MAG Hands-On Impressions

We blast our way through Sony's ambitious online shooter.

394 Comments

The 256-player online shooter originally announced as MAG: Massive Action Game has since had its name trimmed of the cut-and-dry subtitle, but the scope of the game remains just as enormous as when news of its existence first broke at E3 2008. For Sony and developer Zipper Interactive, the team behind the bulk of the SOCOM series, that means living up to some pretty lofty claims. After visiting Zipper's Redmond, Washington studio last week for a chance to meet with staff and go hands-on with MAG, it looks as though they're well on their way to living up to those promises.

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

As you'd certainly expect, MAG has proven to be an ambitious undertaking for Zipper and Sony. Not only have they elected to build a new game engine from scratch, but they've also had to design a network infrastructure that will be key to making sure that these giant matches run smoothly. Zipper and its partners have been working for the past few years on this brand-new server system, culminating in full-capacity testing beginning in late 2008. Since then, it's been a balancing act of keeping smooth visuals that run at a minimum of 30 frames per second while maintaining a serviceable connection for all players. With the framework in place, next on the agenda is a public multiplayer beta, which several Zipper employees told us is a necessity to test their system under real-world conditions.

Although the tech behind MAG is breaking all-new ground, the game's setting sticks a bit more closely to first-person shooter traditions. The game takes place 20 years in the future, in a time when world powers have begun relying much more heavily on the use of private military contractors to fight their battles--what Zipper refers to as a "shadow war" of PMCs against PMCs. That lays the foundation for the game's three factions: the sleek, high-tech Raven; the burly, camo-covered Valor; and SEVR, a group of ragtag fighters adorned in makeshift armor. Each has its own distinct look, from clothing to weaponry, as a way to help players tell friend from foe on the expansive battlefields.

Get ready for some pretty huge firefights.
Get ready for some pretty huge firefights.

To keep those battlefields from getting too chaotic, Zipper has organized each team in such a way that there are multiple layers of leadership to help guide you along. Each match has a pair of 128-man armies, which are divided into 32-man platoons and 8-man squads. You've got a leader at every one of those levels who's capable of dishing out to his subordinates orders that can expand on or differ from the overall team goal. These are called FRAGOs (fragmentary orders) and include objectives such as destroying gates or antiaircraft guns, or what have you. The penalty for disobeying your commanding officer? Nothing. But the benefit is drastically increased XP, which you'll use to unlock all manner of goodies in the game's focus on persistent leveling and rewards.

So what exactly does a 256-player match feel like in action? Sadly, we can't say. Our hands-on time with MAG was set on one of the 128-player maps, with closer to half of the maximum number of players actually playing, a decision that Zipper made for easier coordination among journalists and testers. But even at a fraction of the game's capacity, the match was impressive in scale. The map was huge, and between all of the distant gunfire, parachutes dotting the sky, and splinter battles, there was a lot going on.

The controls offer zippy movement and don't feel far off from the Call of Duty games. You can choose from a number of kits that all include a primary weapon, a pistol, a knife, grenades, and specialized gear such as a medic gun or repair tool. We tried a number of weapons, including an assault rifle, a submachine gun, a light machine gun, and a sniper rifle. With so many players, we didn't survive long with our original run-and-gun tactic; we had much better luck simply going prone with a sniper rifle and picking off parachuting enemies. (Call us dirty spawn campers if you like, but players are given a number of spawn location choices.) Overall, the core gameplay seems pretty accessible and straightforward. Most of the depth looks like it will come from teamwork and getting to know the ins and outs of each map.

Maps of varying sizes will be offered for when you can't get a full match going.
Maps of varying sizes will be offered for when you can't get a full match going.

We played a mode that challenges one team with sneaking into enemy territory and stealing a pair of heavily armored vehicles within a particular time limit. There was discernible flow to the action as one team pushed deeper into the other's side, though with the number of players out there, the fighting was divided into lots of little pockets. To help get a better feel for what's going on, you can pull up a slick overhead map that shows an isometric view of all buildings, and icons for enemies, vehicles, and points of interest.

If you were hoping for MAG to turn the fundamentals of the first-person shooter genre on its ear, you'll likely wind up disappointed. But if you were looking for a familiar approach to shooter gameplay on a ridiculously huge scale, you're in luck--it seems that's just where MAG is headed. We had a fun time with it, but we're eager to experience a full-capacity match to see just how intense it will be. You can expect plenty more coverage on MAG leading up to its release in late 2009.

$3.90 on Walmart
Buy

GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.

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

Join the conversation
There are 394 comments about this story
394 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for Blueblaze02
Blueblaze02

496

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Amo lang123 is Modern Warfare 2 gonna have massive battles with 128 guys on each side?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for amo_lang123
amo_lang123

79

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

I feel that this game is going to be fun, but Modern Warfare 2 will still be a lot better...

Upvote • 
Avatar image for buffdaddy69
buffdaddy69

1105

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 17

User Lists: 0

This game is gonna be vicious.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for wii_sean_wii
wii_sean_wii

103

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

i can see this game getting some major hype!! i just hope it lives up to it

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Sonic7777777
Sonic7777777

121

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 31

User Lists: 0

I can't f-ing wait

Upvote • 
Avatar image for xXL1QU1DFEARXx
xXL1QU1DFEARXx

36

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

THIS GAME IS SERIOUSLY GONNA BE THE GREATEST GAME EVER MADE BY ANYBODY, THIS WILL BE THE GOD OF ALL GAMES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for TheSteelest
TheSteelest

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 9

User Lists: 0

It looks interesting... what concerns me is the 30 frames per second... couldn't it be a little smoother than that? I'm not saying that I won't buy it, I'm saying that if I'm spending my hard earned money to buy their game, it should be a little faster than that... I'm sure it will still play dope, though... I get high when I play these games anyhow... so it don't really matter to me... PEACE!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for RatchetV1
RatchetV1

2271

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

if they can pull off a 256-player online game without dramatic gameplay-ruining lag, then this is a must-buy.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for ejpaine
ejpaine

447

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

zipper has been pushing the limits since socom and guess what. they are good at it. this game should revolutionize modern day gaming and in the hands of this company it probably will.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for onething77
onething77

313

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 11

User Lists: 0

Get ready to Rock`n`Roll.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for kickass106
kickass106

514

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

If they're going for 256, I really dont think its gonna lag. Its not any other shooter. They will work and work and work so this doesnt lag.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for kickass106
kickass106

514

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

This will be....the greatest F*C*I*G game ever released. Better than COD, better than BF, better than Gears, and better than Halo 3. Only PS3 could support.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for hassy94
hassy94

471

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

This looks like it could be really good. Good thing I should have a PS3 by the time this comes out.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for stalepretzels
stalepretzels

156

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

I think this is going to be a huge success! A big woot for epic large scale battles!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Red_A_Link
Red_A_Link

77

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 0

this game looks sick!! too bad i have a 360 (Halo still pwns)!!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for kytomasi
kytomasi

648

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

Actually this is much like a new planetside. Join a side and the battle never actually ends, its just on going, Customize characters. This is nothing but Planetside Next-Gen.... something i've been wanting for years.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for kytomasi
kytomasi

648

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

256 players?! god i hope it doesnt lag lol

Upvote • 
Avatar image for allotheabove123
allotheabove123

425

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 8

User Lists: 0

@alfred66 this could never work on a 360 8 gig disc and im glad its not on 360 because it would f*** up the potential of this game

Upvote • 
Avatar image for NintenFan0900
NintenFan0900

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Last time I heard a dev team was writing their own code, we got Mercenaries 2: hopes and dreams in flames. Good luck to them though, cant wait. ;)

Upvote • 
Avatar image for nightcall14
nightcall14

607

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Awsome game. Makes me wish that I had a PS3.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for MuffintopX
MuffintopX

1064

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

This is goign to be one massive action game!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for alfred66
alfred66

35

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

OMFG... THIS LOOKS AWESOME... NOT FOR 360 THOUGH? CRAP!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for joeyfine
joeyfine

578

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

thats gonna be a big bloody mess.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for totaleklypse
totaleklypse

363

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

256 players will be pure insanity. i cant wait =)

Upvote • 
Avatar image for laptop12
laptop12

638

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

this game should use a super server

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Digital_DJ_00
Digital_DJ_00

1460

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 21

User Lists: 0

Oh that's right I forgot, it seems thats all americans want to play, and it's been going strong for the past 6 years now.....

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Digital_DJ_00
Digital_DJ_00

1460

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 21

User Lists: 0

I can't help but display my negativity, why are we excited for another FPS?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for claykenobi
claykenobi

484

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 14

User Lists: 0

This is looking promising! I really hope it turns out the way we all imagine it! A Star Wars version of this would truly kick ace!!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for borotos
borotos

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I'll buy this game once it's out!!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Sheiko
Sheiko

438

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

I wish this was for the PC as well.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for sirbalynn
sirbalynn

122

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

true but i think they realized that, but still if you have any other computers in the house i suggest that you completely turn them off

Upvote • 
Avatar image for slainta
slainta

442

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 12

User Lists: 0

I wonder if 256Kbps upload speed will be enough... That would be a disgrace to buy the game and then to discover I can't play it because of a slow Internet connection.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for ssjdagas
ssjdagas

492

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I hope there will be a system for the players to rate the commanders or something. Not going to be so fun if the commander is a jerk and give stupid orders.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for joeallen06
joeallen06

113

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@felipenet7 bill gates cant buy this he isn't the owner of Microsoft u nonce and Microsoft cant buy it cuz its a company owned by Sony which makes it sonys property

Upvote • 
Avatar image for kweeni
kweeni

11406

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 10

User Lists: 0

this game is going to ROCK!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for BC20FLY
BC20FLY

1672

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

This game will be HUGE!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Sivus_2000
Sivus_2000

105

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

Well can't wait for the beta. I want to see how this one will turn out. I'm also glad they didn't go overboard with the whole tactical thing, but this kinda reminds me of how Battlefield 2 was.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for jdr589
jdr589

220

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

say goodbye my pretty mwuahahahahahahahaha 360 ya goin down.... on this one maybe not 4ever.... but def for this one

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Sven-Ingvars
Sven-Ingvars

600

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 7

User Lists: 0

AWESOME!!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for felipenet7
felipenet7

277

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

bill gates will buy this for the xbox 360!!! ahhahahahhahaha!!!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for felipenet7
felipenet7

277

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Gamespot can't even preview the game probably!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Lunatic93
Lunatic93

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Seems pretty sick

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Rocker1997
Rocker1997

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

it looks good

Upvote • 
Avatar image for parrot_of_adun
parrot_of_adun

7177

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Oh, and you can tell this game will have it's share of diversity. << LINK REMOVED >> If you see an AN-94 (see link), it's a sure sign that there'll be a ****load of weapons.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for parrot_of_adun
parrot_of_adun

7177

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@"Sprozelth" They're not really alike. If a previous Battlefield game had done something like this, THEN it would be a valid point. But planetside really isn't comparable. Besides, I don't think anyone sees this as revolutionary, just awesome (though it is somewhat of an achievement for consoles).

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Sprozelth
Sprozelth

744

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Wow Im amazed at how every one think this game as revolutionary and epic in scale. For those that played Planetside in its prime year knows that this game is just a tone down version.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for krislee13
krislee13

42

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I really want tp try out this game. I hope they don't stop here. They could totally do a MAG for medieval warfare or even go Star Wars battlefront style. I'm going to go medieval on your ass and then bust a cap in your head with my blaster"

Upvote • 
Avatar image for enternalhell
enternalhell

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

will the war system work similar to shattered galaxy? cause i would love that

Upvote • 
Avatar image for ratm247
ratm247

303

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

im always chasing the bigger maps, i like the chaos, and never feeling my back is safe. i cant wait for this game to come out.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for mogarthegreat
mogarthegreat

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I wish they would punish for not following orders. They need to have a system that actually gives the better players the power. that means promotions, AND demotions, it keeps the skilled players in command.

Upvote •