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January 24 2010
M.A.G. - PS3 Preview
Release Date Distributer Publisher Developer
11/2/2010SonySonyZipper Interactive
Offline Players Online players Price Anticipation
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MAG is a great looking PS3 title.
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Taking cover in MAG, but not for long!

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Even with 256 players online this looks great.
First things first, this is an online only shooter so if you don't play games online you have two choices. The first is to potentially miss out on something quite brilliant, the second is to get yourself online and prepare for one of the most intense games ever made. For us, M.A.G. (which is short for Massive Action Game) promises to push online gaming to an even larger audience then before.

Set in the year 2025 the world is a much different place with government run militaries taking a back seat to privatised companies providing the same service. After a while those these PMC's (private military companies) realised the best way to get new business, was to take the others out of business!

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MAG looks like a PS3 must-have.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this game is the developer - Zipper Interactive. While the name may not have the "prestige" of developers like id Software, Crytek, Valve or Sonic Team, their games have been quite superb, groundbreaking even with the SOCOM titles on PS2 (the PS3 title was developed by Slant Six Games) being the best online games of the previous generation, and by a long way. There is a lot to live up to but if Zipper Interactive can push the boundaries as they did with SOCOM then this should be special.

So what do we have in this First Person Shooter? Well M.A.G. supports up to 256 players online with users split up into 8-player squads, with 4 squads in a platoon and 4 platoons making one side of the battle (8 x 4 x 4 = 128 players). Each squad is led by a player with a high enough ranking so when you start the game you'll be a grunt but as you move up the rankings you will have the ability to issue orders to fellow soldiers on the battlefield. While it's not mandatory a game such as this, which really needs squad-like teamwork, really needs the players to use headsets to get the full experience - it would have been nice if one was bundled with each copy of the game sold.

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Let's hope the gameplay matches the visuals.
Of course customisations are possible so you can change the physical appearance of your character including armour, select the weapons and kits and even the armour. M.A.G. includes three private military factions to select from. These are as follows:

  • S.V.E.R. (Seryi Volk Executive Response) - these aren't the most well equipped or technically advanced soldiers but the hardened solders come from the Middle East and Russia.
  • Raven Industries - These are a high-tech company with the latest in weaponry and mainly consists of West European soldiers.
  • Valor Company - a more standard military styled character with regular gear with soldiers from United States, United Kingdom and Mexico.

We've played the M.A.G. Beta for a while now, and we must commend Zipper Interactive for the lengthy beta testing phase, the controls are responsive and while there was some lag given the number of players online, and that we're based in Australia with limited players we expect this to only improve by the release. If we are to level a couple of complaints it's that respawning takes too long. I didn't time it but it's probably around 15 seconds or more, although we do understand that the developers did this so groups of solders would respawn together. Also without kill cams sniping looks like a pretty annoying aspect of the game, especially with fairly limited spawn points on the, admittedly, massive maps on offer.

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128 players per team, 8 per squad.
Visually this game looks pretty impressive and after playing the Beta we are pretty confident of a solid enough frame rate so as to not cause any issues with gameplay. In fact the real issue is more likley to do with the lag from network connections then visual stutters. Indeed the locations in the game are absolutely massive and contain a tonne of detail in both the character models as well as the buildings and game world.

MAG is going to be a very interesting release for a couple of reasons. Can Zipper Interactive provide an online experience that is fluid and slick when 256-players are battling it out? Does the game come near to the excellent online experience of a certain Infinity Ward shooter? Time will tell with the game releasing America on January 26, Europe on January 27, the UK on January 29 and Australia and New Zealand on February 11.