MAG Updated Beta Impressions

Jumping into a 256-player online shooter can be a daunting task, and that's before you look at the robust leveling system. Sony helps shed some light on what it's all about.

As of last month, the long-running beta for MAG has gone from private to public. What was once a restricted sneak peek at this ambitious 256-player shooter is now open to anyone who's met the appropriate preorder criteria. Naturally, that means a sudden influx of new players setting up show on the MAG servers. With all the ins and outs that go along with a game of this scope, it can be pretty intimidating for newcomers. For that reason, Sony recently invited us over for a thorough rundown of some of those parts of the game that won't be immediately apparent when you first spawn into a match.

Like most online shooters released in the post-Call of Duty 4 era, MAG will offer a robust leveling and upgrade system. Every positive feat you pull off on the battlefield accrues some experience points, from winning a match right on down to the simplest knife kill. Beginning at level one, you'll create a character by choosing a faction to join, customizing his look with a number of outfits and preset facial configurations, and then deciding whether you want to roll with the default weapons loadouts or create your own. Want to be a clean-cut sniper dressed head to toe in camouflage? Maybe a reckless machine gunner with a tattoo on the side of your head and sweet wraparound sunglasses? The choice is up to you.

As you gain levels, you'll earn skill points to spend on increasing your proficiency with certain weapons and equipment. With no set class system in the game, you're given a good amount of room to climb these skill trees however you see fit. You can upgrade weapons with better attachments like higher-zoom scopes and grenade launchers, unlock new weapons like the submachine gun that you can use to replace your sidearm pistol, or focus on improving your skills with better close-quarters fighting and higher electronics skills. But one thing to keep in mind is that despite all these potential boosts to your soldierly abilities, developer Zipper Interactive is taking pains to make sure that the gap between a level-one grunt and a grizzled level-50 veteran isn't so great that the new guy doesn't stand a chance; it's aiming to hit that sweet spot between a sense of progression and a sense of balance.

One aspect of MAG's leveling system that sets it apart from other shooters is the officer hierarchy. With matches capable of supporting two teams of 128 players, things would get pretty chaotic without a leadership system in place, so that's what MAG offers. Once you hit the level-15 threshold, you'll be capable of applying for an officer position in each match, starting with a squad leader (controlling eight players at a time) and going on up to the OIC of an entire 128-player team. If you choose to pursue membership in this exclusive club, you'll get your own special leveling rewards called leadership bonuses. The best officers are the ones who have leadership bonuses that let them increase the armor rating of everyone in their squad, improve their weapons abilities, and so on.

In a battle this big, you'd better stay frosty at all times.

These leaders are capable of chatting with each other over a special voice channel to develop a strategy during a match and then issue out orders to their underlings via optional secondary objectives. These include non-mission-critical tasks, such as destroy that turret or demolish that barricade. There's no penalty for ignoring these directives, but the incentive for soldiers to follow them lies in the fact that they'll earn double the experience points for each action requested by the squad leader. Sony describes this as taking the stick out of the carrot-and-stick approach to encourage players to follow orders.

Right now, Sony and Zipper are cycling various maps and game modes to focus beta testing. They're focusing on specific areas of the game so they can pull data and see what they want to change. A lot is being accounted for, from bird's-eye-view heat maps telling them where choke points are too constricted to weapon stats telling them which guns need to be balanced. Will all that work pay off come MAG's January 26 release? As a game with few rivals in terms of size and scope, it's certainly going to be interesting as we begin to find out.

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282 comments
dawil123
dawil123

TOMORROW IS THE BIG DAY PEOPLE finally mag is coming out and i know we are all waiting for kevin vanord to review it dont we? our minds are like confused your hands look flat but 256 players plus the squad leaders give you adrenaline and addiction and the sides valor raven and s.v.e.r but the best of all is vehicles im sure they will be constantly updating the game for a while too

SportsGamer101
SportsGamer101

the potential of the game speaks for itself...but having played MW2 for so long now, I can't accept a shooter that doesn't make you AIM!!! When I can run around (with a reticule that's an imaginary box, a fairly large one looking at this game's preview here) and shoot aimlessly at people it takes away the feeling of urgency! It's simply shoot n reload....now I know it's not that easy but at the same time it really is! This old form of fps where aiming isn't required so much as having the BOX RETICULE over the enemy to shoot them, is lame in my opinion! MAG looks f'n SICK IN EVERY WAY BUT THIS! That is why Left 4 Dead 2 sucks...mindless shooting!

ramswo18
ramswo18

if this game get's some really positive feedback than this may convince me to go back to sony

evilchiken
evilchiken

I remember when I first saw the "256 player server" thing about mag, I nearly orgasmed. Only ten more days. :)

Joures
Joures

there is a reason why all the flaming comments are downrated...and thats cos the game is good to say the least...i played the public beta and was excited at the prospect of actually using strategy and defend/attack tactics to win a batlle instead of just killing enemies all the time.....and i 100% agree graphics are NOTHING if the gameplay sux....altho it is nice to see nice visuals while playing it is much less important ( for me anyway) than gameplay...and tbh the graphics and maps were pretty good so imagine them polished :)

raazter94
raazter94

GAMES arent about Graphics. They are about GAMEPLAY. I have MW2 and Battlefield 2, and both are good games for GAMEPLAY(MW2 for Graphics). But you shouldnt give a damn about graphics. I could care less about graphics for my games, I play them b/c they are fun.

rob_evanson
rob_evanson

No one has mentioned the running speeds, the reason most games cap player numbers is to keep lag at a minimum. People in beta have mentioed 64 v 64, which is half the maximum. I'm not sure how PSN will handle the load. When COD MW2 came out the network servers panic'd and were down for a few days. Doesn't fill me with confidence.

KillTheRef
KillTheRef

Why is everybody giving this game the excuse that it's a beta for the flaws. Do you realize the game is released in two weeks. I don't see them fixing all the issues by then. It's decent, but by no means worth the price.

leaf21nut
leaf21nut

TERRIBLE GRAPHICS... HORRIBLE GAME... id actually play call of duty modern warfare 2.. and i totally hate that game!!!

Magnius09
Magnius09

I like the beta. I can't wait to get to higher levels to see how larger scale battles are handled.

meltedwater
meltedwater

Alot of people think the guns suck. Starting out they do. But as you level, as in a rpg, you gain better weapons and attachments. It isnt a weak minded game for weak minded peple, you actually cant just run and gun in this as in the "OTHER" game. If you work together, which is the entire point of this game, its alot funner than the "OTHER" game. If youd rather have an 9 on 9 match and have to wait five minutes to see anyone else, you can have it. You dont have to wait 15 seconds to see the other team in this one. Alot more action, and thats fine with me.

lobetrotter62
lobetrotter62

I have the beta, and i play it all the time. There are problems in the game, but that's why it's a beta. This isn't the final product. The graphics are fine. Also, this game isn't even in the same catrgory of FPS shooters as Modern Warefare 2. MW2, is all run and gun. This you actually have to do the objectives to win, instead of just getting kills. People who say this game sucks because it's not like MW2 are out of their mind's.

RepThe610
RepThe610

Keep in mind that the beta is also a work in progress the graphics i would think would be polished off for the actual release. Personally i love the beta and will definitely be buying this game. I also have MW2 and enjoyed that game a lot....however i feel like it became stale after awhile because it lacked the strategy MAG offers. Anyone in MW2 can get the 1887's and pick people off and it's so aggravating for people that actually try and play the game...dare i say it...the "right" way. Let the 12 year olds have MW2 i'll stick to this.

painfool
painfool

Been playing this game in the beta and all I can say is I went straight to gamestop and sold MW2 and pre-ordered this game. WOW !!! So much fun to finally be able to be a sniper again!!

GHOST_MW2
GHOST_MW2

Epic fail of biblical proportions. The only thing that can save this game is a 3RD PERSON option, since they never will make that happen, will never buy this game. Have to thank Zipper for the open beta to all ps3 owners, you guys just saved me 60 bucks.

Dark_December
Dark_December

I've been playing the beta version for about a week now, and I must say I'm disapointed. Graphics are ok, they do not bother me at all. My concern is regarding controls, movement and level design. I'm an avid fps player (Delta Force, Soldier of Fortune 2, Call of Duty, Counter Strike, Battlefield, Rainbow Six, so on...) In this game, aiming feels clunky and weapons pack about the same punch as bb guns. As for movement, it has an Unreal Tournament or Quake feel to it, more arcade like, wich may appeal to some but not to me. Level design is also a concern, as some parts of the maps are blocked by invisible walls, for no aparent reason aside funnelling players into choke points. As for the scale, well, it's hard to say since I've been in 64 players matches. 32 vs 32 with this level design meant countless deaths because everyone is running in what I can best describe as corridors, taking away freedom of movement and strategic progression. I'm going to pass, sounded good on paper, can't say it worked out well in my modest opinion.

rickatick
rickatick

the 256 players sounds awesome

zachmagik
zachmagik

If you look specifically at the graphics, you're an extremely shallow gamer. Obviously, you can't have Crysis-like graphics in a game with 256 players. Call of Duty has a max of 18 players, hence the graphics are quite good. MAG is all about gameplay. Play the game, give it a chance, then judge.

Diehard_Si
Diehard_Si

Looks like this could keep me entertained before Bad Company 2 comes out. Early impressions are that it seems a much more progressive game, the play and spray types that like COD will probably not appreciate it. Graphics do look to be a bit dated, but this is clearly a game thats trying to focus on gameplay and not looks! If you just want to pick up a game, walk around and shoot then stick to COD, if you want something a bit more sophisticated then this might be worth a look.

Kennysolidsnake
Kennysolidsnake

the only people that dont like this game are those that are MW2 noobs that want to walk into a match and dual wield shotguns and kill people a mile away. Im in the beta and its very addiciting! The graphics arent great but then again neither where the graphics for Rainbow Six Vegas and that was a great game. The graphics arent as bad as people on here say they are.. This game is such a breath of fresh air after playing twitch warfare 2.. MW2 is more like a party game while MAG is nearly a real war sim

oista
oista

It seems awesome, but from peoples reactions I'm thinking not... Simply having a lot of players isn't good enough.

Decalpha5150
Decalpha5150

I liked the maps. The weapons are not like Killzone 2. But its ok. I will continue the beta until get the level 10 to play the 256 players. I think is the strong side of this game

levifoskey
levifoskey

i played the beta it is nowhere close to being like cod mw2 and the grafix suck and the gameplay sucks EPIC FAIL.

5Jedi5diah5
5Jedi5diah5

played it too. it looks great and smooth just doesn't have the tight controls of great fps mw and killzone. will look at the sales before buying.

Dark_Infinite
Dark_Infinite

played the beta today, its nothing special im assuming it will get a score in the 6s

aclegend
aclegend

is there a campaign mode

kamizuka
kamizuka

looks like COD in a good way

homsta
homsta

comment 257! Aww i guess i wouldn't be able to fit in this game if the comments had a 256 limit

Dezcore
Dezcore

I do hope that this game is a major success. I would love to see something similar to this on the Xbox.

GamerJedi29
GamerJedi29

This game looks fun and I'm buying it for sure I just hope it isnt a bust

samm565
samm565

I have a Battlefield Bad Company 2 beta, is there anyone that wan't to trade a MAG Beta Code for BC2 beta my email is caboom-@hotmail.com

ForceRecon198
ForceRecon198

To me, this game looks like crap. I've never played it though so it could be really fun but I won't ever play it because I'm on a 360.

Gammet25
Gammet25

This could be either extremely epic and awesome, or a terrible mess of a game.

WNxUSA
WNxUSA

The BETA is now OVER. Ended 4am 12/4/09. Your codes Wont work now. Game was the most enjoyable FPS i've played to date.

Elfrancorifle
Elfrancorifle

i got the code on that link but it didnt work :(

hockey89
hockey89

might have to give this more attention

ford12345
ford12345

my beta key didnt work and i got it at us.playstation.com

nofat1
nofat1

Thx for the link Lukemm1234

Buzduganjr
Buzduganjr

@luckemm1234 They give me the Key ;) Thx for the link ;) I hope now the Key is good and it works :)

anothereviewer
anothereviewer

i dont know i think this game will fail 256 just sounds like to much people

the_wolf_7
the_wolf_7

well i pre-ordered it before this whole beta deal came out and i didnt get a beta.

Spartan_Legend
Spartan_Legend

So the only way to play the beta version of this is to pre-order it from Gamespot?

mikelberk1
mikelberk1

I agree with essereetico, whether its 6-on-6 or 128-on-128 if you don't play as a team you stand a slim chance of winning and it takes away from the overall game experience. I find that the best matches are played with people on bluetooth headsets that communicate info that pertains to winning the match. Not stupid shiite!!

essereetico
essereetico

the thing that good leaders boost armor and stuff of their soldiers sounds good. I hope they will add many things like this to add more strategic elements to this kind of games or will be always the same thing as COD4 a fire at will feast,running and killing frenetically, good for 15 years old boys.

rafaelp11
rafaelp11

yessssss!!! can't wait to experience 256 players online... this is going to be a real war.... i hope good players are separated from the beginners...

tehepicpwnzor
tehepicpwnzor

MW2 > MAG. sorry :D there's no strategy involved in a 256 player battle... It's a technological step up, but gameplay is probably gonna be crap. I'll wait for reviews before buying this one, ain't no way I'm preordering.

power-fantastic
power-fantastic

92GreenYJ Posted Nov 9, 2009 9:34 pm ET I pre-ordered mine from the actual store put in the code and tried to play it uploaded to my ps3 but I couldn't play it said the server if off Do you know what I can do? Or does anyone know what I can do? ***************************************************************************************tThe server is not up 24/7. It usually allows for one to play at sepcific 4-8 hr intervals through the day. Check in around 8pm EST and the servers should be up (until about 11pm-12am). I haven't downloaded the newest update (as Im playing MW2 for the past 3 days), but I will do so tonight.

92GreenYJ
92GreenYJ

@ power-fantastic I pre-ordered mine from the actual store put in the code and tried to play it uploaded to my ps3 but I couldn't play it said the server if off Do you know what I can do? Or does anyone know what I can do?