Sunday Thoughts: 05/04/09

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There are a hundred different ways to promote your game these days.  If it’s not making a big deal of it at some huge gaming convention, or the traditional press release and media pack route, there’s always the sneaky indescript picture shoe-horned into a gaming blog, or a tweet from an official magazine.  The truth is, I don’t really care where the new MAG images came from, but if this is the work of some promotions company trying to sneak in through the back door then it signals a new era in video game PR.  It’s funny, really, how quickly this can all happen: all the publisher needs to do is shove some images on Flickr, get a high profile site to tweet with the URL, and the company gets a massive amount of free press, the internet scrambles to write up a story and feature the very same images and everyone wins.

The result of the N4G clusterfuck of links was that most of the sites simply posted up the screens without any kind of narrative or discussion on what they actually represented.  A few of the user comments on said sites were positive, but most were simply confused.  With N4G rapidly degenerating into little more than a library of links to stories containing links to other sites, the notion of actually trying to disect what’s going on each day is all but lost.  The reality of the recent MAG shots, leaked or not, is that a) it’s now a first person shooter, b) it’s built entirely in greys and browns, and c) we’re not likely to ever see anything like 255 other players at once.

I don’t mean to be rude: MAG is clearly still at an early stage, but these are the first screens we’ve seen, and they don’t totally impress as much as we’d have liked them too.  For starters, why are they just 1024 x 576 – is this another sub_HD blurry mess like Haze?  Why are the bullets leaving pretty yellow lines?  Our guess?  These aren’t screenshots at all, they’re early mock-up shots to show the scope of the game, not the game itself – chances are some magazine had some kind of exclusive next month, and now this has all been blown by an internet eager for hits.  The more interesting shots are the concept sketches – the ones that show environments other than the horrible brown mess most of the screens seem to have concentrated on, especially the ones at night.

The problem Zipper and Sony have just now is that even with these screens, MAG’s 256 players bullet point is still just a PR selling point made to make up for a lacklustre E3 presentation, and there’s nothing in these shots to suggest any kind of gameplay mechanics to show us otherwise.  Now, then, is when Sony needs to follow up on the leak, get someone from the team on the US Blog, and tell their hungry PS3 public just what’s going on before people’s interpretation of what MAG is all about ends up in the toilet.  Personally I’ve got an open mind, but it’s evident that even with the seperate structured mission objectives for each team we’re not going to be taking part in the promised massive firefights.  And haven’t we got enough first person shooters on the PlayStation right now?

The thread on GAF is being watched (and commented on) by at least one member of the MAG team, but he’s not likely to confirm or deny the source of these shots either, so the internet will simply rumble along, and move on to the next thing by the start of next week, and whilst Zipper are keen to say that MAG isn’t a part of the SOCOM canon, it’s obviously cut from the same cloth, first person or not.  So, yes, MAG has the potential to be great, but these shots have had the same sort of impact as the first (orchestrated) shots of Resistance 2 did – to me MAG looks dull, derivative and formulaic and almost certainly not going to live up the hype that has now started on the game, knowingly or not.  Of course, you might feel differently, and we welcome your comments, as ever.

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