What an excellent game here; what shooter do you know that has two hundred fifty six players on a battlefield.
MAG's big battlefields are a great place to wage war, as long as you can handle some of the rigors of combat.
In matches with 128 or 256 players, battlefield commanders can have a powerful effect on the ebb and flow of the action. Each squad of eight players has a leader who can designate a target for his squad to assault. Staying near your squad leader bestows temporary boosts like increased reload speed or resistance to damage. More importantly, squad members will earn double experience for any action performed near the designated objective, which is a powerful incentive to stay on task. If a squad leader is actively setting targets, the vast majority of players respond by following his lead, and this makes the game more rewarding for the entire squad and engenders a great sense of camaraderie. Absentee leaders are more of a missed opportunity than a damper on the action, and they can be voted out of the squad with the proper motivation. Fortunately, most squad leaders tend to be active, which not only makes matches more exciting, it can give your faction some explosive advantages.
Squad leaders have access to command abilities that allow them to call in outside help. These range from localized strikes, such as cluster bombs or poison gas bombardments, to broader actions, like sensor sweeps or quicker respawn times. The abilities you can use depend on whether you are a squad leader, a platoon leader, or the officer in charge. Platoon leaders and the OIC can also voice chat with everyone under their command, and though they don't seem to take advantage of this feature often, they certainly do make vigorous use of their command abilities. An automated announcer will clue you in to what abilities are activated so you can adjust your strategy accordingly, even if you choose to go rogue. Perched snipers and lone wolf infiltrators may not reap as many benefits from their squad leaders, but these roles can be fun and rewarding in their own right.
How you play is up to you, though it does take a while to be eligible for command positions. The added tactical dimension of highlighting objectives, calling in support, and coordinating your troops makes you think about the battlefield in a different way, and provides a unique and engaging challenge. Unfortunately, you won't always get a command position when you want one. All you can do is check a box to apply for one when you enter a match queue and hope that you are selected, which you often won't be. It's worth trying, though, because the satisfaction of raining down explosives on your enemies' heads is too good to pass up.
Even if you don't have a command position, you can flex your strategic muscle by tweaking your battlefield loadout. As you gain experience and rank up, you earn skill points that you use to unlock new weapons, gear, and attributes. These include sniper rifles, SMGs, and light machine guns; scopes, bipods, and poison gas grenades; and improved damage resistance, longer sprint distance, and increased health. There are many ways to customize your character, though given the rate you earn skill points, it's best if you choose a specialization early on. It can feel limiting if you're using assault rifles all the time, but you'll be able to unlock more-powerful items more quickly than someone who tries to specialize in both sniping and shotgunning. There is a limit to how much you can equip, so you'll need to make use of the customizable loadout presets if you want to have a range of abilities accessible during battle. You won't know before you join a match if you'll want to be able to revive teammates and repair structures or gas enemy positions and set antipersonnel mines, so it's best to come prepared.
You should also be prepared for occasional technical issues. Matches can be hampered by lag, and if you lose your connection to the server, you forfeit the results of your current match. Fortunately, such occurrences are pretty rare. There are also battlefield oddities to contend with, like empty husks of players lingering about even though they have long since respawned. Upgraded medics will also have to contend with targeting awkwardness, making it tough to choose whom to heal in a crowd (including yourself). The tires of stationary vehicles are bizarrely deadly, and knife swipes seem plagued by inconsistency. None of these problems are severe impediments to your enjoyment, though they do give the game a certain roughness.
MAG's core mechanics have a lot in common with other games in its genre, and the fast-paced action is frantic and entertaining. But MAG stands out from the crowd because of its large scope and its unique command structure. Whether you are a soldier following your squad leader's orders to flank the enemy and destroy the antiair battery, or a platoon leader calling in airstrikes to stymie the enemy while your forces push forward, MAG makes you feel like part of a collaborative undertaking and rewards you for your part in it. Though it has some rough edges, MAG's busy battlefields and intense firefights are enough to make any soldier's trigger finger itch.