MAG Preview
MAG box art
System: PS3 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Zipper Interactive 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: SONY 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Jan. 26, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 2-256 (Online) 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Funny Title with HUGE Potential
by Matthew Walker

May 20, 2009 - War is the most brutal aspect of life that has been recreated in video games. Whether it is futuristic, an alternate timeline, or hitting a little closer to real life, the shooter genre thrives on combat and recreating the chaotic essence of war in online battles. However, there is one thing that is absent from all of them: chaos.

MAG screenshot

In most games of the genre, this chaotic element is reduced to nothing more than an annoying player that decides to turn on his own people. It has all become formulaic; until now. Zipper Interactive has taken a huge task of recreating real life elements of war. The most prominent example of this will be the 256 player capability, but in this market of comfortable shooters, is there room for a title that explodes the limit of players? Will it suck you into the throws of war?

MAG takes place twenty years in the future. The world’s resources are diminished and there is a revolt against taxes used to pay for overseas military activities. This results in governments not being able to afford standing military groups overseas to protect their interests. Nations now have to turn to private military corporations to do the jobs that need to be done. Three military factions have risen with one goal: supremacy. As a result of their nature, each faction competes for the high dollar contracts. Due to their competitive nature, the three factions will stop at nothing to be the best and this in turn creates the Shadow War. By eliminating the stigma of nation vs. nation or human vs. whatever, Zipper Interactive has the way war is presented in video games in the past.


The three factions’ differences also seem to cater to a broader audience as well. There have only been two of the three revealed thus far, but the two they have don’t leave you begging to know the last faction right now. The Raven faction may be the one most will want to align themselves with due to their nature. They operate with more futuristic weapons, similar to those found in Resistance, and they wear sleek, black polished gear. Another advantage Raven has is their superiorly trained soldiers. According to Zipper, Raven sports the most highly trained soldiers on the planet. Sver, pronounced sever, are practically the complete opposite of Raven. They don’t have the futuristic weapons, the training, or the sleek black outfits, but they do have something Raven does not: experience. It doesn’t matter how much you train for something, without experience you can crack and fail under pressure. Most of the soldiers in Sver are from war-torn nations. They have grown up surrounded by war. For all intents and purposes, they are the living embodiments of war.

MAG screenshot

We will have to choose which faction we side with before we start the game, however, that does not mean we can only be aligned with one faction forever. Zipper says that players will even be able to change their allegiance as the game progresses. This will help with your customization of your soldier, since you will be able to customize their face, voice, and attire before going into battle. One thing MAG is doing differently than traditional war-themed games is the removal of the class system. Instead, players will have a better control on how their character evolves. Using a free-form kit method allows players to change the way they play the game. For example, each player carries one primary weapon, sidearm, three gear perks, and a melee weapon. The perks can range from medic packs to rocket launchers. Players will obtain access to these perks and better weapons as they rank up.

Another interesting feature in this massive online-only game is how it is broken down to eliminate total chaos during play. Instead of just throwing people in and saying fight to the death, Zipper took a page from the military’s command structure. There will be eight player squads, four of those squads will make up a platoon, and four platoons will comprise the company. Now, in order to run a good company, you are going to need leaders, and Zipper has this covered as well. Once players reach veteran status, they will be able to enlist in the leadership tree. The squad leader is the lowest leadership position, followed by officer status for platoon and even Officer in Charge to lead the entire company. Another way to allow better relay of information, officers will be able to use a separate communications channel in order to confer with the other officers about tactics to succeed in the war.

MAG screenshot

All of these things would be nothing without gameplay, and Zipper is making strides in this department as well. Obviously, the 256 multiplayer Domination mode of the game is what has most people intrigued. Initially, I have to admit, I was not that intrigued by the prospect of this many players in one battlefield, due mostly to the way most games have spawn points drastically far away from your objective. While starting out on the outskirts of the map, if you are the attackers, doesn’t sound appealing considering how massive the maps are going to have to be, there will be ways to alleviate this. One way will be transport vehicles. Everyone may not be able to hop on one of these transport vehicles, but having the option opens it up for more contact. Instead of your squad rushing to the center and this being the only spot the action takes place, players will have to take out the outer defenses first before advancing. By doing this, your company will create forward spawn points in the game.

The forward spawn points not only allow you closer access to achieving your goal, but they will also give you new objectives as well. For example, there will be spots that will help your team to take out the defending company’s radar. With this taken out, you have a better chance of infiltrating the enemy compound. This also will cause the defenders to have to scramble to repair their radar, because no one wants to be blind in battle. Having these variations in the Domination mode not only makes it more accessible but seemingly will allow the experience to be more enjoyable. There will be other modes to keep players coming back to the game as well. Two of the three other modes contribute to the Shadow War; however, all tone down on the number of players involved in battle. Acquisition is a 128-player escort mode where attackers have to steal two armored transports and make it to the extraction point before time runs out. In Sabotage, 64 players compete in objective-based missions where the attackers must retain control of two control points simultaneously in order to have the final demolition objective revealed. The final mode doesn’t contribute to the Shadow War, instead it is more like a team deathmatch with 64 players competing in a Faction Exercise.

Any way you slice it, this game appears impressive. With Zipper Interactive putting everything they have into the game, Massive Action Game is poised to deliver on its title. In shear volume alone, MAG represents the functions of war that have been missing from the genre. If everything holds together and MAG truly captures the essence of war, this could be the only game I turn to when I need to align myself and prepare for war. Hoo-Rah!

By Matthew Walker
CCC Project Coordinator

Game Features:

  • 256-player online multiplayer war action.
  • Four modes to play including Domination, Acquisition, Sabotage, and Suppression.
  • Three military factions to choose from including Raven and Sver.
  • Become the leader and command squads, platoons, or the entire company as the Officer in Charge.

  • Screenshots / Images
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