Contracts are the game's way of rewarding an army for good performance. If your army wins enough in a specific game type, they will be awarded one of the three available contracts, which gives your army a special benefit across all of the gametypes. However, contracts feel very contrived right now, as they're won and lost easily with no real repercussions. Even worse, the game only gives you three "score bars" showing how your army might be above or below the other two armies in a game type. What these bars mean, we have absolutely no clue. They pretty much go up and down at random. In one 30 minute play-session, Raven won 2 contracts and lost 1, just to show you how quickly they change hands.

The game itself actually plays very well. Lag is nonexistent, the maps are well designed with attack and defend opportunities and multiple vertical levels of play, and it's really intimidating to look over a ridge and just see this wave of bullets being fired back and forth. Some people have said that the game locks down when too many get on the screen, but really, I've never seen this occur. Even in the worst circumstances, like when my army was stealing an APC when the entire defensive army was outside waiting for us, we didn't lag out. Everything kept playing very smoothly... and there were a lot of bullets.

However, one area of frustration doesn't come from the game's design, but how the game plays. When you walk onto the battlefield, know that you will be shot by people you never saw -- a lot. 90% of my deaths during gameplay are because I didn't see my attacker. Camouflage, terrain, and clever movement are very important in this game, as well as having a health pack on hand to patch up your wounds. Don't expect a hand-holding "shield regeneration" system like in Halo, we're back to the days of limited health and health packs.

Also noteworthy: the game lets you spawn in very interesting ways. At times, some squads will spawn in an APC (which also double as mobile spawn points), while all squads have the option to parachute from a plane if they can take down their enemy's AA gun on the map. Parachuting, while very brief, is pretty cool. Just try not to get shot while falling.

A lesson on war: It kinda hurts and benefits no one

So what did we learn about war from Shadow Raven Industries? Well, we learned that war involves staying hidden and killing people who can't see you. War is about attempting to talk with your squadmates, even though 80% of them won't use a headset to talk back with you. War has decent graphics and little lag, but it lacks a good incentive to keep coming back.

To give credit where credit is due, Zipper Interactive nailed the number of people playing in a match at once. When you can get some leverage and look over the battlefield, it's quite a sight to see so many people. That's just damn impressive. MAG just feels epic, take my word on it.

However, something about the game lacks that addictive quality. The quality that keeps you coming back and queuing up again and again. The matches are sorta fun, but get quickly tiresome as you play them on the same 3 maps over and over (each gametype has 3 maps) while the contracts are confusing and next to useless. In fact, if the whole "shadow war" component disappeared, I don't think anyone in the game would notice or care.

However, Zipper Interactive seems committed to making MAG into a great game, so I wouldn't be surprised to see updates and additions coming out for it in the future -- some of which might address some of these issues. So, if you like playing a standard, Counter-Strike/Battlefield 2-esque FPS, then MAG is right up your alley. If you need some more incentive to play, like a decent leveling structure, more maps, or a more interesting war component, then you might want to keep an eye on it and check it out at a later date.

Why we don't get more innovative games