Wednesday, 13 January 2010

MAG beta - first impressions

MAG (video game)Image via Wikipedia
M.A.G finally got it's public beta this week after a lengthy privates beta. Not being important enough to be invited (or quick enough to get one of the giveaway codes) this has been our first chance to get some hands on one with the game. So what can we say? It's an extremely technically proficient game that's for sure, but should a game survive purely on the tech it uses?

Massive Action Game (an acronym that sounds like it had to fit around the name) is a game by the makers of the wildly popular Socom series, quite possibly some of the best online experiences available on the PS2. Expectations have therefore been very high, and the beta has been bustling with activity from the moment it was released to the general public. More people equals more full games, which works in the favour of MAG as it's main gimmick is that it supports up to 250 players. That's a whole lot of potential tea-bagging! 250 people is an impressive feat on it's own, but the behind the scenes work done by the servers is where this game really excels. In a recent interview the awesomely named producer Alan Van Slyke explained "Before we started working on the front-end client technology, we started working on the servers" an approach that seems rare with most modern online games, especially given that Modern Warfare 2 was recently shamed by not supporting dedicated servers on the PC. The time they dedicated to making sure everything behind the scenes was silky smooth has really paid off, resulting in a totally lag free environment for all players at all times. How lag free? Well we put their fancy pants new technology to the test.

To really make sure that we were playing with fire we connected to the M.A.G server with a 128k connection, please don't try this at home, it'll piss a lot of people you're playing with off. The menus took a while to load, as did the search for a game, but eventually we were dropped off into a full 256 player game. Not a second of lag, not even a slight stutter. No-one complained, no-one booted us from the game, everything ran silky smooth. Because it's only right to do a controlled test the only natural next step was to pop MW2 in for a quick go... Ahem, needless to say it fared less well.

So the background tech is a complete success, the graphics are very attractive considering everything that is happening in the game. There have been some minor complaints about the draw distance, but during our time with the game it never seemed to be as bad as people were making it out to be. But something just doesn't feel right, now this is my own personal opinion and not that of S&N here, but the actual gameplay in M.A.G doesn't do the amazing tech justice. At the end of the day it's another shooter, sure it has a lot of people playing, but that is where the differences seem to end. Trying to get people to actually make a tactical decision seems to be impossible, with such large numbers and very clear objectives to be met there isn't a lot of room for lone wolf antics, and yet the game tends to boil down to 200 people running off doing their own thing, while a select few try and hold it all together tactically. This does in many ways come down to the people you are playing with, and there were some genuinely great moments where plans game together exactly as we had expected them to, but these moments were out numbered by watching wave after wave of people running into the same snipers line of fire as they all ignored your cries to look out.

It's a good game, and an exclusive Sony should be somewhat proud to have on their side, especially because of the amazing propitiatory server tech Zipper Interactive have developed. But until the game has been out for a while and the community has gotten used to the sort of game it is it's really just a fancy tech demo.

No comments:

Post a Comment