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Game Over Online ~ MAG

GameOver Game Reviews - MAG (c) Sony Computer Entertainment, Reviewed by - Thomas Wilde

Game & Publisher MAG (c) Sony Computer Entertainment
System Requirements PlayStation 3
Overall Rating 70%
Date Published Tuesday, February 16th, 2010 at 05:00 PM

Divider Left By: Thomas Wilde Divider Right

Here's the problem. MAG itself is nearly impossible to review. What you're reviewing is a community.

Penny Arcade’s take on MAG is entirely, depressingly accurate. After you go through a quick training mission to teach you the ropes of MAG's shooter-style gameplay, which is simple and intuitive for anyone who's ever played an FPS on a console before, you get thrown into a series of huge online battles with a ridiculous number of other people. The matches move fast, fill up quickly, and progress without any real sign of lag, which is some kind of voodoo miracle netcode that I don't understand.

MAG is also a quasi-realistic shooter, set in the near future as a series of skirmishes between irritable private military contractors. What that means to you, the layman, is that about forty-five seconds into your first match against other humans, you will get shot in the face.

Bleed out, respawn, arm up, and head out a bit more cautiously, and it'll happen again.

I'm not even sure if people are shooting at me in MAG. Maybe I'm getting killed by map features, or gremlins, or particularly vicious gusts of wind. It's possible. For all I know, I'd get all the way across the map to find out that they're all playing bridge, but I'm the odd man out and they didn't want to just tell me that. Instead, it was judged less socially awkward to just shoot me in the face a lot.

MAG is the product of the same team that brought us SOCOM, so it has a heavy focus on squads. Clans popped up in-game almost automatically, instantly, and a headset is just about required. Looking around online, I see people discussing a completely different sort of shooter than the one that I have access to; it is apparently deep and nuanced, with a heavy emphasis on group tactics and communication, and even its staunchest defenders admit that the learning curve is more of a steep mountainside.

There's a good game here somewhere. It's got great graphics, the online gameplay is smooth and lag-free even with forty people shooting at one another, and the controls are smoothly responsive.

My biggest complaint, really, is that matchmaking could stand to be friendlier to the layman. Perhaps in the initial "wargame" newbie mode, where you're supposedly using nonlethal weaponry that just happens to look and handle like the real thing, players could get more health or a larger resistance to damage.

Right now, I'm stuck in MAG Purgatory, where I can learn almost nothing about the game, because I have the general lifespan of a snowball in a cyclotron. I am one man up against a freak legion of well-trained twitch gamers, with headsets and five friends for backup, in a game where every bullet has everyone's name written on it.

MAG is not particularly user-friendly. I am told that below its exterior, if you find a good clan and have a good headset, it is a deep, fluid military shooter with hundreds of hours of gameplay lurking within it. People who love SOCOM love it, and it scratches that weird little Rainbow Six itch for some. I am told these things but cannot experience them for myself, because the game's learning curve is more like a steep cliff.


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