Fully-Loaded

We've finally gotten a chance to go hands-on with MAG and we've got all the deets inside.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: April 29, 2009
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When it was first announced at last year's E3 press conference, Zipper Interactive's Massive Action Game was little more than a CG teaser and the touting of an unheard of 256 players all gunning it out at the same time on the PlayStation 3. It was hard not to think of the game as a planted flag, a "we got here first" benchmark for consoles because, well, we didn't know anything about the game otherwise. Now? Well now we've actually played the game, and it's starting to make a lot more sense.


The boys and girls at the Redmond, WA-based developer finally opened their doors and allowed us a rather short (too short, truth be told) hands-on session with the game, but not before finally clearing up just what the game was about. Three factions, beholden to their private military corporation parents, have taken up arms and emerged as the primary means for waging war in the near future. PMCs are, understandably, becoming one of the biggest buzz words in military-focused games, but the premise of the world's oil supplies dwindling and countries turning increasingly violent toward one another certainly makes sense, as does the idea that privately funded, volunteer-based armies that could deploy anywhere in the world they were needed.

In short, that's the crux of what drives the persistent (and yes, we mean that in a vaguely MMO-ish sense, as there will always be a battle happening somewhere) warfare of MAG's online tussles. The three factions, Raven (gussied up in tons of future tech), S.V.E.R. (ex-military, organized, fond of commas and no doubt a few acronyms) and Valor (a ragtag, aggressive troupe sporting oranges and fished-out bits of scrap for armor) all have the ultimate motivation for becoming the go-to PMC outfit when it comes to fighting for countries: money. If they win their internal struggle and one faction wins, they get the government contracts, and with it the fat paydays.

What this means is epic 128x128 warzones where classes break down roles, and individual sub-commanders help organize the chaos a little. You don't have to listen to orders, but as everything in the game is based around proximity to your commanding officers (including their perks and buffs) and rewards come fast and heavy in the form of XP (which doubles when you're in areas where orders are being given), it makes a lot more sense to go with the flow -- or to disrupt it.

Here's how the ranks break down: for each 128-man side, there's one OIC (officer in charge), which drills down to four Platoon Leaders, who in turn oversee 16 Squad Leaders which take care of whipping into shape eight Squad Members (you're automatically dropped into one but can leave or switch at any time if you so choose). As you go up in rank, those leaders are given more of a view of the battlefield and can issue what are called Fragmentary Orders or FRAGOS. These chunks of overall objectives can be something simple like taking out anti-air artillery, which in turn helps push the front line into the enemy's base and allows for things like insertions by helicopter (the side-mounted guns of which are armed by actual players, naturally).
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