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Underrated: Zipper Interactive - shooters we remember, and one we don't

on 11 May 2013

In the gaming world, there is a lot of talk from gamers about game studios being “overrated.” Fans and haters of different critically acclaimed studios battle it out on forums all across the internet in a never-ending flame war over which studio is overrated or why another studio isn't.

What about the other guys, though--the game developers that bring us great titles but don't necessarily get the appreciation or attention they deserve? There are some that bring up how underrated a developer may be, but for every one of those, there are thousands of gamers saying a developer is overrated. Well, in these “Underrated" articles, we are going to take the time to name developers that could be considered underrated and tell you why they deserve your time.

Zipper Interactive (SOCOM, MAG, Unit 13)

Now you might be thinking “SOCOM was absolutely huge! How could this studio be possibly considered underrated?” And you are absolutely right. Zipper Interactive was a big-time AAA studio during the previous PlayStation 2 console generation, but during this current console generation its popularity dropped immensely. The market for tactical shooters had become much more saturated and the things that made SOCOM so immensely popular became less unique and more expected.

So what was a studio that had the rug pulled out from under its feet to do? Here enters MAG. Yes, the game that was quite literally and simply named Massive Action Game. Granted, this title was a bit rough around the edges upon its release. Stiff combat and unbalanced teams with outdated menus lead MAG to receive mediocre scores, but this was only the beginning for MAG. Zipper Interactive did not simply launch MAG and let it be; over the years, its support for MAG only grew.

Many updates came throughout MAG's lifespan. Zipper completely revamped the entire game with MAG version 2.0. With this update, Zipper changed the whole leveling system, overhauled the graphics and lighting, added clan support, and changed how weapons are unlocked, among many other things. Other than patches, Zipper supported MAG with multiple DLCs that included new weapons and game modes.

MAG's crowning feature, of course, was its 256-player multiplayer game mode which (amazingly) played smoothly without lag. This game was no “one trick pony,” however. 256 players left alone in a multiplayer game with no direction would be absolute chaos, but Zipper established an interesting command system that allowed for moderate control over the chaos. The command system worked for the most part, and overall, this was a great concept and should be something other developers pursue and build upon with future titles like MAG.

Commercially, MAG did not have great success, selling 1.28 million copies to date. This is unfortunate, but despite this lackluster performance in sales, the game’s multiplayer remains very much playable and fun even today. For a game that is three years old, the player base is still quite large; sure, the 256-player matches happen only once in a blue moon, but the smaller 64-player and even 128-player game modes launch as quickly as a match in Call of Duty does. This is a major accomplishment for a first person shooter. Gaming communities for these types of games generally fade quickly.

Zipper's doors may be closed, but MAG may have been its crowning achievement and its online community continues to live on. During its time as a studio, Zipper Interactive proved that it could make a wide variety of games and make them well. Hop on the PlayStation Store and give MAG a shot (pun intended) if you haven't already with the demo, which gives full access to the non-DLC game modes with a level cap.

Check out our MAG game gallery for news, screenshots, and more.


Next week, we will talk about another developer that we believe is considered underrated. If you missed out on last week's installment of Underrated, check it out right here. Do you think this studio could be considered underrated? What studios do you think are underrated? Let us know in the comments section below and, be sure to come back for next week's installment!