Game Over Online ~ Majestic

GameOver Game Reviews - Majestic (c) Electronic Arts, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Majestic (c) Electronic Arts
System Requirements Windows, Pentium 166, 32MB RAM, 3MB HDD,
Overall Rating 75%
Date Published Monday, September 17th, 2001 at 11:26 AM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Electronic Arts' new flagship, Majestic, is a fresh and innovative approach to computer games. Instead of having cutting edge 3D graphics, it caters and pans to the passive television audience or the supposed growing ranks of casual computer gamers. By incorporating a game within technologies like instant messaging and websites, the developers of Majestic have sought a different avenue of entertainment. Clearly, its content is influenced by television franchises like X-Files.

The premise of Majestic is to immerse you into a world of conspiracy theories, corrupt governments, black operations and what not. This game puts you in the center of all this. You will then interface with various characters from around the world in order to aid them to reveal this mass conspiracy, primarily through a proprietary application called the Majestic Alliance. Most of the game, however, will unravel over the net. The plot is about as compelling as a cross between The Matrix and X-Files in a serialized nature. The developers of Majestic have devoted an immense effort to create this network of intrigue. Indeed, one of your very first tasks is actually to find the real Majestic website that mysteriously shuts down. I won't give any details but the pilot episode is quite compelling.

Majestic recently began its second episode but you need not keep up with the latest developments. Majestic allows you to halt the game at any time and play at your own leisure. Most of the puzzles that come involve you in scoping out information, usually in the form of websites, and relaying them to the proper specialists. One interesting thing is the need to call certain numbers (long distance) in order to solve crucial clues. You'll work phony voice mail boxes, listen to fake radio shows, all set up by the developers of Majestic. These components are easily identified because of the signature AOL Time Warner banner ads.

However, the amount of secondary or tertiary content developed for this game is remarkable. Often times, you'll surf to personal websites and it becomes tougher to separate the game content from the real content. Added to the mix is Electronic Arts' partnering with mainstream news media portals. For example, if you run into a part of the plot that involves satellite communications, articles from a portal like will be pushed towards you.

The challenges presented are not that ground-breaking. Often times, a keen player will already figure out how to deal with problems two steps ahead of the game. Because the game is specifically paced, you might actually have the key to the next puzzle twelve or twenty-four hours ahead of the game's pacing. This becomes a bit of an irate problem for gamers who are devoted to finishing in a quick manner. Clearly, Majestic is structured so that the actual player devotes less than an hour to the game each day. This way, I'm guessing it does not overwhelm the casual audience. However, I found it quite a pain that I had to wait half a day or even a full day for things to continue rolling along. As the puzzles atrophy, more clues are provided. For example, in one instance you are to hunt down a certain system administrator's name. You must pass this name on to a hacker who will assist you in getting information for this yet other third party. Waiting a day will prompt someone to point out the site to retrieve the name. Further delay will prompt someone to actually send you the actual name so you can pass it on to the hacker. Despite all this help, it becomes redundant for the clever players to actually canvas obscure clues and leads to find the answer first. Since in the end, their only reward for doing so is being one step ahead of their fellow player.

Though Majestic is supposed to be fully interactive with other people, my only interaction is with those who started the game with me. Of those people, there were large numbers of fallout who decided the game was not for them. Frightfully few people finished the pilot episode with me and only one person managed to get into the real pay service of the game. The only conversations I carried on with "real" people were those who were behind me in the game trying to ask for hints on how to complete the game quicker. Originally, the developers were aiming for Majestic players to converse about conspiracy theories. It is too hard, however, not to think this is just a game since everyone is put in the center of the list. You all get the same video conferences and e-mails, so it becomes evident that this is a game rather than a real conspiracy.

Beyond the pilot episode, you have to pay a $9.95 subscription to Electronic Arts' Platinum service. This payment ensures that you are able to access all current and future Majestic content. To fully enjoy Majestic though, I have to prescribe a small suspension of disbelief. Hacking in this game is nothing more than running fancy Flash or Java scripts. Real technophiles will be disappointed about the limited scope of their game. You won't be running packet sniffers, attacking specific servers, etc. Rather, the game's difficulty is aimed at a much more lay level. Conversely, those who are cynical will find it hard to believe, for example, that a building is burnt down for the sake of the game. These are the people who will scrutinize the police reports, radio transmissions, etc.

Finally, a lot of press has gone on to speak about how revolutionary this game is. They compare it to the recent movie, The Game featuring Michael Douglas as the primary player. Let me be one of the first to say, the intensity never approaches to something like The Game. It is like a cheaper version of that movie. Although you will get phone calls, faxes and what not, the difference is, you willingly signed up for Majestic whereas Michael Douglas was haplessly whisked into a conspiracy filled world. Compare what Michael Douglas' character paid for his experiences; something in the amount of millions of dollars. With $9.95, there won't be much interaction and certainly no one coming to your door. The phone conversations you have will not be of people screaming and they are definitely detectable. For example, the voice actors issue pre-recorded phone calls and their conversations are such that all you can do is nod or assent. Some of the threatening phone calls sound, too threatening. Similar scripting comes with the IM portion of the game. IM conversations with AI scripts are easy to identify simply because some of them try too hard to be human. One character, for example, never capitalizes his conversations while others capitalize all their conversations. Thus, the two extremes become "too human" to accept. Moreover, they refuse to talk about other subjects. Often, their responses are tailored generically to handle any off-topic things you might suggest but they do pick up on certain keywords. Irrelevant keywords will lead them to tell you they aren't interested in what you are proposing. Majestic characters may appear like other players but they are also the only players that progress at the same rate as you, as indicated by various numbers attached to their screen names.

Therefore, the privacy concerns are unfounded, simply because this game can't afford to intrude on your privacy. The only place where I found someone manning something was a Hotmail address, which I sent e-mail to without being asked that seemed to possess a genuine human typo. One particular annoyance I found with the game was its integration with AIM. As I have an existing AIM account, I decided to use that alongside the game. Even when I quit the Majestic application, I am still barraged with Majestic character chatting me. Thus, it is more preferable to start a new AIM account altogether.

If you fail to have a fax number or even a valid phone number, it is never a disadvantage for all your messages are also available via the web. Another fault I found was in the phone calls. Although Majestic characters were able to leave messages to my cell's voicemail feature, I had to physically go to the actual recording on the website in order to trigger the game to move on.

Playing Majestic requires you to have some patience and temporary suspension of belief in order to role-play your small part of the Majestic plotline. I can see this as a great value to people who enjoy playing casual games for no more than an hour a day. I can't see it as being fun for those cynics who question and rationalize everything Majestic will throw at you. Majestic is best taken in small doses. If you wish to hurry the game, you will no doubt be frustrated. If you wish to exercise your technical prowess, you will no doubt find it underwhelming. Majestic is a novel idea. Its approach is totally different from what has been done before. The thought of alarming e-mails, threatening phone calls, are indeed unfounded. Unless you actually run a conspiracy website or operate some UFO investigation chapter (such that you always see this type of material), you will easily figure out which material is part of the game and which is not. The slow pace also guarantees you'll never be muddled about who is real and who is not. I had a fun time within the Majestic world but I couldn't see becoming a game wholly unto itself. Its moody soundtrack may try to remind you the game is constantly in progress but often times, I found myself glancing at tertiary or sometimes completely unnecessary material. It is definitely great for gamers on the go as well. Any computer featuring the Real's media player, a modern web browser, AIM and the Majestic Alliance application is fully equipped to play Majestic. Majestic accomplishes most of the objectives it sets out to do. Yet, I think there were ways in which it could improve somewhat, for example, in fostering communication between humans. In some sense, I also wish they would hide their identity even more, so I couldn't tell which characters were real and which weren't, or whether a phone call is really from the game or not. Due to the recent tragedy in America, Electronic Arts recently halted Majestic due to its sensitive material. When it returns though, people with even the most casual interest should definitely check out the free pilot episode. If it fails to hook you, at least you will have had the chance to experience a totally new form of PC gaming altogether.


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