MAG Review
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: 1 (256 Online) 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Does Bigger Make it Better?
by Andrew Groen

MAG is a big risk for Sony and Zipper Interactive. These days it seems like a modern military shooter is a sure-fire hit, but MAG contains no single-player content of any kind and presents players with a relatively new way of playing online. The traditional single-player campaign is soothing to most players; they like to know that if the online mode isn't their cup of tea, they will at least get 6-7 hours of moderate entertainment from a campaign mode. MAG is daring to be a test subject for the console market. Are gamers ready to pay for a full-priced online-only blockbuster shooter?

MAG screenshot

MAG is a game that is expertly designed in a lot of ways, but it is also aimed specifically at hardcore fans and requires a large time investment in order to fully appreciate. The biggest question you'll need to answer for yourself if you're considering a purchase is whether or not you're willing to devote the amount of time necessary for this game to really open up. It also makes it exceedingly hard to rate. Is it "great" because it provides depth and strategy for super-hardcore shooter fans, or is it "bad" because the barrier to entry for more casual players is incredibly high?

This is not a game like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 where you'll be having fun once you figure out how the maps are laid out and how to get kills. By design, MAG doesn't even let you play half of the game types until you've invested five or more hours into leveling up. Then, add in the extra time to learn the maps those games are played on as well as pick up the intricacies of that game type, and it's plausible that it will take around 10 hours before you actually understand how to play MAG. Due to the fact that MAG includes no offline content, save for a short tutorial level to teach you the basics of the controls, there's no way for players to strengthen their skills during a single-player campaign. Everything is an online trial-by-fire.

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MAG is a game that has very few "problems" or "faults," but it has a ton of harsh restrictions to your play style. For example, MAG isn't the type of game that gives you the option of whether or not to work as a team in a squad. It's not possible at all to lone-wolf it in this game; you'll have a miserable experience if you try. You must stay near a medic, because you're going to die repeatedly. So, if you're the type of gamer who likes to pursue his own goals, then you'll have to learn to adapt to a new play style or else you'll be dead in ten seconds flat every time you enter the fray. Even if you're hidden and taking out enemies from a distance, the massive 256-player matches ensure that somewhere, someone saw you fire and will now be turning their muzzle towards you.

It was always known that MAG's gargantuan player count would be its defining factor as well as its biggest challenge. Designing a multiplayer game that huge has never been done before, and it is the source of MAG's greatest strengths and weaknesses. On one hand, it's truly awe-inspiring to see the humongous battles that take place; gazing hundreds of yards across the battlefield to see a battle raging completely separate from you and your goals, and yet tied to your fate, is remarkable to say the least.

MAG screenshot

Being useless is not fun, though. And that's exactly what can happen if you get separated from your squad. If you're not with a squad, you're not going to be a factor in the battle. It's an interesting concept, but it's one that I'm not entirely convinced has panned out for Zipper in this title. It adds to the desire for players to stick together and work as a team, but it drastically reduces the amount of fun you'll be able to have on a moment-to-moment basis. Want to leave the base to have fun killing some enemies as they assault the objective? Too bad; it's never going to work. It's MAG's way or the highway.

Again, it's hard to necessarily call that a "bad thing." It's just the style of the game, and many players will really respond to it. The only "bad thing" about it is that MAG is a game that begs for communication, and it can be so valuable to offer even small tidbits of battlefield intelligence to your squadmates. However, the lack of a pack-in PS3 headset means that probably only 30% or fewer of your squad is going to have one. Add in the fact that most of those people will be yelling obscenities or singing bad songs, and the odds of getting a squad that communicates and works together is practically non-existent.

MAG screenshot

Thankfully, MAG provides bonuses and player buffs for being near your squad leader. The more advanced his battlefield position, the better your player will be. You'll get added features like faster run speed, better protection from explosives, and the like. The latter is actually surprisingly useful given that tactical locations tend to get bombarded with grenades, so it pays to have your squad leader around to mitigate that damage.

Screenshots / Images
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