The only thing more exciting than playing in a massive, 256-player battle in MAG? Teaming up with another player who has no idea you have formed a bond with him that will last a lifetime.
If you caught my preview of Sony's MAG (Massive Action Game) from E3 earlier this year, it neatly sums up my feelings about MAG as they stand today, the day after the MAG meet-up at the W Hotel in downtown Seattle. It still feels like a very solid, technically competent first-person without too much personality.
What personality the game does have was plastered outside of three rooms on the third floor of the W Hotel. Emblems for the game's three factions hung outside each of the play areas, with around twelve play stations in each. While Zipper Interactive and Sony talked 256-player battles, only twelve from each faction were from the PAX crowd, with the rest of the matches made up of folks currently in the beta test.
The first round I was involved in featured the ragtag S.V.E.R. faction versus the militaristic Valor faction, with my character part of the latter. As I sat down to play, one of the helpful gentlemen standing about told me that we were going to lose. Apparently the other side had sniper rifles, and we didn't. As promised, I died a great deal, shot dead by people I couldn't see, and soon the round was over. Hmph. Time for round two.
Queuing up for the next round, I looked at the player count on the side of the screen. It read a little over fifty players on each side, with the number steadily growing up until the match launched. If there were 128 people on both sides of the conflict I didn't notice. I seemed to run into the same couple of enemy squads over and over again, never quite getting the impression that we were in a giant 128 on 128 battle.
Still, the gameplay was certainly entertaining and engaging, especially once I decided to inject my own dose of personality to the proceedings.
As I mentioned previously, the session was made up of a handful of PAX attendees and players participating in the beta test. With no headsets available, there really wasn't any communication going on. Still, the moment I saw the player named Afiercepancake, I knew we were destined to be best pals.
See, running around on my own was getting me killed, so I decided to go all Army of Two on the game, following Afiercepancake everywhere he went, making sure I had his back, and at times I was almost certain he had mine
It got to the point where I had to watch out for him. He was being reckless and erratic, at times seeming if he was trying to shake me. I had to make sure he made it home in one piece. His daughter, Mary, who he had yet to meet, needed her daddy, and I wasn't going to be the one to let her down.
It bears noting that the PAX MAG meet-up featured an open bar.
So not only had I given Afiercepancake an elaborate back story (his wife is named Edward, for some reason), I had also shared it with the folks standing around me, so soon we were all rooting for him. When I died, I respawned and immediately began looking for his name on the map. When he died, we lamented the fact that MAG doesn't have a button that makes you fall to your knees, open your arms to the sky and cry out a tortured "NOOOOOOOOOOO!"
Despite repeated requests, Afiercepancake would not fist bump. We did, however, fight back to back on several occasions.
At one point my best pal respawned in a plane passing overhead, parachuting down on top of a building I couldn't get on top of. With Mary's tear-soaked face filling my imagination, I rushed the enemy, mowed down in a hail of gunfire all for the sake of being able to respawn and land on top of Afiercepancake's sniper spot. He seemed glad to see me.
I stayed with him until the bitter end, when S.V.E.R. once again triumphed over the forces of Valor, my attempts to rally the troops by humming the G.I. Joe theme apparently ineffective. I passed the controller to the next person waiting in line and prepared to head out for the evening, but not before making sure my successor had his sights set solely on providing backup for Afiercepancake.
Remind me to add him to my PSN friends list when I get home, and if you should see him only, let him know that Mary and Edward need him home in one piece.