MAG Beta - Massive Action Gaming: First Impressions

The MAG Beta ended just yesterday and after running around with guns blazing in the giant battles of 64-256 players for the past few days, Game Rant has a report on how massive the gaming really has been.

MAG is exactly what you would expect from this Modern Warfare generation of console first person shooters. It has somewhat realistic guns, controls and aiming schemes similar to SOCOM or MW2, and upgrades you can purchase with points you earn by playing the game. The leveling system is a pretty basic version of the Modern Warfare setup. Skill points are earned by gaining levels of experience and are used to purchase new weapons, equipment and upgrades. Experience is earned by killing enemies, assisting in a kill, healing teammates, or completing an objective.

Reports of connection problems plagued the beta servers at first but in the last few days, we had no problems connecting to games very quickly and never experienced any noticeable lag. For MAG, this is absolutely essential as it relies on its highly-populated online play.

Sniping was a joy from the long draw distance and the graphics were pretty solid for a 256-player game. Explosions are nothing special as grenades and rockets seem to kill with a relatively small and short lasting puff of smoke and a bang. Model textures are only as good as they have to be, nothing fancy here, but the quality is not so poor that it stands out. At a 1080p, the game looks as realistic as you'd expect and runs smoothly even with 32-128 targets for you to mow down.

The increase in the number of players brings the need for a new style of game play or at least use of elements from existing games that can scale. MAG missions involve attacking and defending objectives and sub-objectives with original objectives usually split between smaller portions of each team. Early missions involve two objectives that the attacking team must capture at the same time and once they do, they advance on to the third objective where they must plant explosives and hold until detonation.

Spawn camping isn't an issue as they've put "minefields" near the enemy spawn points so if you walk out of bounds you'll automatically die. Forward spawn points or parachuting spawns that sometimes become available saves on travel time across the massive maps needed to handle the large scale battles. In the end, you feel like you're playing any other first person shooter but there's just a whole lot more going on in one map. The increase in scale works well with the FPS genre and I'd be happy to see future games take this approach.

You may think that keeping a large team organized could be a difficult task but this is exactly what makes MAG challenging and exciting. Communication is limited to within your squad or within the proximity of your person to allow for productive chatter between team members. Platoon leaders can communicate with other platoon leaders and their subordinate squad leaders. Squad leaders can communicate with other squad leaders and relay orders down to their squad. This is the making of a very good game if teams or clans become organized and develop whole platoons utilizing perfectly timed and planned teamwork. It would be a wonder to see this many people work together. The other side of this coin is, can you really expect everyone to work together? Well, like the Battlefield series, experience points are gained for objective-based play and following orders so it is in the players' best interest to work with their team in order to gain levels and advance as an individual. If only more people had a headset in the beta, it would have been better. You can only hope that the game will come bundled with a headset so all players will learn the ways of communication and strategy.

Based on what we experienced with the gameplay in the beta and how smooth the servers ran, this game is going to have a lot to offer FPS players and the genre for console gaming. Modern Warfare 2 players will likely be intrigued by the possibility of larger teams (more targets) and those of us that haven't picked up MW2 yet will now have another option. If Halo: Reach is going to have a similar leveling system, I imagine it will become direct competition for this game.

We will have to see what Zipper learns from the beta and changes in terms of game play but they certainly demonstrated that it is possible and fun to play an FPS on a double-XL server.

Did you take part in the beta? What did you think of the game play? Did you experience network issues? Will you be purchasing the full version of the game?

The massive action is set to continue on January 26th when MAG is released in the US.

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