When I wrote the editorial Why We Need Mag 2… Already it was coming from the perspective of a clan leader, a shooter fan of many years, and an avid supporter of innovative ideas in gaming. When MAG first released my expectations were enormous. Perhaps this was a problem generated by the fact that the title was being announced and talked about so early, or maybe just the overall concept was too broad at the time to fully satisfy what my vivid imagination had cooked up for it. Either way, the game was released and the 8 man squad system really let me down in a major way. The game began to feel as Deputy Editor Joel Taveras dubbed it ‘the 60$ Beta’ since almost nothing had changed since its beta testing period. Overall it just felt overwhelmingly light on content as if something major was missing, some sort of gigantic missed opportunity waiting to be seen.
Recently a brand new MAG beta was released on the PlayStation Store for those who own the MAG disc. Not only does this bring forth the PlayStation Move support which has been promised but also a number of changes are previewed for free which will be coming for the full title in the near future. This includes new maps, game-modes, features, as well as general overhauls to the existing title in question. I am happy to report that after putting some time in with the beta for what is essentially MAG 2.0 I am impressed, excited, and much more satisfied by what is being put forth from Zipper Interactive towards their new, 256 man, first person shooter, intellectual property. Read on for a breakdown on what you’ll experience in the new beta and my thoughts on what works and what doesn’t as well as the timing of all of these updates.The first notable edition upon signing in to MAG after the release of this beta will be that players can now purchase additional character slots for their PSN ID to be able to have a character in each PMC. I actually don’t see any value to this as a paid feature! Zipper Interactive is charging $1 a month for players to do this and it’s going to be a move that shoots them in the foot in my opinion. The reason why I say this is because players have no incentive to want to pay for this feature. You can actually already have 3 free PSN accounts which can each have their own free character, so you can already play as all three PMCs. In addition to that players can just “prestige” their way through each PMC with one single character while keeping all of their stats and rolling over from PMC to PMC each time they max out their character.
The reason this is a horrible idea from Zipper to charge for this is mainly because waiting for the matchmaking to assemble players into a lobby queue still sucks. The new character slots could have allievated that pain by allowing players to quickly back out of lobbies and switch PMCs on the fly to whatever PMC was low on players at that given moment (instead of signing completely out of your PSN id and switching or waiting and waiting for the lobby to form). Instead many players will not buy this feature and so it will not really have any major impact on the game at all.
Moving right along, it’s not all bad with the updates to be seen. In fact some of them are just great. The game is going to be filled with a number of new guns and upgrades for those guns including an assault rifle, machine gun, and sniper rifle for each PMC. The way these weapons will be unlocked in the game borrows a bit from the Call of Duty style system where points are earned in-game then the gear is unlocked in a Supply Depot new to MAG.
Another COD style addition to the game will be the un-lockable perks that are gained with level-ups. Though the overly complicated tech tree of skills still exists, things have all been re-arranged to be much more neat, coherent, and exciting. Overall this is a great overhaul to the system and will make it easier for newcomers and vets of the game to get a grip on their character’s progression through the various gear tiers.
The new maps in the MAG 2.0 Beta are just great. My favorite is called the Isle De Magma map which has a really good layout in my opinion. The ability for players to have a more vertical battle than ever that centers around elevation both underground, above ground, and at ground level with a fresh look and overall more solid design than previous maps was fun to experience. The new game mode that these maps are played on is called Escalation and takes a few hints from the Modern Warfare 2 game mode Domination but with a major twist. 32 players from one PMC will defend the center while 64 players from two other PMCs (32 from each) will face off to take the middle from that team while defending each side of the map. Instead of working together all three PMCs will be facing off against each other, that’s 96 players worth of madness with the co-ordinated strategy of squads!
One of the greatest additions to the game is the new ability to clan deploy. Players can now drop into a single match with up to 128 players from their clan! This is one of the features I was most up in arms about wanting to have and most disappointed by the omission of in the initial launch of the game, but finally it’s here. The 32v32v32 action with 3 teams on one map is great, but really without the 128 man clan deploy this entire beta would have disappointed me as a guy who has many friends that play shooters. My only question now is how many people will be willing to return to MAG, and how many are left who would fight for my clan. Many people I know traded the title in because it only had an 8 man party, this could have changed the entire reception of the game if included at launch.
Overall this beta shows that a lot of great content is headed to MAG in the near future. Although it may be a bit unorthodox for updates like this to receive their own beta test I am glad that it happened because I now feel confident in partaking in the latest MAG additions when they are finally completed. The new maps are great, the new features are great, and so is the new overhaul. The main highlights for me personally will be the 128 man clan deploy feature as well as 32v32v32 action and the new maps and game mode. Move support is absolutely great but the 128 man clan deploy really makes this all worth while for me and makes me feel like Zipper really cares about the clans that want MAG to work out for them in a reasonable way.
I’m upset Zipper Interactive didn’t see all of this potential much sooner and complete these features before launch. It took 9 months to deliver this to the community, and for a great deal of players that proved to be too long (which is evident by the diminishing player-base the game has). I guess like the labor and delivery of a newborn baby, these features will all bring beautiful miracles to the MAG gaming experience. And for that I thank Zipper Interactive, Sony Computer Entertainment, and any fans who lobbied for these changes to be made, updates to be created, enhancements to be envisioned, and so forth. I am still playing around with the beta but I can already tell that things are taking a 180º and heading in the right direction for this insanely ambitious title. Bravo!