MAG: What's the verdict on Sony's online FPS?

The embargo for MAG reviews lifts tomorrow (5pm GMT) and most folk will gladly be posting them, and no doubt you'll come to GamesRadar to, amongst other things, check out our Super Review, right? Well, erm, we won't have one tomorrow. But before you resign yourself to a day of stalking that ex you had back in high school on Facebook, hear us out.

We went to the same review event as everyone else and really wanted to deliver a verdict on MAG like the other magazines/websites will. But the truth is, we feel said review event didn’t give an accurate representation of what MAG is actually like – or what type of experience you’d have in this online-only FPS.

 Above: This impossibly large-armed man held the debrief meetings

There was zero sense of progression, we couldn’t communicate with our team-mates as the headsets didn’t work properly and we spent more time being ‘debriefed’ between games (read: talked through the controls) and eating from ration boxes than we were allowed game time. If we’d scored it based on the event it’d probably get a 5 or a 6.

 Above: This is a far cry from what real troops eat from these

So what we’re going to do is wait. Wait until the servers can really be stress-tested and wait until you’re playing it too. This way we can tell if there’s another experience to be had apart from the clusterf*ck of bullets and respawning as the event suggested.

True, this isn’t much help if you’re trying to decide whether to buy MAG on Day 1, but below is a Q&A which we hope will assist in your decision...

Q: Is it any good?

A: Ummm, it works. MAG has similarities to many online FPS games you’ve already played. It has the huge landscapes like Battlefield, the rolling objectives like Killzone 2 and the not too dissimilar punch of Modern Warfare’s guns. But sadly it’s nowhere near as good as any of them. Why? Well, we can’t shake the fact that those said games have a single player campaign for your money. MAG doesn’t. It doesn’t have a USP beyond hosting 256 players online.

Q: It's online-only, yeah, how does it play?

A: Well, here’s the thing – during the review event we played four game modes. The first three were Suppression and Sabotage (both 64 players max.) and Acquisition (128). These were all played over LAN, so there were no online servers to test here. They all ran pretty smooth, which you’d expect from a LAN setup.

Then it was time for the showcase piece – the 256 player Domination match. It was the journalist in an underground bunker in London versus the employees of Zipper Interactive in the US and, well, it was super-laggy. Targets would skip frames of animation as you were taking aim and the battlefield became a stop-motion cartoon for the majority of the action. This *may* have been down to a poor connection at either end, but based on this evidence, MAG wasn’t especially enjoyable at full capacity.

Q: Hmm, are the game modes interesting?

A: Yes. Suppression is essentially a team death-match mode. Sabotage is a bit more interesting as you secure point A and B before C is revealed and you have to attack/defend it. Acquisition is better. Here you have to take out AA guns, bunkers and the like before pushing the enemy back and taking them out. Domination is a mix of Sabotage and Acquisition in that you have to destroy cooling towers before your final objective is opened.

Our main gripe with the objectives in these modes is that they weren’t immediately clear as to what you were supposed to do next. We had headsets at the event but you couldn’t hear a damn thing that the other person was saying because it was too noisy to hear anything, so it was a case of trial and error to succeed.

On the next page: What makes it good, the different factions and is it worth buying? 

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  • crumbdunky - January 25, 2010 5:43 p.m.

    Well, kudos for doing the right thing and realising this needs a few weeks to settle before it can be judged. I have to say that ?i think Sony have priced it all wrong though:online only should mean less money for the game at retail. I still believe that about L4D and it holds true here as well(even more true for L4D on 360 where you have no mods and less support AND worse looks and framerate AND pay more for it)and whether it's the price it is because of the costs of running the servers and R&D for 256 player online games is irrelevant really as the man in the street won't give a toss. However, I was in ALL the public betas for MAG(open and closed)and I don't agree that it's even aiming for a similar crowd to COD or KZ2. It's after making a great community like we flund on SOCOM when Zipper made those games and TF2 this gen(on each platform) and Warhawk perhaps too. It's never been MEANT to be a blockbuster release and is more of an experiment and showcase for what's possible. Thing is, when you get a good leader and a team wllng to listen and co=operate it's a MAGICAL experience imo. Like when you finally get a great team of randoms to play with and against in TF2 MAG has that same prefect feeling when the blocks fall into place. Though the betas stopped at 64 per side I also didn't suffer anything like the lag I do in MW2 and I'd put my money on early problems that are gone by week2 on the lag front. Yeah, the perfect games were rare in the betas BUT now it'll be mainly SOCOM vets and gamers who liked the betas/like team based shooters that wll be in the mix and they should get much more common. So, well done for giving it a chance to impress, and , yeah, it's overpriced on the outside but if t delivers the experiences I flound now and again in the betas it's ll be worth all that and a lot more to be away from the selfish, pick up and play madness of COD et al for me. The only thing I feel you really missed was the potential for greatness WHEN things do fall into their correct place and are totally right in that it's the gamers, eventually who'll decide just how amazing or deflating MAG really is.
  • NinjaJamez - January 25, 2010 5:43 p.m.

    i never expected much of this game. i always think of it like a 7/10 game in best of cases.
  • JustTheBoBreaker - January 25, 2010 7:28 p.m.

    Sounds like Mass Effect 2 has got MAG by the balls in quality but I still think MAG will sell very well.
  • Amnesiac - January 25, 2010 7:40 p.m.

    It's nice to see you guys taking your time and doing this review right. As personally disinterested as I am in this game, I still really want to know if it can work.
  • Yeager1122 - January 25, 2010 8:06 p.m.

    Your really not doing a super review on this because all the attentions going to be on Mass Effect 2 tommorow right?
  • CreeplyTuna - January 25, 2010 8:09 p.m.

    um... Cod MW2 had a terrible 6 hour lonmg story line, and mag isnt about the story, so uh, yeah.
  • John-117 - January 25, 2010 8:25 p.m.

    Well I'm glad you're waiting seeing as the online is the major(see only) component of MAG. A good run of how things play out should definitely help seeing how didn't get to experience the progression or the teamwork aspects. The beta was pretty entertaining but like you've said there are alot of other FPSs to get into. The huge matches that have worked for me where everyone was following the orders and working together was a blast so it'd be interesting to see how the games pans out at launch(servers and community).
  • John-117 - January 25, 2010 8:30 p.m.

    Forgot to add this but I'm very interested how the 'Shadow War' mechanics are going to work as the community gets into it. Some interesting ideas they have just how they may work out is the question
  • oryandymackie - January 25, 2010 8:48 p.m.

    If they'd just thrown customisable mechs in there... P.S, NOO! SPAMBOT!
  • kernzy10 - January 25, 2010 8:48 p.m.

    hold on a minute here... are you boys at games radar completly oblivious to the fact that there was a beta version released for around 2 weeks available for download of the PS store? if you noticed en you woulknow that the game was pretty good, i had about3 or 4 lagging problems in the total 100 or so games i played. the guns? yea they arnt that special but there are new guns, attachments and upgrades available to purchase with points earned in gameplay. this is what i saw on the BETA version, it can only get better from here, im sure that more guns, maps and attachments will be added for the release day of the game.
  • DasavageJ - January 25, 2010 8:50 p.m.

    I really have got to throw out there that I've actually only had two instances of lag while playing the MAG open Beta. Both times it was just a minor three of four second rewind and then I was back and synced (is that a word?) into the action. On top of this I, for whatever reason, believe this game is just as good as every shooter out right now. Maybe I'm just crazy but the huge multiplayer idea just sits very well with me.
  • DasavageJ - January 25, 2010 9 p.m.

    Oh and you may already know this but I think the biggest difference between all the factions is there home maps, each of which give a sense of a home field advantage for the defending team. I know its not big, but it is there.
  • Pocotron - January 25, 2010 9:15 p.m.

    Well if everyone reviews for the, apparently crap show-off, MAG is hosed. So, kudos to you for (no pun) lagging behind?
  • crabbo - January 25, 2010 9:19 p.m.

    Having participated in the Beta I can say I didn't experience much lag. So perhaps that in itself was an isolated problem at the review event. As far as everything else goes, I feel inclined to agree. The different factions, were different only in appearance and name. I noticed a lot of Modern Warfare esque attributes (even going as far as copying the XP+ font). Teams hardly worked together in any way that could be considered productive, and as you said generally just converge on one objective. After which the game shifts from a tactical multiplayer experience into a balls out death match. (Which doesn't work very well in confined spaces with large amounts of players. I have not played the full game, but if I were to review what I played in the beta (roughly 12 hours) I'd give the game a 7/10.
  • farsided - January 25, 2010 10:26 p.m.

    called it. back when MAG was announced I said it was going to be a clusterf*ck and what do you know? Also, if the bottlenecks are anything like what that screenshot shows, snipers will become ridiculously overpowered. Honestly it reminds me of Aztec on Counterstrike, but if you shoved in about 50 more guys. It's not a matter of skill, it's just a question of which team is stupid enough to actually try to walk through the doorway and get shot to death.
  • frayed - January 25, 2010 10:54 p.m.

    Glad you decided to hold off on the review to get more time with the game. That said, I feel you've missed the mark with this 'impressions' piece. It's a bit pointless when the game requires at least a good week of play to get into - the command structure, which is what pushes all the 'communication', through the game is limited to higher ranks, and you have to spend some time on the servers to get a feel for the community (like an MMO). I'll agree that it isn't impressive visually, compared to the other competing shooters (though it's smooth and quite easy on the eye). However, it offers an experience unavailable elsewhere - that of a fully populated battlefield with large numbers of players working as a team to achieve multiple objectives. Even Battlefield Bad Company 2, which is easily the best multiplayer I have played this generation (through my extensive time on the PS3 beta), cannot capture the sheer scale and tactical chaos of the frantic final moments in a MAG Domination game. I can't help but feel that you're basing your impressions of the game by comparing it to Modern Warfare 2. This is a terrible mistake. They are entirely different styles of multiplayer. MW2 is a jump-in, arcade shooter. And for those of you who say it's competative - get outta here. I've been in PC gaming since the days of CS Beta 6.5, like many others, and I can tell you MW2 is as 'casual', as FPS games come. No serious clan would touch it. There's no room for teamplay and it rewards poor effort with killstreaks. If it's popular great, but don't say it's a well balanced, tight and fair FPS with a teamplay focus. The 13-year-olds giggling at the new abuses they've invented for each other will tell you differently. MAG, on the other hand, is all about rewarding effort and cooperation. I played it for a week during the Open Beta, and I ranked up to level 20. Trust me, once you've had the time to customise your character, choose your kit, weapons and skills, you will feel an attatchment to your soldier and your faction. You will want to fight as a team, as you will have spent many hours customising your place within it (sniper, demolitions, engineer, medic, or assault). The game cleverly asks you to make these choices, as an MMO would, and therefore encourages a bond with your character. Now, it is a game for the hardcore among us. Casual gamers won't have much to enjoy beyond the scale, before they return to MW2 - where they don't have to work for their kills. But, for those of us who really hate being noob-tubed, and shot in the back by someone who has just spawned directly behind our position, MAG offers the chance to use your wits and skill on the battlefield to make a difference. With the shifting nature of the objectives, there really is a chance to be a hero for your team by clearing a certain area of enemies so your squad can come in a take over, or place the charge that moves the whole frontline of the battle half a mile towards the enemy base. This stuff happens in MAG. But it doesn't give it to you. You have to be brave enough to learn the ropes, to take risks, and, yes, communicate. I'd say, in 80% of my time in MAG, there was a squad leader giving out instructions to my squad - even if it was just a few hearty words of banter to get us going, or a few status updates. Once you get used to it, it's easy to feel connected to the rest of the battle. Anyway, this has been a long comment, but I have to argue strongly that MAG is not just worth your money, but it's also worth a fair bit of praise as well.
  • lovinmyps3 - January 25, 2010 10:56 p.m.

    I predict server issues getting the game 5-7 and then if that gets fixed the scores will move up to 7-8.
  • mccore24 - January 25, 2010 11:03 p.m.

    i agree with CRUMBDUNKY for the most part the pricing is way off for online only $40 is pushing it but $60 is completly ridiculous! i too was in both the open and closed betas and i have to say gamesradar did the right thing by not reviewing this game yet.from whta i read it seems that the review session gamesradar attended had some serious problems. i frequently played the 256 player mode on both betas with no problems due to lagging or headset troubles. i will admitt that the game needs some work such as an improvement on the way to aquire new weapons and upgrades but other than that it is a great game with a great concept. i give this game a 10/10
  • Sameplanetdifferntworld - January 25, 2010 11:12 p.m.

    U guys said the same thing about warhawk....and look at it now if u were to review warhawk today u would have to give it 9 and above

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