Marmite. In Britain we have this weird yeast-extract stuff called marmite. They call it veggie-mite in Aus but it's not as nice. I'm totally showing my narrow-minded xenophobia by assuming you guys don't know what marmite is but whatever. The point is - some people love marmite, and some people absolutely hate it. The marketing for marmite that picked up on that trend has been so strong over the years that "marmite" has essentially become an adjective for describing something people will either love, or hate.
MAG is marmite.
Here's the thing - I see a lot of people bitching on MAG on the forums and I understand entirely. If you want to form an opinion on MAG you can't just play for 20-minutes, decide it's shit, and put it down. Hi-ho, my time with the game suggests nuh-uh. You need at least 2 hours to understand what's going on, and in the latest beta, at least three or four hours before you unlock the actual "MAG" mode -- the 256 player battles which are, to put it simply, fucking mental.
The thing about MAG is, you can already see it developing a solid player-base; and I think that's what's in the long-run going to make MAG as a community a success. At the moment, jumping into the beta you get a lot of dudes not understanding what the fuck they are doing and chaos ensuing. But I imagine sometime in March, when the stragglers have given up after their 20 minute session, the game will be very different.
If you do stick with the beta and get into a squad with an actual good leadership, it's actually rather rewarding. Headsets are paramount (WHY AREN'T SONY BUNDLING WITH THE GAME!?), but you really do get a sense of being "part of something."
The mode that unlocks from the start, Sabotage, isn't exactly the best way to showcase the game in my opinion. You absolutely don't get that big-war feel here. What I do like however is the way in which there are almost like two factions, running simultaneously at different objectives. You can capture uplink A for sure - but if the other people on your team but in different squads aren't able to capture uplink B, you kinda lose. Sure, that sounds mad frustrating, but it's actually kinda neat. You still get rewarded for your individual performance, but the team loses out if there's a lose link in the squad. Just like any real team.
But the mode that unlocks at level 10 is what really showcases the "MAG" part of MAG. The 256 player matches are intense. I saw a post below mine berating snipers, but - here's something I spotted while playing MAG last night -- say there are a group of snipers ahead of you: get some machine gunners to loosely fire in their general direction, watch the snipers fall back, allowing other members of your squad to rush forward through the area the snipers had covered. Cover fire actually being important in a multiplayer shooter? That's mental in my opinion.
I also really like the whole PMC contracts idea. I dunno about any of you guys, but I feel like I could get really attached to my team (Raven). What I'd like to see is more visual feedback on menus about my team - who are the most important players for Raven, who are the upcoming starlets, how's our performance etc. The moment I start referring to Raven as "we" though, I'll know Zipper achieved something.
What I like;
- There is a sense of a "bigger war" even if it's not apparent in modes like Sabotage, as the overarcing PMC thing gives a good sense of scale, and working for the team.
- Mechanically it feels very different to MW2, Resistance, etc - as there's no respawing health, you can't run and gun, it's very tactical, etc. I guess this might lead to the Killzone 2 effect though actually, where people are put off after 15 minutes because they can't play it the way they're used to.
- Huge maps are amazing. Graphically MAG isn't particularly that great, but the draw distance is phenomenal on the 256 player maps. You can see other plays parachuting in from miles off. Awesome.
- Netcode seems solid to me. Despite some issues on the first couple of days of the new beta (which is good, because you don't want it on launch day), MAG's netcode seems pretty solid, especially considering the scale. I think they'll be ok come launch.
- Almost RPG like sense to the unlocks, perks, upgrades and stuff. Seems like there's a huge opportunity for tuning your player to your liking here, but, I still haven't played enough to be sure of that myself yet.
What I have issues with:
- There's a huge learning curve which is already putting some people off (read other posts on this forum). Which is really disappointing for Zipper because, I know it's opinions and all, but I think there game is rather good. But it's terrible for n00bs. You need 2-3 hours to really feel involved, and maybe 4-6 hours before you start feeling like you're part of a match, and have an understanding what you're doing. I get the feeling that time is going to be super rewarding for those who invest it, but I'm not sure how many are going to be willing to. I will say this - you absolutely cannot play MAG for 20 minutes and form an opinion on it. Because those first 20 minutes will be simply: run, die, respawn. It almost has a JRPG-esque learning curve to it in my opinion.
- Graphically kinda weak. I really like the map design I've seen in MAG, and the graphics are better than expected but, yo, it's still kinda poor.
- Animation and sound. Again - the audio really lacks punch (which is a shame becuase that's something you feel they COULD have done better) and the animation is a bit jerky.
- Menus are confusing as fuck - what does this button do? What does that do? Perhaps things will be explained better in the actual retail game. I appreciate this is a beta so hopefully -- I can kinda imagine MAG having a huge instruction manual though.
- The big war feel is not instantly apparent. Again I think people are switching off the game because they're jumping into Sabotage and not really getting that "Massive Action Game" feel coming through. Need to play until level 10 baby, then you'll understand it.
- Headsets. Why aren't Sony bundling the official PLaystation headset with this game? Not only would it make the game feel more value rich, it would also greatly enhance the experience for everyone involved. You need to communicate with your squad or you're fucked.
All in all, I reckon: time + patience = MAG rewards. From what I've seen it's a good game, but at the same time I can totally understand why people are getting put off it. To those people I would say, give it four or five hours, get to level 10, find some people to play with and see how you feel down the line. If you still hate it, fine, but I really do think 66% of people who give it a chance might get hooked.
It's very different to other console shooters. It's extremely tactical, and pretty damn challenging. But my experience is that it's a damn sight more rewarding than most other shooters too.
I expect reviews will figure in the 6/7 mark, and the game will be a commercial flop. But like SOCOM games, I expect it to garner a pretty darn loyal following that will stay around for as long as Zipper support it.
Just my $0.02 really.
EDIT: And one last thing, there's very little autoaim -- which is an amazingly good thing in my opinion.