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MAG-what happened?

MAG (Massive Action Game) was released in 2010 to be an ambitious massive multiplayer shooter on the PS3 capable of supporting 256 players in a single game. The game, developed by Zipper Interactive of SOCOM fame, had massive potential and could have been something very special. Skip forward 4 years and the game has shut its doors for good. What happened?

MAG is a game which appealed to me instantly. I played the beta with two of my best friends and we were instantly engaged with the game. The level design, map design and the whole team ethic was instantly unique. I went on to purchase the game in full and I have to say, MAG is one of the most disappointing games I have ever played. It isn’t bad or terrible at all. It is actually mostly solid. But what I expected and how the game executed its ideas were so frustrating.

You pick a faction and fight for that faction. The three factions available are Sver, Valor and Raven-each representing a different arc of Militia. You can also pick a class. I picked Sniper while Commando, Direct Assault and Support were also available. At first, the full game was a mess. Lag, a really really poor unlock system and terrible hit detection made for some frustrating games. Multiple times even last week I would be engaging someone at close range and he would melee me not even near me and it would count as a kill.

Sure, I will just shoot you in the head and you can pull out a knife from 10 feet away and kill me. Thankfully, the unlock system was fixed. Originally, as you gained levels you gained better weapons and the weapons in MAG are not balanced. The first Sniper rifle that players start with might as well shoot peas at enemies. The new system didn’t change much but improved capability. You could enhance your performance stats rather than get a good weapon straight away.

Graphically, the game was okay. It was solid mostly but in games with not even 256 player, it would become jagged and screen tearing would become obvious. Most areas were well designed with clever choke points, sniping points etc. The spawn system was awful. If at some point you decide to parachute in, it was pointless as snipers on the opposing team would kill you as soon as you spawned in mid air.

To its credit, people did mostly work together. If I was downed, nearly 7 times out of 10 someone would revive me. And most people played for objectives like detonating charges and capturing points. However, some of those games involved vehicles which were terrible. Hit detection was terrible if not worse in vehicles. It would take absolute pin point accuracy to get a kill in a Tank-you would have to hit a soldier with the shell rather than impact the surrounding area.

My final complaint is that games with 256 players were extremely awkward. Why? Because the game always optimised players to feel like you were in small skirmishes. Instead of gaining the sense that this is army against army, the game played out like a 8 vs 8 standard shooter. Even Battlefield did a better sense of this than MAG did and it had far fewer players with bigger maps.

MAG was a game that developed a hardcore fanbase. I played the game on and off until last week. The game had so much potential to be something special. But it was developed by an inconsistent team which put out cult classic Recoil and then the dire SOCOM: Confrontation. It was not a bad or terrible game. It was certainly one of the most ambitious games ever put on a gaming console for sure. However like many, it was let-down by its technical faults.

Poor hit detection, lag-the game really suffered from this even until its last days where soldiers from a distance away would be able to melee me in one hit while I was shooting them in the face. As you know, I had a lot of sentiment for Resistance which will be shutting down soon. I do not have that sentiment in anyway for MAG. I bought into its ambition and for the past 4 years every so often I thought-come on, reach your potential. Sadly it never did.  

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