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 MAG: Massive Action Game (Multiplayer 256-slot max.)

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Dark Assassin

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PostSubject: MAG: Massive Action Game (Multiplayer 256-slot max.)   Mon May 18, 2009 2:41 pm

IGN's Andy Beaudoin takes some rounds with MAG (Massive Action Game), a 256 maximum multiplayer-only game.

April 29, 2009 - Few games did as little for me when they were announced as MAG did last year at E3. I mean, in a year where Resistance 2 was shown and Fat Princess debuted, the house of Sony dedicated part of its press conference to announcing that Zipper Interactive (the company behind most of the SOCOM franchise) was planning to bring 256 players online in the same match in MAG: Massive Action Game. And, that was pretty much it. We didn't play it, and there wasn't a big demonstration. We just knew that the SOCOM guys were working on something big and one day we'd see it in action.

That day has finally come.

After getting whisked away to the Zipper offices in Washington state, learning about the journey to MAG, and getting a rundown of the three paramilitary organizations in the game, a screen lit up and the first-person shooter began. Now, maybe I'm just out of the loop, but the first thing that caught me off-guard was the first-person perspective, but the next thing that got me was how organized all this stuff is so that the games doesn't just devolve into 256 people running around and killing each other.
When you first boot up MAG, you're going to need to enlist with a squadron. See, in this world, we're 20 years in the future and the planet's dwindling fuel reserves have made fighting outside of your own borders a feat most countries can't afford. With that, the fighting around the globe is left to three private armies that are always jockeying for position as the number one unit. Raven is filled with high-tech gear and sleek black outfits featuring molded plastic armor; Valor is the camo-wearin' crew you'd think of if a bunch of Army grunts splintered off and formed their own group; and SVER is comprised of soldiers who find hunks of scrap metal and make it into part of their armor. Each of these crews has a very specific color palette assigned to them so that when you see a purple and black base, you know you've run into Raven territory, and when you're behind a machine gun that's spray painted all kinds of crazy colors, you know that you're playing as a member of SVER. Every mission you go into in MAG is a contract you've been given by a government; if you suck, governments will start giving their contracts to the other team.

When you've picked your allegiance, you're HUD and menu screens are tricked out to represent your squad, and you become a part of the Shadow War. Now, what's interesting about this battle is that it is ongoing. Even when you're not playing, other people are and your faction could be losing or gaining ground in this never-ending conflict. When you are playing, there's going to be a hierarchy on the battlefield, and you'll need to know because everything that's happening out there -- every explosion, every plane that flies over your head, every command you receive -- is happening because of something a player did; nothing is pre-determined effect thrown in for the hell of it. When you hear an explosion in the distance, that's happening because someone somewhere just blew something up.
Anyway, starting from the bottom, you'll be a part of an eight-person squad when you jump into MAG. There, you'll have a squad-leader based on experience. That eight-person squad is part of the 32-man platoon. There, there's a platoon leader. That platoon is part of the 128-person army that's ruled by the one officer in command. All of these leaders will be issuing orders to their troops in terms of objectives and things that need to happen on the battlefield.

If taking orders from an 11-year-old who stayed home all weekend and leveled up to be in charge doesn't sound like fun, you're welcome to run wild and do whatever you want in MAG, but sticking with your squad and working towards objectives gives you more experience points than simply going Solid Snake and trying to bring down the world by yourself. Having one of these rank privileges is also going to come with a set of unique leadership abilities. Ranked-up folks can hand out FRAGO assignments (fragmented orders or little missions that are building toward a larger goal), run faster, call in tactical strikes such as mortars and gas bombardments, and use strategic maneuvers such as satellite sweeps that reveal all enemies for a few seconds.

The portion of the game I got to play was simple and only open to a five-on-five battle. I was a member of the Raven organization, and those Valor bastards were assaulting our base and trying to snag two of our vehicle prototypes. At first, I spawned at one of our turret stations on the outskirts of the base. When you start here, you can take control of the turret -- complete with machine gun and missile options -- or rush out of the structure, but you definitely want to do something about the giant breach in the wall. Here, the Valor men were storming the castle and it was up to me and my teammates to hold them off with our machine guns and grenades.
Now as everyone got the hang of the game's controls, damage was being dealt all around. When you or a comrade goes down, you'll have a handful of seconds before you bleed out and respawn. If a teammate can get to you and is equipped with medic functions, he (sorry, ladies, didn't see any female soldiers) can resuscitate you. The med kit, a gas you spray on people, can also be used on yourself if you've just been wounded and aren't in the bleed out process. There is no regenerative health.

After getting killed in this standoff a few times and coming back, an objective popped up on my screen that was set by one of my superior officers in the field. I booked to the spot on my radar, came to a yellow column of light, and discovered I was out in front of one of the garages holding the prototype vehicle the Raven guys were after. I stood guard, capped a few stragglers who were making their way towards the objective, and watched as I raked in a massive amount of XP. The totals only got higher when my squadron leader showed up and fought alongside me. This proximity popped up on my screen as a "Leadership Bonus" icon so that I knew we were still close enough to work as a team and get me some goodies.
Now, I can see where I wouldn't want to hang around and take orders from someone, but seeing that bonus tag pop up on my screen was pretty enticing. When the leader moved on to take on some guys attempting to bum rush some stairs in the open, airy base we were playing in, I found myself sticking with the unknown leader just so I could keep reaping the benefits of his presence.

Earlier, I talked a bit about how everything you see is happening because of a player, and that sense of being a part of something huge was clear in my demo. At some point, the Valor squad had penetrated deep enough into our base to take out the antiaircraft guns. As the smoke from the guns rose in the distance, the enemy flew in a forward spawn point so that its troops could parachute in when they respawned. Meanwhile, when our garages were getting screwed up and the vehicles were getting jacked, air raid sirens began to wail to let our team know things weren't going so well.

In terms of controls, MAG seemed to be hit and miss at this point. Aiming, shooting, and running all worked like you'd expect (there's a little run meter that lets you know how long you can jog before taking a break and letting the meter refill), but everything else seemed a bit convoluted. Granted, I was just getting the hang of the controls when the game ended, but the current scheme seemed a bit confusing and littered with extra steps. L2 is the grenade button, but this only switches me from my current weapon -- meaning I hit L2 because I want the grenade but I still need to hit R1 to throw the grenade. Why not just throw it when I hit L2?

What MAG desperately needs is a melee button. At one point I was blasting opponents in the distance when an enemy rounded a corner and was directly in front of me. Using all my Killzone skills, I began jogging backwards and tapping buttons searching for the one that allowed me to swing away with the butt of my rifle. Turns out, no such move exists. If you want to defeat someone in hand-to-hand combat, you need to cycle from your machine gun, to your pistol, to your knife and then press the attack trigger. Really? We couldn't have a melee move that doesn't require three buttons to get to?

At the end of a mission, you're presented with the stat screen you'd expect as it tracks kills, deaths, and the like. You even get a meter that fills up with the points you've earned so that you can watch yourself bank XP and head to the next experience level. Expect there to be all kinds of medals for your performance here as well.
It is still super-early for MAG, but the game shows a lot of promise. I have no doubt that all the kids who flocked to SOCOM will be down with working as a team and playing the part of their rank to push forward in this never-ending war, and the idea that you enlist with one organization and the battle goes on even when you're not at your console is a cool one. Still, I worry about how many people will be up for adopting the military lifestyle and falling in with the whole rank-and-file system. Zipper is shooting to have this bad boy out and live this fall. With that launch date coming up a whole lot quicker than you might imagine, the team made sure to drop hints that information on a beta should be coming soon so that you can get on the servers and kick the tires for yourself. Until then, we here at IGN will keep you up to date the best we can -- including an exclusive interview with Andy Beaudoin, the lead game designer for MAG, on Podcast Beyond Thursday, April 30, 2009.

P.S. from Dark
Expect a Legacy 506th Company near this game's release!
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PostSubject: Re: MAG: Massive Action Game (Multiplayer 256-slot max.)   Mon May 18, 2009 3:42 pm

:d Too bad I don't have a PS3
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PostSubject: Re: MAG: Massive Action Game (Multiplayer 256-slot max.)   Mon May 18, 2009 4:24 pm

Why would you even post then, lim? Anyways, MAG looks pretty cool.
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