Game Description: The first next-generation game for Zipper Interactive (creators of the online phenomenon SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs), MAG offers a sweeping battle experience for a total of 256 players online. Eight player squads combine together to form a tactical military experience like no other.
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PAX 2009: M.A.G. Hands-On Beta Impressions

PAX 2009: M.A.G. Hands-On Beta Impressions

By Sterling McGarvey - Posted Sep 04, 2009

As M.A.G. designer Ben Jones gave me a tour of the ongoing public beta, I couldn't help but to feel a sense of loss. Loss for the traditions of SOCOM, which, once M.A.G. drops early next year, is pretty much dead and buried. Instead, Zipper has thrown itself into an experience that's a little bit SOCOM, a little Modern Warfare, and undeniably influenced by MMO culture. It's an ambitious experiment, and I'm curious to see how Zipper pulls it off, even if SOCOM never fully resonated with me.

It's probably no accident that the beta just launched. After all, Sony can't exactly truck in 256 consoles and matching plasma screens to PAX. But it's a happy coincidence, since it allowed me to see M.A.G. at a high point of its potential; there's a difference between hundreds of internal beta testers and some dude with "xx" bookending his PSN ID. The gamer is going to approach it differently, and he'll likely show little mercy.

The action is divided into several groups. Eight-person squads capture smaller objectives. They grow into bigger platoons. Ultimately, there are leaders for each squad, each platoon, and ultimately, an operator-in-command, who oversees everyone.

Although the setup feels SOCOM-esque (deploy your soldier with customizable gear), the shooting elements have streaks of COD4 to them, which borrows from RPG elements. What's that amount to? It's a shooter with all of the XP elements you've come to love, and the undeniable thumbprint of World of Warcraft and other MMOs. There are three factions: S.V.E.R. (guerilla tactics), Valor (for the SOCOM fan who can't let go), and Raven (high-tech weapons and glitz). As you level up and gain XP, you can customize your character with branching skill trees. Basically, Zipper is letting you design your class around how you want to play. Plus, XP comes in different flavors. You get normal experience for kills, but you get leadership points for kills that revolve around an objective, like bombing a capture point. As you gain leadership points, you get perks, like calling air raids or jamming opposition radio communication (and yes, in the literal sense; you can cause static breakups on your opponents' headsets). Ultimately, as you gain leadership XP, you can take on the role of squad leader, or platoon leader, and eventually, OIC, based on your performance.

And in true MMO fashion, you've got to keep playing to keep your rank. Although your normal XP will stay with you as you upgrade your character, leadership points degrade and diminish when you stop playing M.A.G. There's a strong incentive to stick with it and keep on gaining power withing your faction's ranks. But, there's a catch. Sure, you can stick with your faction and rank high on the game's leaderboards, which is good if you prefer a very specific playstyle that your faction complements. Alternately, as you gain experience and power, other factions will try to recruit you with offers of higher XP for switching teams. And you can bring that over to another faction.

M.A.G. is an interesting creature. Although SOCOM Confrontation tried to continue the name of the franchise, it's been so riddled with issues that many frustrated fans have put up a white flag. M.A.G., on the other hand, seems to retain some of Zipper's trademark elements, but feels updated for an era of gaming that emphasizes massive-multiplayer games and a stronger sense of community. SOCOM was instrumental in ushering in a sense of community during the PS2 era, and after playing some of the M.A.G. beta up here at PAX, I think Zipper's got a good chance at creating the same sort of magic on the PS3. This is definitely a game to watch.

Comments are Closed

  • kwfang

    256 players = means HARDCORE LAG the better have good serves to suppport that many players in one room

    Posted: October 5, 2009 9:24 AM
  • thegreymirror

    I've been playing the beta for a little while now, and I would just like to say that I love it, as well as the mass majority of us playing it. The game has been like crack for us, and now that the beta testing is in hiatus, we are all goin through MAG withdraw. This game truly is history in the making people!

    Posted: September 9, 2009 1:59 AM
  • spartan960

    looks a little slow but jus giv it some time and it will get bettr

    Posted: September 7, 2009 4:53 PM
  • XXXSpartan118XXX

    XXXSpartan118XXX's comment is abusive and has been removed.

    Posted: September 7, 2009 5:57 AM
  • napkinshower

    i wonder what the reaction would be if it was an xbox exclusive? would it still be horrifically ripped apart by xbots(or psdweebs for that matter lol) or praised as the next halo game even though they all knew it looked sketchy?

    Posted: September 6, 2009 8:15 PM
  • cloverfeild

    i'll say it again, i hope this game is good, i hope it doesnt pull a socom on us, lord help us if it does though, i might start cracking skulls

    Posted: September 6, 2009 7:23 PM
  • wyotee

    Okay you retards out there that are criticising this games visuals. This video is from E3 which was 6, 7, 8 months away from when this comes out. Of course its not going to look polished with that long of a time to go. They have to make it work first. So shut up and go back to playing your xbox.

    Posted: September 6, 2009 4:35 PM
  • XXXSpartan118XXX

    lol @holton1 so true. Halo 3 alone has over a quater of a million people playing a day.

    Posted: September 6, 2009 1:49 PM
  • holton1

    to bad that their only be 200 people on ps3 daily, xbox360 ftw!!!!!

    Posted: September 6, 2009 11:49 AM
  • iceman525

    the game looks fine 2 me besides being knifed and not dying thing which i think is bullcrap

    Posted: September 6, 2009 9:35 AM
  • jaksmakndaxter

    It's funny how people are on this site bashing an unfinished product as if it's a retail copy. They obviously have some work to do,and the beta will help them continue to make the game into what they promise. I'll reserve judgement until the game releases. Looks promising to me.

    Posted: September 6, 2009 8:55 AM
  • Death2494

    Man i'll probably get it in the end...
    Not seeing too much innovation on the side of Infinity Ward's MW2
    This game shouldn't be the reason anyone buys a ps3. Unchated 2 is more than enough to buy one or fire it back up.
    I already own a ps3 so i'm going to buy a 360 and Halo ODST with an in-store year warranty

    Posted: September 6, 2009 12:33 AM
  • idea_machine

    Hmmm... I wander if the maximum number of players has any relation to the maximum number that can be represented in a byte of binary. I don't know programming so that's just a full blown guess.

    Posted: September 5, 2009 10:58 PM

    ROYALHYSTERIA55's comment is abusive and has been removed.

    Posted: September 5, 2009 9:28 PM
  • Fernando16

    damn. ....i was thinking of buying a ps3 for this game....now im not so sure....

    Posted: September 5, 2009 7:17 PM
  • Cobra180

    I'm fairly sure that the gun damage has been tweaked already. It doesn't seem to take that long to kill someone for me, and the guns sound fine to me.

    Posted: September 5, 2009 5:07 PM
  • gravy666

    I'm disappointed. Looks like someone modded Half-Life 2 (I mean that in a bad way, but I'm not saying it's a bad game), gave it better graphics, and called it a new game. I was hoping I'd have a reason to power up my PS3 again...

    Posted: September 5, 2009 4:46 PM
  • XXXSpartan118XXX

    XXXSpartan118XXX's comment is abusive and has been removed.

    Posted: September 5, 2009 4:42 PM
  • Spoonpwner

    graphics are nice, everything else isnt. it promises to be like an actually war but it just seems like a unpolished cluster of explosions and gunfires.

    Posted: September 5, 2009 4:27 PM
  • SiK

    I lol'd when i heard the guns this game is going to Fail Hard

    Posted: September 5, 2009 1:41 PM