A jab at gaming – with love

MAG Impressions

Massively Awesome

-By Brian

Magnanimous?  Magnifico?  Magniloquent?  Don’t worry, no one knows what these words actually mean.  Spell check doesn’t even recognize one of them.  But what does MAG mean?  What does MAG stand for?  Hopefully this blog will help to answer these questions for you.

MAG originally was an acronym for Massive Action Game.  Although the developer eventually dropped that wording from the game itself, it pretty much sums up what the game is still about.

In MAG up to 256 players can square off against one another in the same match.  Let me state that again, 256 players.  While most modern shooters limit the online action to teams of 8 vs. 8, 16 vs. 16, or on rare occasion even 32 vs. 32 players; MAG has upped the ante to an unprecedented 128 vs. 128 players.  Sound impressive?  It is.  Sound chaotic?  It’s not.  Or better yet, it’s not when things go correctly.

The real genius behind the development of MAG isn’t just that it has up to 256 players, although that alone is a tremendous feat of server wizardry.  The real genius is how the game is balanced and laid out so that games don’t become a giant tangle of soldiers running over the top of one another.  MAG breaks down the game by placing players into squads of 8 people.  4 squads form a platoon, and 4 platoons form a company.

Each squad has it’s own set of objectives typically independent of the other squads, but all contributing to the overall war effort.  Players who stick with their squad and help them in completing their objectives earn bonus points.  As players rank up they are able to apply for leadership positions.  This gives them the ability to set the next objective up for their units and call in fun stuff like artillery strikes.

With the basic introduction of the game out of the way, lets get on to the good and bad points about the game.

The Good:

Teamwork:  The biggest strength the game has.  The way the game rewards teamwork and cooperation is very effective.  Unlike games like Call of Duty where the online action typically boils down to every man for himself, the way MAG is structured gives players real incentive to work together.  Perhaps with its emphasis on teamwork MAG is actually attracting players who gravitate towards this type of gameplay.  More than any other online game this generation that I’ve played; the people who play MAG seem to own headsets and actually know how to use them.

Controls:  Besides a few button swaps for various actions, the controls are very close to the recent Call of Duty games.  I’m sure it was a conscious effort on Zipper’s part to nail the feeling of the controls so well.  This lets even new players jump into the action without the fear of a steep learning curve.

Skill Tree:  Almost like a modern RPG, as you level up MAG gives you skill points which you can distribute to unlock abilities and upgrade your weapons.  As simple as this may sound, the way it’s setup in MAG really gives you the feeling that you’re in control of your character and his development.  Personally I spent my time leveling up my white mage medic so that I could heal others and eventually even revive fallen soldiers.

The Bad:

Teamwork:  Its biggest strength can be its biggest weakness.  On the rare occasion you have a bad squad commander; or by chance he just likes ignoring the fact that he’s supposed to be setting your objectives and communicating with your team, the game can be a real drag.  Thankfully that doesn’t happen too often.  People genuinely seem to want to work together and there is also the option to vote a commander out of the squad if problems (or jerks) do arise.

Grenades:  Not only are the grenades tucked two button presses away (L2 to actually switch to them and then another button press to use them), the throwing mechanic seems iffy at best.  You have no real way to guess where they are going to land.  This problem is exacerbated by the fact that I think they programed the game to randomize grenade tosses as might be experienced in real life.  Sometimes your toss is a bit off to the side rather than your straight as an arrow toss that just preceded it two seconds before.  And when you’re on the receiving end of a grenade toss…    well, let’s just say I wish you the best of luck figuring out where the grenade actually landed using the on-screen indicator.  BLAM!!!  You’re dead.

Single-player mode:  Non-existent.  While this fact alone doesn’t bother me much, I know for certain that some people will see the lack of a single-player mode as a reason not to buy the game.  In fact, I had to beg a contributor to this very site who shall go unnamed to even give this game a try.  Even I’ll admit though that the lack of a real back story for the 3 factions featured in MAG is at least a small disappointment.

And The Ugly:

Graphics:  While the graphics certainly won’t be winning any awards this year, they are actually fairly decent.  I just needed something to put under ugly to complete the reference.

OVERALL –  My overall impression of this game is extremely positive.  I can recommend it without hesitation to anyone who enjoys online shooters.  Not only does MAG provide a solid and satisfying online experience, the fact that it can handle matches up to 256 players  both sets it apart from the competition and ensures it is a must-play game for fans of the genre.

4Couples–  Unless you’re one of the unique few out there who have wives or girlfriends who enjoy watching fake people being murdered on screen in wholesale fashion, I imagine you’ll most likely be playing this one solo.  However, even if you do have an armchair soldier who wants to join the fray, you’ll have to be content to take turns.  No side by side co-op is available.

MAG Impressions #2 (3/4/10)

– By Josh

MAG is a good game. Even if it took some arm-twisting, and possibly a blizzard, to convince me to make the purchase, it was well worth it. For the most part, I agree with Brian’s impressions of the game, but I wanted to add a few comments.

Controls: I find the controls to be somewhat difficult at times. Although I agree that the actually “stick” feel is very similar to Call of Duty, the button mapping is very different and un-customizable. I prefer a more “tactical” button mapping (right thumb stick push = crouch/prone), but this option is not available. Also, this could just be me, but sometimes when I’m switching between my gun and other items (grenades, med kits, RPGs, etc.) the game doesn’t recognize my button press. So sometime when I heal someone and need to switch back to my weapon quickly, this action doesn’t occur and I ultimately end up getting shot because I’m going up against an enemy with a guy, and I’m trying to shoot with a med kit.

Teamwork: In this game you need a friend. This game can be excruciatingly difficult and frustrating playing alone. If you don’t have any friends who own or play this game online, I often don’t find the motivation to struggle with strangers, especially strangers who don’t have mics, or leaders who don’t set objectives.

Balancing: Not a huge issue, and supposedly being fixed in patch 1.03, but I find it odd that I get more headshots at distance with a machine gun than a sniper or assault rifle. Very odd.

6 Responses to “MAG Impressions”

  1. Two Questions:

    1. If you weren’t playing online with someone that you knew, would the game still be as enjoyable?

    2. Six months from now, do you still think there will be enough people still playing MAG on a regular basis to both take advantage of the large scale combat and to make an online only game worth $60?


    • 1) Playing with people you know is the best way to play. It’s still enjoyable, but I normally don’t get online with MAG unless people on my friends list are playing.

      2) Zipper has done a pretty good job of supporting its games online so I have little doubt that this game will be extinct anytime soon. I know Brian and I argue about the price (I think it should have been $40 or $60 with headset), but the game is good. I’m working on my impression of MAG and should be up soon.

    • 1) Yes, until I managed to beg Josh into buying it, I was playing with strangers. Even at that time, I knew it was a freaking rad game.

      2) I think so. The game I’ve sunk the most time into this console generation has been Warhawk, which is also online only. I’ve put over 500 hours into it, and even after 2 years of release the servers are still going strong with people.

      I think MAG will appeal to more people than WH did, and it’ll probably end up selling a lot more copies because of it.

  2. I’ve enjoyed multiplayer FPS games like Battlefield in the past but haven’t been too much into them recently. I really like COD:MW as single player but always get PWND when I try to pay online and it’s really turned me off to the idea of anything new.

    The whole squad aspect of MAG intrigues me; I like the idea of working towards one goal. However, I would rather focus on a support role as anytime I fire a gun in any online FPS, it never hits anyone. Will MAG allow me to enjoy my self and be rewarded for being in a support role even though I’m terrible at combat and don’t enjoy being PWND every four seconds?

    • MAG does a great job of rewarding support roles, almost twice as much exp as a role of someone who does all the “killing.”

      The greatest thing MAG has going for it over COD is the feeling that doing your part is helping the team. Also, your squadmates and teammates will spawn in timed intervals, thus you will never get stuck in spawn/death loops like COD (e.g. getting killed by an airstrike, spawning, and getting killed again by the same airstrike).

      If you like k/d ratios and pure chaos, then play COD. If you like strategy and tactics, then play MAG.

    • Daniel, I agree with what Josh said.

      Actually from what you’ve said, I think MAG would be right up your alley. Playing as a medic is great, and gives a sense of accomplishment to people who might not feel that same accomplishment just running around with a gun. The more you level up your medic kit, the more I think you’d enjoy it.

      I LOVE being a medic, so I’ve customized one of my outfits to purely support that function. I can heal teammates and revive guys to 100% health. I put the heaviest armor I could equip on myself, and also upgraded my health so I now have 120 HP rather than just 100.

      I did this purposely so that I could run into a dangerous area where wounded friends would be, and be able to take some enemy fire while I was healing my guys without dying myself.

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