Yarr. I owe you guys a post or two. Let's see what I can do about that, shall we? Cause I've been playing the Massive Action Game (MAG) Beta on PS3, and it is quite interesting indeed. I likes it, but it's a very strange beast.
First off, the game allows you to pick from three factions- Valor, Raven, and S.V.E.R. (pronounced "Sever"). Each faction has a different feel to it, and I don't have any census numbers or anything, but it seems like Raven and Valor severely outnumber S.V.E.R. This is probably due to their core concepts. Valor is meant to seem like the US military (even though they're all mercenary groups)- skilled, experienced, and packing hardware that is tried and true, but still fresh and modern. Like the M4. Not cutting edge, but by the same token, weapons that have already proven themselves. The group itself has the same kind of feel. Unity, strength, honor. Valor.
Then there's Raven- the one I'm in. They're the high tech European guys. I would imagine they're supposed to remind you of the SAS or GIGN- their gear is slick as SHIT. I'm currently wielding a FN F2000 with reflex sight, verticle handgrip and suppresser. I can't do suppressive or wild fire because my gun is too accurate even on full auto. It's terrifying and awesome. Blastin' people in the head with a five round burst from a hundred yards was never so satisfying. Anyway. So they are arrogant, superior, and super high tech. Lots of blues, greys, and blacks. One of my favorite mission briefings from the beta is for when Raven is defending itself from a Valor attack- the briefer makes a very snide remark about being able to defend itself from "any cowboy incursion". It's awesome. Stereotyped European elitist- fun for the whole family.
Then there's S.V.E.R. At first, looking at their weapons- AKs and the like- I figured it would a Spetnaz-alike group- out of date weapons, but rugged, vicious, and with such incredible battle experience that they stood toe-to-toe with the others. Instead, they're pitched as being "like a gang." They graffiti, they vandalize, they improvise. ...Seriously? Why would ANYONE hire these retards? If you have a choice between the SAS and some bangers with AKs, how nuts would you have to be to pick the gang members? Gangs work for what they are- barely organized crime. They do not stand a chance against a professional military organization. It's illogical and frankly pretty insulting to the other two groups. I like AKs, I'm glad they're in the game. But can we get a less lametarded faction for them?
Speaking of weapons, we need to talk about weapon balance. I'm fairly certain the faction weapons have the same stats comparitively, there's no question there. Especially because my state of the art Raven light machine gun (not the F2000, a different gun I've played around with a little) is astonishingly inaccurate. My concern is more about the customizable weapon loadouts. Take my aforementioned weapon- my FN F2000 with reflex sight, suppressor, and verticle handgrip. The reflex sight gives me incredible accuracy and line of sight, the suppressor makes me not show up on radar when I fire, and the handgrip controls recoil. The gun itself is already extremely accurate, fully automatic, and has a 30 round clip. I've also upgraded my character's skill with reloading and stablizing assault rifles. So basically, this gun is like a point and click adventure- point and click, and you solved the puzzle, baddy is dead.
It's ridiculous. I'm not even that skilled of a player, but I'm kicking ass with this terrifying weapon. But, of course, I must have made major sacrifices to have this loadout, right? My other equipment must be suffering? Not in the least. I still have a pistol sidearm, a welding torch for repairing mission objectives, medium body armor, and a freaking ROCKET LAUNCHER. Oh, and I'm about to unlock an underbarrel grenade launcher, and will probably switch my handgrip for that. I may have to get rid of the welding torch for that, I'm not sure. But does that sound even REMOTELY like a logical sacrifice? The weapon loadouts BEG to be exploited and broken. I just want a sexy looking gun. I'm as surprised as anyone about what a terror it turned out to be.
The level design, too, seems pretty spotty. There are two maps in the beta- they are so huge, though, and you deploy in different areas each time, so it took me quite a while to figure that out. Considering this, I suppose they've done a pretty excellent job. However, the brown map (there's a more brown one and a more grey one) has some questionable areas, and one of the deployments (there's left, middle, and right, I'm not sure which this is) is just plain pisspoor. The attackers are expected to rush down a gigantic boardwalk killzone to reach their objective, covered by no less than four bunkers with top-mounted gatling guns and rocket launchers. They do this with no vehicle support, and the whole front line is MADE of chokepoints. It's a defender's dream come true, it's a bloody shooting gallery. Perhaps in the final version they can add a minefield just to add insult to injury. The second time I played that part of the map, I nearly walked away from my console when the match started, and as it turned out, that wouldn't have changed the outcome of the match. It's insane.
And speaking of affecting the outcome of the map... this isn't a design flaw, per say, just a problem inherent with the game. These matches are 256 people- two teams of 128. That's a terrifying, staggering, mind-blowing number. It is a technical marvel that it works, and when you're caught in the thick of a final assault or last stand, the rush is incredible. The problem is... when your teammates don't work with you, don't work together, or if you just get stranded, you count for NOTHING. There are isolated instances where you feel like you made a major difference in the battle, but many firefights will come and go, and you will wonder if you are making any kind of a difference at all. After all, if you were to just quit, it would then be 127 on 128- hardly overwhelming odds. On the one hand, I think it helps people get some perspective on how they really aren't as important as they think they are... but when you can pull off a thirteen kill streak, plant three charges at strategic locations, and jack an enemy APC, and the battle does not change at ALL because of that... it's incredibly discouraging.
I've clocked maybe five hours in the game, and I'm enjoying myself quite a bit. The beta is only up at set times every day- a strange setup- so I'll have to wait until tomorrow to play again, but I am looking forward to doing so. It's a very rough game... its potential is vast, I suppose, but in the short term, that just means it has more problems to work out.