MAG - PS3 - Preview 2
When it was announced that Zipper Interactive would be pursuing the massively multiplayer first-person shooter genre with their next title, some scratched their head and wondered what would come of it. Large-scale FPS titles are usually plagued with lag and glitches that hinder the entertainment value for nearly everyone, so there was reasonable doubt that MAG would follow the same path. Fortunately for everyone, the beta has released for testing purposes and is showing promise to become one of the better shooters on the PlayStation 3.
Addressing the lag questions – MAG had nil to none throughout the sessions played over the last week. When there was lag, it lasted for a few brief seconds and it was over before a blink of an eye. The moment that was most frustrating was when an enemy was climbing a ladder and I unloaded two clips into his back. His death wasn’t immediate, but soon after his body disappeared and then reappeared in the middle of the lookout tower. It’s the only small hiccup that occurred that was severely noticeable. So for those gamers who are worrying about a “lagfest” online, you no longer have to worry. The current build of MAG runs smooth and isn’t as aggravating as other large-scale shooters at this current point in time.
Only being able to play through the Acquisition gametype, which supports 128 players online, MAG is going to require players to work together to be successful at the completing the objectives. If players don’t have patience and use teamwork, they’ll soon meet the end of a barrel by several enemies working in tandem. There were a few players who were able to work as a lone wolf, but their success rate wasn’t high enough to encourage players to run around a la John Rambo and create their own carnage. Players will need to learn to live and die by the side of their teammates or else they’ll be left behind trying to cover their front and back.
Taking cues from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, MAG employs a robust leveling up system, skills to upgrade, weapons to unlock and much more. Players will start out as a level one recruit and work their way up to apply for leadership roles such as an Officer in Charge (OIC). A leadership role provides certain perks to the players who are able to obtain the position of a squad leader, platoon leader or OIC. A squad leader has an ability to decrease reload time of squadmates that are in the proximity. A platoon leader is able to use improvisation to automatically repair a bunker or vehicle the leader is in. The OIC can regenerate health of the squadmates and much more. It is the little things like perks of becoming a leader that will keep players coming back for more.
Throughout the course of the game, players will earn awards and ribbons to show off how great they are within MAG. There are 61 medals and 43 ribbons in total as of this point. Take for example the “Athena’s Shield Medal”; it is unlocked after winning 100 battles as a defender. As for a ribbon, the Screaming Eagle Ribbon is achieved after parachuting into the map 15 times in one battle. Both the medals and the ribbons are found within the barracks menu, along with the leadership skills and general skill areas.
There are nine general skill areas to level up in that range from 3-5 tiers to work within. Included skills are: Assault, Personal Defense, Athleticism, Close Quarters, Support, Electronics, Marksman, Heavy and Explosives. New guns and equipment will become unlocked through leveling up characters such as a suppressor or grenade launcher barrel. All of these unlockables should keep players enticed in creating a better character to take online and battle their friends. After three games I was able to level my character up to level 5 and unlock three new skills for my avatar to use.
Once players reach level 4, they are eligible to join clans. Clans are found underneath the Community menu that also assists in players keeping track on how their friends are doing in the game. I’ve yet to join a clan with any friend or colleagues, but I am sure this feature is going to be mighty popular come release day since MAG is a title that all about working together.
There’s also an Armory menu that allows players to configure their weapons, gear and their apparel. From putting on helmets and full ski masks to donning sunglasses and changing the color of the camouflage pants, MAG has a lot of accessories to play around with. There’s a total of five loudouts – or outfittings – to keep saved and play with during a match. Players can switch out their primary weapons, backup weapons, two gear items, heavy gear, armor and apparel anytime to customize their avatar to their liking. If players would rather have a frag grenade over a first-aid pack, then by all means, they can switch one out for the other – so long as their money permits them to. I ran around with a first-aid pack and the med-kit pack II that provided the chance to heal my teammates – so normally, I was in the back of the firefights healing as I saw fit.
Playing as Valor (one of the three groups players can join, the other two being Raven and S.V.E.R.) the last week, I only encountered two losses out of 24 or so matches that I have played. Defending a bunker via entering a turret for a 20 kill streak was certainly more fun than originally imagined. I have no doubt that MAG is only going to improve from here on out and serve up a rousing time for any FPS fanatic to enjoy the online 256 player battles. MAG is turning out to be a surprising title to keep an eye out for when it releases January 26, 2010.