100 hours in is a segment i'd like to start, and continue, where I re-review a game after i've put in a ton of time into it. This lends itself easily to online games, rpg's and fighting games, because those games usually demand that vast play time. These are reviews less of the game itself, but how it holds up after the investment of your precious minutes.
MAG, at least in the community i've immersed my self in has fallen into a split crowd. The first half is those that played it, liked it, however, quickly passed on it for battlefeild, or went back to mw2, or generally just played it for a bit, got their money's worth, and moved on rather quickly. The other group is those that have stuck around for the long haul. Standard fair for most games, but MAG's crowd of those who have stayed are something special. There are the Hardcore teamplayers, the people with mics, actually coordinating assaults on bunkers or AAA or putting their squad in a proper defensive position, mixed in with the casual 'grunts' who just wanna play a solid fps. That mix generates a amazing community to be a part of, just like Socom, it sticks with you (maybe it's just me), and keeps you coming back. The game is so dam fun to play with friends, so dam fun to play with other like-minded squad leaders, and just still, after 100 hrs, just fun to play.
The fact that the game is still fun to play, that's a huge statement. Uncharted 2 sits on my shelf collecting dust, while MAG is played almost every night. Uncharted 2 is simply a better game all-around. But, i just don't play it anymore. The game-play mechanics, especially for online (because lets be honest, that's why you keep playing games, you don't play single player thousands of times) just didn't have that lasting appeal that the bare-bones basics of MAG do. Yes is bought the uc2 dlc, yes I played the dlc. The games I've played were full of whiners(terrible!) and glitchers(travesty!) and within minutes I took of my headset, within hours I was fed up and quit. But were not here to compare to titles, where here to talk about MAG.
For a game to warrant the 100 hr play time, it has to do one key thing. It has to willingly offer the time, rather then demand it. There has to always be a consistent 1:1 ratio of how much you put into the game you get out. MAG finds this balance nicely, however, unfortunately for most it is done with ribbons, medals, and (ugh, that dreaded awful thing)achievements, along with standard progress bars. These 4 things create a near perfect balance of 'things to do', that give the player a compos,and the game always points it in whatever direction the player wants.
Let me elaborate...
The player starts a game, and get's xp per kill/repair/heal, plus a frago bonus.(A squad leader sets a primary objective, if you do anything near that objective you get double the xp per action). Now all that xp is added up and put towards your next level. So already you have a set goal in mind, easily your first thought would be to get to level 60. However, there are ribbons, that are rewarded for doing something 3 or 5 or even 30 times in a single round. So now, not only can you say to yourself, 'hey, I want 500xp so i can get to level 20', But you can also say 'hey, I want to get this ribbon for 30 shotgun kills in a round'. Doing that is already 150 xp, plus you get a bonus for the ribbon, plus a bonus if your in the frago while your doing all this. Now after a while, your going to get a medal for 1000 kills with a shotgun. Similar medals exist for all the other weapons as well, along with things like repairing vehicles, destroying AAA batteries, and healing allies. Netting all the ribbons, gets you a trophy, same with all the medals, and some special events get you even more trophies. There is always something to play towards, be it a simple ribbon, a medal, or that ultimate goal of the platinum trophy. No goal is ever set to far out of sight(except for the infamous rocket man medal), and MAG never overburdens you with all the awards your winning, or all the medals your not even close at getting. It's all there if you want it, but again, it's never forced upon you.
Promise and support
MAG is full of promise from the folks at Zipper. Patch after patch has been delivered upon the expected date, only 1.6 has been delayed a bit. Most patches come with a slew of game-play tweaks and adjustments. From the close range effectiveness of a smg, to regular bug fixes. Not only that, Zipper has been generous enough to, at the time of writing this, 3 times over, give us free dlc. Costumes, weapons, armor have all been medium sized chunks of free dlc to go along with each patch, as well as a double xp weekend. This is a fantastic way to do two key things with the game. 1) add bulk to the product, while keeping the price down(free in this case) so people who may be debating coming back, do. 2)The double xp weekends drastically increase player count, while that may not seem like a big deal, with the dwindling player count, and the amount of people required for a single game, it can take a long time to get into the game-type you want, as long as that game-type isn't sabotage. Basically, if you go to the official mag site and check out the forums, you can see that zipper is almost always hinting at what they are doing next for the game. It's great because if nothing else, it keeps that nagging thought in the back of your mind that whispers 'I'm going to come back to play you once you release more content in a month'.
This trailer does a good job of showing the overall tension and chaos that a game of MAG can hold
The story of MAG is something I wished zipper actually put into game more. On their site They have all this awesome lore behind each pmc, the Shadow war, and the general overview of it's history. It would be awesome for them to make a fake new's post about how S.V.E.R has captured key RAVEN technology, because of their success in the sabo mode, and then put the results in game. Give S.V.E.R a 5% dmg boost on their assault rifles. Then next month, or next week even, make a fake news post saying those same pieces of technology malfunction and give S.V.E.R a 100c extra cost to assault rifles or something to hinder them. Something like that would absolutely 'save' the game from the negatives that is has.
The ugly truth
Unfortunately, while I think MAG gets the big picture well, it misses allot of the small things, and that can be very, very, very bad for the lasting appeal, and can throw away some of the player base. Well, there was bound to be negatives about the game. Obviously, by any review you've read, its not perfect, however it's not shit. While the lasting appeal of the 'concept' of MAG wears thin after a while. Game play wise, the good things are still all here, the bare-bones fps mechanics remain super tight, the balance of vehicles, infantry, and air strikes is super tight, and all the basics still remain...just awesome. To add to that the tried and true formula of easy to learn, difficult to master are all in-place. You can tell the difference between a good squad leader, and a new one as easy as night and day. You can see the effect of experience at play when your platoon leader is a vet, compared to when it's their first time leading anything.
But, alas, where mag loses it's ground, and allot of the lasting appeal of other popular shooters, is truly it's personality. Games like Halo, mw2, Killzone2, and even my old favorite, Resistance 2, are all full of just those little touches that make their respective experience amazing. In mw2, jumping from cliffs to land on a bed to cushion the fall damage, in Halo: reach, using the focus rifle to re-direct a enemy rocket mid-air, in Resistance, using the secondary fire on the splicer as a form of a melee weapon, those little niche touches are completely missing in MAG. To add a little insult to injury, MAG is also full of little glitches. Enemies that don't fall when they die, are prime for a target, but that means your shooting at essentially nothing, and putting yourself on radar, which almost every time leads to a death. Repairing the motor pool is almost a 50% suicide, kneeling down to repair it, I can't count the amount of times I was simply 'crushed' by myself. Just the other day, I was playing acquisition(It's all i play atm, just for the trophy really :P ) after spawn, I was running back to the front lines to repair a bunker, and then the game told me I ran over a teammate in a vehicle. It was hilarious at the time it happened, but looking back, these things aren't Red Dead Redemption type of funny, and MAG would certainly benefit from ironing these out. Although, to be fair to them, 256 players and no lag is pretty amazing.
There is actually little I can say about MAG that put's it over other shooters. It's almost it's own genre of shooter, sitting by itself, but still, there isn't one thing that makes it better then all the rest. It doesn't have the polish of Halo, it doesn't have the fast pace, in your action awesomeness of mw2, its not eye candy like Killzone or Uncharted, It's not that pure visceral enjoyment of the Gears games. It's... it's just MAG, and maybe that's why it's so awesome. It doesn't kill it'self trying to be something it's not.
But is it worth those 100 hrs? does the game still draw ME in after all this time? It's hard to answer the former, but the later is a definitive yes. If you are to ask anyone who has stuck with it to this date, the answer is a clear definitive yes. But it's the initial newbie hurdle, the lack of personality, and just all the little things wrong with the game, that in the end, might lead a player astray. But stick with the game, and you may find one of the best experiences online you've had in a while. I could write pages and pages and still have more to write about MAG, there is just so much to it, and it nails that big overall picture. However, to invest that large amount of time into a game is always going to have to be a choice. Some of the best games I've ever played I've only played for 10 or 20 hours.(God of war 3 comes to mind)