Game Description: The first next-generation game for Zipper Interactive (creators of the online phenomenon SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs), MAG offers a sweeping battle experience for a total of 256 players online. Eight player squads combine together to form a tactical military experience like no other.
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PAX 2009: M.A.G. Hands-On Beta Impressions

PAX 2009: M.A.G. Hands-On Beta Impressions

By Sterling McGarvey - Posted Sep 04, 2009

As M.A.G. designer Ben Jones gave me a tour of the ongoing public beta, I couldn't help but to feel a sense of loss. Loss for the traditions of SOCOM, which, once M.A.G. drops early next year, is pretty much dead and buried. Instead, Zipper has thrown itself into an experience that's a little bit SOCOM, a little Modern Warfare, and undeniably influenced by MMO culture. It's an ambitious experiment, and I'm curious to see how Zipper pulls it off, even if SOCOM never fully resonated with me.

It's probably no accident that the beta just launched. After all, Sony can't exactly truck in 256 consoles and matching plasma screens to PAX. But it's a happy coincidence, since it allowed me to see M.A.G. at a high point of its potential; there's a difference between hundreds of internal beta testers and some dude with "xx" bookending his PSN ID. The gamer is going to approach it differently, and he'll likely show little mercy.

The action is divided into several groups. Eight-person squads capture smaller objectives. They grow into bigger platoons. Ultimately, there are leaders for each squad, each platoon, and ultimately, an operator-in-command, who oversees everyone.

Although the setup feels SOCOM-esque (deploy your soldier with customizable gear), the shooting elements have streaks of COD4 to them, which borrows from RPG elements. What's that amount to? It's a shooter with all of the XP elements you've come to love, and the undeniable thumbprint of World of Warcraft and other MMOs. There are three factions: S.V.E.R. (guerilla tactics), Valor (for the SOCOM fan who can't let go), and Raven (high-tech weapons and glitz). As you level up and gain XP, you can customize your character with branching skill trees. Basically, Zipper is letting you design your class around how you want to play. Plus, XP comes in different flavors. You get normal experience for kills, but you get leadership points for kills that revolve around an objective, like bombing a capture point. As you gain leadership points, you get perks, like calling air raids or jamming opposition radio communication (and yes, in the literal sense; you can cause static breakups on your opponents' headsets). Ultimately, as you gain leadership XP, you can take on the role of squad leader, or platoon leader, and eventually, OIC, based on your performance.

And in true MMO fashion, you've got to keep playing to keep your rank. Although your normal XP will stay with you as you upgrade your character, leadership points degrade and diminish when you stop playing M.A.G. There's a strong incentive to stick with it and keep on gaining power withing your faction's ranks. But, there's a catch. Sure, you can stick with your faction and rank high on the game's leaderboards, which is good if you prefer a very specific playstyle that your faction complements. Alternately, as you gain experience and power, other factions will try to recruit you with offers of higher XP for switching teams. And you can bring that over to another faction.

M.A.G. is an interesting creature. Although SOCOM Confrontation tried to continue the name of the franchise, it's been so riddled with issues that many frustrated fans have put up a white flag. M.A.G., on the other hand, seems to retain some of Zipper's trademark elements, but feels updated for an era of gaming that emphasizes massive-multiplayer games and a stronger sense of community. SOCOM was instrumental in ushering in a sense of community during the PS2 era, and after playing some of the M.A.G. beta up here at PAX, I think Zipper's got a good chance at creating the same sort of magic on the PS3. This is definitely a game to watch.

Comments are Closed

  • xNYFinestx

    I played the beta and i got to say, i'm dissapointed. its just not my type of game, and i may pass on it. Now i know im gonna get a lot of negatives and hate for typing this, but who cares. It has problems, and i hope there not in the final game. I know it's just a Beta, but it's the Beta im Dissapointed in. Not the whole game in general. But they better fix up the game, if they want to compete with other multiplayer games, like Halo, and MW2.

    Posted: September 5, 2009 1:08 PM
  • narutolover990

    i gotta say a few things: this rocks!!!! 256-player?!?! thats a major achievment!!!!

    Posted: September 5, 2009 1:02 PM
  • mybum

    is there a problem with the aiming? or are the weapons too weak?
    around 2:56, he should have killed the guy no problem....
    the game looks weak to me

    Posted: September 5, 2009 12:27 PM
  • rayken15

    =( Was hoping this game would be good. Those noises for guns and explosions are just bad. They sound so subpar. At several points it soudned like the audio had jammed. That and I agree with all the complaints about the number of shots it takes to kill someone. To be fair this game looks like one of those titles that has some seriously unique moments, but is held back by flaws. But hey! they still have time to replace audio files and adjust HP/Damage ratios.

    Posted: September 5, 2009 11:08 AM
  • XXXSpartan118XXX

    XXXSpartan118XXX's comment is abusive and has been removed.

    Posted: September 5, 2009 10:55 AM
  • Toasted_Poptarts

    Looks like it takes a few too many shots to kill someone.

    Posted: September 5, 2009 8:11 AM
  • DrWoolynipples

    that lookd dreadful

    Posted: September 5, 2009 7:58 AM
  • cheatingthesystem21

    I Can't wait for the BETA. Sep 17!

    Posted: September 5, 2009 7:56 AM
  • Mabekle

    This game looks pretty neat, cant wait to get a chance to play it. Also of course there are going to be bugs witht he game at the moment, its a beta. so lets just hope they can fix them before it comes out and this game will be amazing.

    Posted: September 5, 2009 7:31 AM
  • XXXSpartan118XXX

    Graphics could be better though. Looks a little laggy but what game isnt. Still dont see anything new in the FPS genre besides 256 players. Oh well still see no reason to get this game and a Ps3.

    Posted: September 5, 2009 6:55 AM
  • Tactless_Ninja

    That stabbing not dying thing happens on other multiplayer games too. Usually it's latency issues from what I understand, but it's annoying when it happens and usually ends up in YOU dying which is bs.

    Posted: September 5, 2009 3:45 AM

    Alright, I don't hate this game, but wtf? Some things just seemed out of place and unsatisfactory.
    1-I've never heard a gun fired before, but I'm pretty sure they don't sound like that; that APC at the very beginning sounded like someone using a cheap rubber-band slingshot. All the gunshots did.
    2-What's with the curved white lines around your reticle? It seems like it appeared every time anyone on the entire battlefield fired their weapon!
    3-At 2:54 the player encountered an enemy and when it was time to reload, the enemy went at him with a knife and stabbed him point blank multiple times. Yet the player lived. I'm not asking for a one-hit kill but c'mon! He unloaded a full clip into him and tried to stab him!!!
    4-I'm not sure if that's just the way the squad or platoon or commander's HUD looks like but that seemed extremely crowded.
    I'm usually not one to rant and complain...well I don't usually rant( :P ) but this game looks awkward and not very enjoyable. Although, I guess this is just one of those games that you have to play before you pass a harsh judgement on.

    P.S.-The graphics are pretty good,but that's not too important.

    P...uhh...P.P.S-WTF does "P.S." stand for?!?!

    Posted: September 5, 2009 1:04 AM
  • MayorAdamWest

    cool stuff i might get it but i like to see some video of gameplay first and not the cinematic stuff . yea i talking to u! lol

    Posted: September 5, 2009 12:03 AM