Follow thanklessgrind on Twitter

Tempered Basilisk Hides Discovered

Daily Grind: MAG - Massive Or Passive? Sam's avatar
If you'd have asked me a few weeks ago why I was spending Sunday working rather than playing games, I'd have probably muttered something about company loyalty and you'd have gone away thinking I was an idiot. As me now and I'll probably point you towards my brand spanking new PS3 Slim that sits agreeably under the TV in my lounge, a gift from my boss for recent extracurricular activities and a shining testament to how sometimes, just sometimes, good things happen at work.

Anyway, finding myself in the possession of such technology and a couple of games we already had in the house, I took a trip down to game and swapped one of them for MAG which stupidly no longer stands for 'Massive Action Game' for some retarded PR reason. Sadly, illness prevented me from getting stuck in over the weekend, but I've since freed up time in my schedule to get a few first impressions of the game.

Awesome: The Concept

Before any kind of deliberation about implementation takes place, I just want to say that I love the idea behind MAG. While there's no denying the short and long term enjoyment that short, repeatable deathmatch based games can provide, there's something particularly appetising about your skirmishes affecting a persistent world. I know that in MAG this only happens to be a world map with some faction based statistics associated with it, but still, for me at least playing toward something is a big motivator for me to pick up a control pad.

Boresome: It's Not Modern Warfare 2

As much as I hate myself for being that guy, my sycophantic love of Modern Warfare 2 is always going to taint how I feel about games that are in the genre. MAG does actually soften the blow by aping a lot of the traits (which are scarily becoming industry standards) of Infinity Ward's record breaking shooter, but there are still subtle differences in your movement, field of view and the damage mechanics that fall below the level of expectation that Modern Warfare 2 has bred.

Awesome: Productive Voice Chat Use

On the flip side of the Modern Warfare 2 (or perhaps the XBox Live! in general) coin is that I'm used to playing being accompanied by a stream of profanities by a raging pubescent who would swear on his poor mother's grave that every other player is botting, hacking or phreaking his way to success. This given, I was surprised and delighted that every game of MAG I have joined so far has had a healthy mix of useful information about tactics and playful banter spilling out over the airwaves. It's a refreshing change and I should probably get my own microphone if I want to experience the game as it should be, I just hope it's not just combination of a new release and PlayStation Network verses XBox Live.

Boresome: Chaotic Combat

Probably the most overwhelming feeling I came away from my first session with was one of frustration that taking part in the combat was just a discordant activity. At any given time during the session, I don't think I was ever comfortable with what was going on around me or what I was supposed to be doing. Now I know that this was still within the first couple of hours of throwing the disc in the machine and a certain amount of disorientation is to be expected, but there was something about the manner in which I kept dying, or kept finding myself in the wrong part of the map or doing the wrong thing at the wrong time that wasn't particularly educating me about how I could do better next time.

Awesome: 3D Level Representations

A diamond in the rough of this experience is the map system, accessed any time by a handy press of the start button. Once in, you get a lovely stylised 3D representation of the whole level that you can rotate, zoom and generally swoop around like a maniacal seagull looking for a small child to attack. Strangely, such an activity actually does a pretty good job of acquainting you with the level and goes some way to explain why standing where you did resulted in simultaneously getting shot in the face and the back.

Boresome: Orientation Issues

As map sizes are larger than those you would find in your average multiplayer shooter (necessary to accommodate the other squads doing other things you shouldn't worry your pretty little head about) distances and skirmish areas are larger so there is a large chance you can be shot from any direction and extremely long ranges. Add that to the lack of anything like a killcam or comprehensive UAV system and you'll find yourself being repeatedly killed by the same camping idiot who could be a needle in any number of haystacks, bushes, trees, camper vans, disused buildings, communication arrays or shit filled ditches. I worry for the safety of my controller.

Awesome: The Concept - Productive Voice Chat Use - 3D Level Representation

Boresome: It's Not Modern Warfare 2 - Chaotic Combat - Orientation Issues

All in all, my first impressions of the game haven't led me to believe it is anything other than another mediocre multiplayer skirmish game with the vague gimmick that 'other people are doing other things at other places in the map'. That being said though, if anything, I think MAG will grow on me the more familiar I get with the individual maps, necessary play behaviour and little idiosyncrasies. If so, it might turn out that my current feelings are a low point.

Editor Opinions
Ian's avatar

When I walked in on Sam playing this level, I took one look at it and asked "Is that Canada?" which it was. I've never been to Canada, but I did play through the Grizzly Hills in Wrath of the Lich King which I think taught me all I needed to know. The only way it could of been more Canada is if there was a mountie playing hockey in a Tim Hortons.

Mag seems interesting, but a few things about it seem oddly dated. The health mechanic and the manually selecting grenade mechanic specifically. I hope they've sat around in meetings for hours arguing about these points and have some good reasons for them. I guess I should play it for a bit to see how it ends up working out.