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'MAG' brings worldwide warfare to PS3

By Marc Saltzman, Gannett
In "MAG," for the PlayStation 3, up to 256 players can join in real-time skirmishes.
In "MAG," for the PlayStation 3, up to 256 players can join in real-time skirmishes.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sony's "MAG" for PlayStation 3 lets up to 256 players battle it out
  • Online shooter takes place in 2025 and pits private armies against each other
  • Game has some early glitches, like floating corpses, but they'll hopefully be ironed out
  • Game costs $59.99 and gets three stars out of four from reviewer
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(CNN) -- If you subscribe to the adages "the more, the merrier" or "bigger is better," then you should be plenty happy with Sony's MAG ("Massive Action Game"), a PlayStation 3 exclusive that lets you battle with up to 256 players over the Internet in a number of near-future skirmishes.

Although this ambitious online-only shooter suffers from a few technical kinks at the time of this writing, action fans with a penchant for multiplayer mayhem should be happy with this much-hyped war game.

The story, if such things interest you in a military shooter, takes place in 2025, amidst a global crisis caused by food shortages, dwindling fuel reserves and ensuing economic depression.

Rather than pay for a full-time military, governments contract with smaller groups of private military corporations to protect a country's interests. This is the start of the "Shadow War," pitting three private army factions against one another -- the Valor, Raven and S.V.E.R. -- each with their own skills, weapons and unique side to the conflict.

After downloading a 100-megabyte update (two-thirds as a game update and one-third a system update), players log in to the MAG servers with their PlayStation Network IDs and join one of the three factions.

After a brief tutorial (teaching you how to move, jump, duck, run and fire), you can join one of the missions and chat with teammates using an optional headset.

For example, in "Sabotage," which supports up to 64 players, your task is to protect valuable data from the opposing force (or, if on the other side, steal this intel from the enemy).

In "Domination," which supports up to 256 simultaneous players, you must fight to secure and hold eight targets (your rank must be at level eight or higher to join this fight).

Depending on how you want to play, you can sharpen your skills as an on-foot soldier by learning the terrain, finding the best places to fire your machine guns and sniper rifles or toss grenades.

Or you can become the commander of your unit and assign orders. If you're good, you might work your way up to leading a 32-person platoon or a 128-person army.

This scope is what separates MAG from the likes of other near-future military shooters, such as "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2."

You can also upgrade weapons, create up to five separate equipment loadouts for future missions, drive vehicles (or ride shotgun) and take control over stationary turrets.

Played from a first-person perspective, MAG is a good-looking game that includes realistic-looking soldiers and expansive battlefields.

This THX-certified shooter sounds good, too.

Finding a game to join is a cinch, but be prepared for some minor glitches after the mission launches, such as seeing the "Connecting to Server" notification flash for a while or a dead body hovering above the ground or gyrating uncontrollably.

But these technical glitches don't detract from the overall experience and will probably be fixed over time.

The controls also take some getting used to, such as cycling through your weapons with the R2 button (instead of the usual d-pad) and switching gear with the L2 button.

All in all, though, military shooter fans who prefer multiplayer matches over computer-controlled opponents should find MAG an ambitious but successful game that's easy to pick up but tough to put down.

GAME INFO

Game: MAG

Score: 3 stars (out of 4)

Rating: T for Teen

Platform: PlayStation 3

Publisher: Sony

Price: $59.99