The MAG public beta has ramped up, and thousands of download codes have now been distributed throughout the world. For those of you lucky enough to get in: congratulations! For the rest, I offer you a taste of what the game has to offer.
I have to admit that my experience with MAG did not get off to a great start; after 13 hours of waiting for the beta to download, I discovered that the system had frozen at 99% complete. Don’t expect to simply pop in your shiny new download code and get to playing… it may take you a day or two to finally get the game off the internet and onto your console. Once you do finally get to a home screen, you’ll find that the MAG servers aren’t on at all times of the day. In fact, you’re pretty much going to be limited to playing in the early afternoon or at night.
You’re first matter of business is to pick a faction and customize your appearance; there are three PMCs that you can choose to join; I for one went with Raven because I’m a fan of anything that looks high-tech. I then proceeded to choose my character’s face, as well as his uniform type and detailed weapons loadouts. I highly recommend doing this before you set out into the battlefield for the first time.
Unfortunately, the MAG beta doesn’t give you an option to do training, and there’s no tutorial to be found. This means you’ll be learning the ropes the hard way: in full-on combat. Platoons of 32 players are broken up into 8 man squads, and each squad has its own designated leader. This person delivers orders to let you know what has to be taken out. However, these commands seem superfluous; if you’ve played a shooter before, you’ll be able to figure out pretty quickly that the gigantic bunker-mounted turrets should be your first concern in any attack.
Two gametypes are currently playable- one requires you to take over/ defend three intelligence objectives, and the other is a capture-the-flag style match where teams try to confiscate enemy vehicles and deliver them to an extraction point. Both are fun, creative takes on familiar gametypes, so experienced FPS players should feel right at home with their objectives.
As the game moves forward, you’ll find that the platoons eventually converge on a single objective. What starts off as a spread-out skirmish eventually becomes a massive 128 player shootout. In order to make things more manageable, squads respawn en-masse. The downside of this is that you may have to wait for about 30 seconds before dropping back into the action. During this time, you are allowed to choose your spawn point and/or modify your loadout.
Overall, the game is technically very impressive. Sure, the graphics aren’t great, but considering the scale of whats going on here, I have to hand it to the guys at Zipper for finding a way to make everything run smoothly. The levels look good; they reminded me quite a bit of some of the levels in Gears of War 2. I encountered very little lag, which is a great sign of things to come in the full release. As expected, glitches are present in this beta build. At one point, a teammate of mine died in battle but could still move around the map (as a gliding dead body) for the rest of the match. This should be tidied up by the time the game ships to retail.
My only real complaint with MAG is that is feels terribly artificial. The weapons don’t carry any real weight; they feel more like paintball guns than assault rifles. MAG seems to aspire towards Call of Duty 4, and in a lot of ways, it succeeds. However, there’s something missing… it just doesn’t feel as precise as it should. Death is a frequent obstacle for just about everyone, and meeting objectives can become a real struggle when there are so many players trading bullets near a single goal. At some point, the action in MAG seems to become too massive for it’s own good.