Sunday, 21 March 2010
Friday, 12 March 2010
Technically speaking MAG is quite an achievement with teams made up of 64-128 players battling it out over huge, war torn environments with visuals that, while not as aesthetically pleasing as some other titles, still pack a punch with a frame rate that rarely misses a beat. It’s this level of commitment to keeping everything tightly sewn together that clearly sets SOCOM teams’ Grand Opus as more than just a tech-demo showing off the PS3’s extra grunt secretly hidden away beneath all that black, shiny plastic.
The front end is as much as one would expect from an FPS title. There’s a selection of different soldier types ranging from mercenaries, war criminals, ex-special operatives and so on. Each of these are placed into separate factions, (SVER, Raven and Valour), and each have their own selection of weapons and equipment to choose from. One you’ve decided your soldier type, faction and initial weapons loadout, (there are three to begin with, with others being unlocked as you progress), you’re ready to enter the combat zone. As with any other game of this type you begin with the obligatory training level which, if the joke cracking commander directing you is anything to go by, Zipper Interactive are a little embarrassed about: “Oh look, a rock, better make sure you ‘jump over’ that!”
Clearly if Zipper already knew what kind of gamer was going to pick up MAG on day of release, albeit one who probably wouldn’t require such a simplistic introduction on the basic functions of an FPS title, then it does raise the question as to why they included one at all? Once you’ve got your training out of the way, have waited patiently for the queuing time to hit zero and you’ve selected a squad to join, it’s time to deploy into the field.
256 players at any one time is a lot to take in, even for the grizzled FPS veteran, so MAG eases you in nicely with a ‘mere’ 64 players and little in the way of objectives. Experience is awarded for wounding, kills, repairs, healing, securing objectives etc. As you level up, so does the amount of players injected to the battle. The jump from 64 to 128 players is surprisingly quick with the move up to 256 taking a little more time, but with this being where the best of what MAG has to offer is, it is, for the most part, worth the slog.
While MAG certainly lacks the mayhem of close quarter combat found in the likes of Modern Warfare 2 it does have an intensity all on its own and when it all comes together and works it can often be an exhilarating experience. Of all the games currently doing the rounds in all things that is war, Zipper Interactives’ entry into what is ostensibly an overcrowded market is without a doubt the one that will conjure up the most images from your favourite war films. A relentless barrage of explosions churn up chunks of dirt and rock across each and every map, countless rockets hurtle overhead towards unknown targets behind you and a gazillion bullets zip by and ricochet in every direction, each one threatening to put you face down in the ground at every turn. If there is to ever be a follow up to MAG, then fully destructible environments would clearly be the most obvious inclusion to the format; in fact, with Zipper being able to hold everything neatly together in such huge playing areas with relative ease it would seem almost nonsensical not to include such a feature in a game desperately crying out for it.
In the early stages of play game modes are typical in that they range from the basic team death match, (Suppression), to capture and secure objectives, (Sabotage) found in many an online FPS experience. As you progress too much bigger battles with more players the action moves into an even more strategic environment under the headers ‘Acquisition’ and ‘Domination’. Here objectives range from infiltrating enemy territory to steal transport, destroying anti-aircraft batteries, eliminating enemy defensive lines and so on. It’s these later objectives that, while not brimming in originality, are enough to comfortably steer the game play away from becoming stale and somewhat hackneyed.
Whatever the case, MAG still has a lot of work ahead of it and maybe, in time, it may find an audience worthy of its sense of grandeur. For now though, as long as gamers across the globe are content with the instant thrills provided by Modern Warfare 2 and more recently, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, MAG will continue to struggle in the depths of its own ambition.