MAG Final Hands-on and Q&A

We got a final chance to play MAG's Domination mode before the game's impending release, as well as chat to Zipper about its ambitious multiplayer shooter.

When Zipper Interactive's SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs debuted back in 2003, it became one of the first PlayStation 2 games to feature online gameplay. Seven years and several sequels later, the studio's latest project, MAG (Massive Action Game), is hoping to impress shooter fans once again by supporting up to a staggering 256 players per match. When we got a chance to play MAG's closed beta, it was limited to 128 players per map, but this time around, we got a chance to participate in full-scale 256-player bloodbaths as part of a UK event organised by Sony Europe for media, bloggers, and community members. The logistical scale of the event was impressive; however, the real boon was being able to see how the game would handle the stress of 256 simultaneous players.

If you're new to MAG, here's what you need to know: It's a multiplayer-only shooter exclusive to the PlayStation 3 and set in the near future where three private military contractors are fighting each other. MAG has three distinct teams to choose from: the gung-ho, US-based Valor; the high-tech, European-themed Raven; and the guerrilla-like Eastern Bloc SVER (Seryi Volk Executive Response). There are five match types, including two training modes, a control-the-point mode called Sabotage, a capture-the-vehicle (flag) mode called Acquisition, and a Domination mode where teams take it in turn to attack or defend an oil refinery. Each team has one map per match type with 15 maps in total. We got the chance to play two 30-minute domination matches as part of a 128-player UK team facing the best that Zipper's US studio had to offer.

With so many people, it's easy to feel overwhelmed with the number of enemies and objectives on each map. To combat this, each team is divided into eight-person squads with an assigned leader. Based on your experience and progress, you might be able to command a squad yourself. According to lead programmer Nate Klee, MAG's overarching goal is teamwork. "To encourage people to work together as a team in these large maps, where you get a huge number of people together, and in order to actually make sense out of that, it really [is important] to try to work as a team." Players that "try to work together with their team in the right location and follow their objectives" are rewarded. If you follow the instructions of your squad leader, such as destroying an enemy fortification, you earn double the experience points. You can, however, decide to be a lone ranger instead, and Klee said the game won't penalise players if they just want to run around shooting people. But the conditions weren't optimum because the noise generated from 128 monitors and players was enough to drown out any orders coming through, despite every player having his or her own headset. This meant we went for the strategy of killing as many enemies as possible. While MAG features some large maps, the action tended to flow toward the centre, with firefights occurring in bottlenecks. Our favourite weapon was the Apex 100 machine gun, which was ideal for mowing down enemies that continued to appear in these crossroads and helped us rack up a healthy amount of XP in the process.

Depending on your preferences, you might prefer to equip your soldier with a sniper or assault rifle, as well as pistols, missile launchers, grenades, health packs, or a welding device used to repair infiltration points. There are no preset classes to choose from, so you can decide how to configure your characters. "The way it works is that you gain experience," explained Klee. "From that experience, you level up and get points that you can spend in our barracks where you can choose different weapons and equipment that you can build into your loadouts and decide how you want to configure your character's weapons, attachments, armour, and various equipment. So you can build your own character based on your play style or build several characters. And, situationally, if you find that within the map you need to change [characters], you can do that."

We did encounter some lag during our games, with enemies jumping from point to point frequently. When we spoke to Zipper, we were told it was the result of specific issues from that venue. Given that the game hinges on a successful connection, fans will be pleased to know that Zipper has put a lot of effort into stress testing the game's online infrastructure. "We've been trying to do it since the beginning…we built the network tech first," Klee explained. "We've been working on testing this for a long time now, but as you continue to scale up, there are always more and more issues. We tried to have a long beta process to help our launch go smoothly." With the game due this week, we won't have to wait long to see how the final version holds up on retail PS3 units with typically home Internet speeds. And we're hoping that, with Zipper's long history of online support, MAG will be as lag-free as possible.

With enemies able to respawn from various points even in the air, you need to check your six at all times.

If you're a fan of SOCOM, then MAG is likely to appeal to you, with the controls, visuals, gameplay, and overall presentation all seemingly cut from the same cloth as its predecessor. Zipper is also hoping to win over new fans with the launch of MAG. "We're hoping it's actually more mass market [than SOCOM]…that it's a game that will appeal to the general shooter population," said Klee. "We wanted to leverage what we learned from the previous games, but it's a different game, and it's ambitious in the scale and persistence." With MAG due out this week in both North America and Europe, we won't have to wait long to see if it lives up to its high aspirations.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Did you enjoy this article?

Sign In to Upvote

rambo_ando

Luke Anderson

Former staff writer for GameSpot.co.uk, now marketing guy for a certain major online retailer....
MAG

MAG

Follow
90 comments
k1ll8_saurav
k1ll8_saurav

Hmm, I've heard that a lot of PS3 players use their mics and attempt to use teamwork more liberally nowadays. If APB can do the same (if it involves any tactics at all), then we're all set for the "immature console population".

volrath_86
volrath_86

It´s no deserving even a gamespot´s review in time, I bet it was for xbox360 instead the review would have been published the exact day it was released, but it´s all part of the site´s parting with xbox, so we can only wait...

donutje
donutje

I have never played a game as good as this one.. Everyone can say that what they're looking for is a rough-action game/first person shooter, but thats not true , 0games are fun if there are no tactics involved.. This game has everything a bit of tactis, its not linear(loads of ways to play, never gets boring), good action and much much much more... And + its by the makers of socom, you can say all you want, but the first socom game was awesome!! the first online game, how can you not like those revolutionary developers? I'd compare it to warhawk, but then thought out better, first person, more variety

Cyborg093
Cyborg093

02050muh its just i know a good game when i play one. And it seems like its not getting the respect it deserved. you know what i mean?

Vasot
Vasot

Played the Beta... The game is pure CR*P

02050muh
02050muh

wow! Cyborg093...u really love this game,huh? maybe u finally found ur soul mate..but i'm not really sure about this game. yet! well i REALLY love to play games that are more tactical and depends on ALL your team mate rather than just run around like counter strike? and a team with great understanding. (not like MW2...most of them..MOST..like to be a lone wolf..IN SABOTAGE MODE!!!!)

Cyborg093
Cyborg093

@bboysleepy32 It doesnt take much to be better than MW2 xD but its going to take ONE GOOOOOODDDDD game to take MAG off my #1

bboysleepy32
bboysleepy32

I liked the beta, but enjoyed Battlefield II's beta more so I'm going to stick with Battlefield this year. Battlefield feels like a Killzone but better, especially better than COD.

02050muh
02050muh

is it really worth it? i mean,it doesn't have offline campaign,and u can choose one fraction only...and then,u can't go back and change it at all...for a price of $60..is it really worth? HELP!!!

Cyborg093
Cyborg093

Mergatroyer I dont know why beta was crap for you but it ran smooth for me. and re read my comment cause i said The beta its self was better than the FPS games i have played. Including MW2(That game sucks mad bawlz but in my opinion. i mention PLAYING the beta. and i dont see how that is taunting

MERGATROYDER
MERGATROYDER

The Beta was super buggy. The closed and open Beta! Cyborg below me must have never played the Beta. He can taunt about connections, but that doesn't support that fact that it was a bad experience except when it was working. The game is amazing on what it delivers and the only down side to it was the servers and people without headsets. A bluetooth headset can be picked up for 20 bucks these days, don't be cheap. To clarify issues with internet connections. I have a 95MB download and 75MB upload on a fiber optic T1 connection, so my connection was never an issue for the beta. I am going to give this game a wait until 30 days have passed and hope things have all been patched up.

Cyborg093
Cyborg093

Lmfao wow. you played the beta. The beta its self was better than the FPS games i have played. Including MW2(That game sucks mad bawlz but in my opinion) and for the guy saying lag, maybe you should get a job so you don have to steel your neighbors connection.

utopiangames
utopiangames

poojuby - so you can only post here if you think the game is great. Well that is a useful intersting forum. I thought the game was marginally less fun than eating dry pasta, but then i also hated socom and it is by the same guys. The whole thing felt very drab and old hat. The draw I guess is the scale of the games and the team work, which will only really come off if large amounts of players go along with objectives and wear headsets. I doubt this will happen and certainly was not going on when i played the beta. Would be interesting to know specifically what aspects of the game you consider to be "freaking amazzing"

unrstone
unrstone

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

unrstone
unrstone

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

p00njuby
p00njuby

hey Jonman this game is freaking amazzing and dannyhavok it dosnt lag at all, it runs freakin smooth. you guys obviously own xboxs, so go play some other game that cost $60 and play online which cost another $60 per year, and quit dissing a game that is actually good.

dannyhavok
dannyhavok

all i can say is. LLLLLAAAAGGGGGG.

jonman_
jonman_

Played the beta this game blows!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Vasot
Vasot

Meh looks boring. The Enemy respawn idea is getting old and cheap

Cyborg093
Cyborg093

philtx79 N64 was a step on FPS's. You obviously don't pay attention to games. So why review anything at all.

Cyborg093
Cyborg093

oh, i forgot to say, E8_UFO must not like shooters if he thinks this game is bad xD Note: JUST QUIT!

Cyborg093
Cyborg093

tsep23 i know, but however it got it, its bs. and for you people out there asking if its a good game or not. here is your answer straight up. AMAZING! GOOD! PERFECTION! i can say it a billion ways. But if your want a yes or no. Yes, its amazing.

tdawg2594
tdawg2594

I have read a lot of reviews about this game and most are positive and the reviews i seen that gave it 7s were reviews of people playing the beta and not the actual game so the game must be as good as they say

SLUSHiNaToR
SLUSHiNaToR

I sure hope everyone is enjoying this game over mw2.. mw2 is nothing but a shotty, camping knife fest lol.

super_broly
super_broly

just got this game yesterday and im loving it more than modern warfare 2

buft
buft

its certainly shows a lot of promise , if it lives up to it, this game could be great

brok
brok

noticed Zipper Interactive... noticed this game is not Crimson Skies 2... lost interest.

FLYEboi50
FLYEboi50

"Son of a...MAG!"-V.P. First Person Shooter Relations

golazo3
golazo3

Man im getting a ps3 only to play this game!!!!!!

maverick_76
maverick_76

From what is looks like on Metacritic, the game has gotten good reviews so far. Granted most of these were done without playing a full blown 128 vs. 128 game, they still seem to say this has potential.

Karratti
Karratti

The gameplay is excellent. I really like it a lot. But anyone playing this should know that this isn't Modern Warfare. It's not Battlefield. This is a game that hinges primarily on you and your squads working together, keeping each other alive, and covering one another. If you're looking for a camping-centered shooter where you can stay in one spot and get twenty-five kills in a row, this game isn't for you. (And besides, you don't get much XP for that, anyway.) This is a game of teamwork, and you will succeed or fail according to how you work with others. PS - Pick up a headset. Seriously. See you out there.

Karnagerulz
Karnagerulz

The game in the beta phase had alot of issues but then thats why its a beta and not a demo after spending 6 months playing I enjoy the game and I will say too much of one campain or another gets old but as long as you mix it up and have a good squad this is a great game. The acutal game has improved some since the beta alot of the issues like spawning times and equal weapons have been fixed. Do not compare this game to MW2 and BBC2 this game has objectives just just shoot and blow things up

darkdredude
darkdredude

4 crackers24 & jakndaxter7223 I like it. its fun. plain and simple

crackers24
crackers24

People. Somebody just say point blank: did you or did you not like the gameplay. PLEASE. Yes or no question!! No need to rant for a paragraph about the graphics. BTW: Bad Company 2 Beta had no support for headsets or commands. It was just "go over there and blow that thing up."

sgldda
sgldda

Don't buy MAG, wait for Battlefield Bad Company 2!! It has a campaign with story plus great online action, many modes, serious teamwork with good comms and land and air vehicles. MAG will get old fast in comparison IMO and likely lag terribly, in addition to it's weak graphics and gameplay. Good luck, whatever you choose!

darthkillerduck
darthkillerduck

i dont see how gamespot seem to think its special that they got to play domination before release because u could with the beta

jakndaxter7223
jakndaxter7223

im getting mixed comments in my head SOMEONE JUST SAY ITS GOOD OR BAD!!!! i dont care soo much about graphics it looks as good as halo ODST with 2 people on a screen and there are alot of people but i hate 12 year olds in mics yelling DROP A BOMB or watever...

central09
central09

oi oi oi ....dont be beatin up on MAG you bunch of noobs BOHAHAHAHA! it plays just like MW2 in terms of controls..but the actual gameplay is much better....more tactical! ....but then again your average gamer is a noob who just likes to run and shoot anyways...i just picked it up and i was in the beta...its FRIGGAN SICK! tons of people are usin head sets and the voice chat is crystal clear! fill those ranks boys! anyone who has bought MAG and is playing it today is saying the same thing "Damnit! why did i waste 60-80 dollars on MW2 this game stomps it in the dirt!" (like seriously im not joking...ive actually heard just about everyone with a headset say that >_>...makes sense ive played MW2 its a pile of crap compared to this) so dont be a noob! sign up! SVER!!!!

E8_UFO
E8_UFO

I'm sorry guys, but I didn't like the Beta one bit, The graphics are poor, yes I can understand they can't be cutting edge due to 256 or so Rambo's running about but still?. And after about 15 minutes of play I'd seen and played enough.... Dire... Even the guns had no kick to 'em. Shame I thought it was gonna be a cracker.... :(

darkdredude
darkdredude

come on guys, the beta is expected to not be at its best, thats why its a beta test. To fix the problems the consumer will find, by letting the consumer play before they buy. and with DLC now available, when we play and let the big wigs know, they can give us some DL to fix problems and downlaod necessary updates. Mag has so musch potential lets al give it a chance

i_have_skills
i_have_skills

@TripSe7en GRAPHIC DONT MAKE A GAME! Would you play a game that was a cutting edge life like rock? Dont think so, id rather it be a 8-bit rock that can DO SOMETHING FUN,lol

tsep23
tsep23

Cyborg093 that 8 score didn't come from gamespot

kavadias1981
kavadias1981

Why are you both getting so bent out of shape about the graphics? It didn't cross my mind for a second. I just had fun playing the thing. And that is what counts, right?

TripSe7en
TripSe7en

I agree, the beta was awful! The graphics were worse than Warhawk, and that is bad. I understand they cant be U2 style graphics when playing with 256 players, but those graphics are really bad considering we are in 2010 and not 2006...

philtx79
philtx79

Are you serious this game blow, the beta seemed like a video game from the 80's,and by the way I could swear that they are some people that work on the game that try to tell us to go buy it. To them I said you filthy little lier, and who is that guy talking about n64 fps, i mean this is a ps3 not a nintendo.

kavadias1981
kavadias1981

I actually enjoy the Beta but I really am crap when playing against all the FPS vets! Plus it gets very annoying when you have racked up loads of XP and the server goes down. Oopsie!

kavadias1981
kavadias1981

@hellhound1345 I don't know if you were around when the N64 was but yes it did have some amazing shooters. Quake, Doom, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark and Turok were all incredibly enjoyable to my teenage self.

utopiangames
utopiangames

The Beta was awful, I have never seen such a bland backdrop to a current gen game. Even the weapons and the noises they make sound last gen. Hardly anyone seems to use headsets which makes the team side of the gameplay near pointless. Other than a traffic jam you are unlikely to ever be as bored with as many people for the same reason. Unless they have managed to work some genius like magic in the last 2 weeks of development. Not quite the same thing but would be much more excited about a warhawk sequel with a single player campaign included.

Asheileon
Asheileon

BETA sucked, and the finished game will just be another abitious polished turd.

Echorai
Echorai

the beta was amazing. prepare to drown in fps addiction with the other 255 players.