sense of not always being in control. Your squad might be dominating one uplink, but if other squads on your team (which you may never encounter) are failing their particular objectives, you'll lose the battle. It sounds frustrating but it's actually kind of engaging, and you'll still be rewarded for your own personal teamwork; you'll receive XP based on many of your exploits in the mission regardless of the team's overall performance.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't stick to your squad though. This is a game rooted in tactics and team-work. Run off looking to be the hero and you'll certainly pay the price. Experienced players are allocated rank and leadership, with which they can set objectives and reward players who stick to them. Following orders is absolutely paramount on the game's flagship 256 player modes which unlock at level 10 - after four or five hours with the game. Here you'll find yourself in an absolute blazing warzone, tasked with shifting objectives through an ever-changing battlefield. It's chaotic, but it's among some of the most visceral multiplayer shooting we've experienced. MAG certainly lacks the cinematics and polish of Modern Warfare 2, and the epic sense of destruction in Battlefield - but MAG delivers something else; a harmony that's hard to describe unless you've put in the hours to earn it. The framerate and remains solid throughout, with no lag based on our experiences.

That's not to say MAG is perfect though. The clue is in the cake really; MAG takes patience and endeavour. Its learning curve is almost definitely going to be its sticking point - and while things might improve with the full retail package (and its wider offering of options), Zipper are really going to have to find a better way of luring in players and showing them the scope of the gameplay, while still giving them time to grasp the mechanics and opportunity to learn to play the shooter a little differently. And that's a tough call to make. You almost get the sense that people are picking up the game for 20 minutes, expecting to come out with Modern Warfare 2-esque "pick up and play" grins on their face and jump back out. Given that the average match lasts for 20 minutes alone, you really need those 4-5 hours to get the real appreciation; and the ultimate reward is engaging in the carnage that ensues on the bigger scale maps.

Animation, sound and graphics are on the whole pretty weak, but as a beta this is of course subject to change. The faction based overarch is particularly endearing to the game's presentation however, as you pick one of three teams to form alliance with and play out your MAG career with that team. It's a simple concept but generates a sports-like affinity with your nominee, and it's something that hopefully Zipper will explore further in the future.

On the whole you get the sense players are going to either dedicate time to MAG, and be rewarded, or give-up because they're not getting what they want. But you often sense these days the shooter lives or dies by how closely it mimics the Call Of Duty franchise - and MAG is very much something different. So, if the British yeast-extract's marketing tagline were to be used, you'll either love it or you'll hate it.

MAG requires patience, time and endeavour, but if you're willing to let Zipper hold your hand, you might just find you love it over time.

Jury's still out, but initial impressions seem positive.

Please note, these impressions are written based on the latest public beta of MAG, and not the finished product.