Tag Archives: Multiplayer

Multiplayer Shouldn’t Be a Necessity

I adored BioShock, and while it lost some of its lustre and great ideas once it reached a certain point, one thing that I couldn’t criticise it on was the lack of multiplayer. It was never an issue as the actual FPS mechanics weren’t anything special, and it was the isolation and the experience of exploring this strange world on your own that really drove me forwards.

It reminds me of Metroid Prime, where a fantastic sort-of FPS that was about exploring a strange new world by yourself was met with criticism for its lack of multiplayer. And sure enough, where Metroid Prime 2 came with a half-baked multiplayer, BioShock 2 is set to come with its own effort.

Back when Metroid did it, I can remember making the argument that multiplayer is completely at odds with what makes both Metroid Prime and the Metroid series as a whole great. The games, up until then, were all about being isolated on a hostile alien world, exploring while hunting and being hunted, and even when it moved into the first-person perspective those were still the ideas that carried it. It was never a shooter, in other words, and therefore didn’t need deathmatch, and that description pretty much entirely applies to BioShock as well.

Just look at where Metroid has ended up. Hunters and Prime 3 aren’t bad, but Samus and her bounty hunter friends don’t feel like Metroid to me.

I hate this need to clamour for the bullet point on the back of the box. It’s disrespectful to the effort that goes into crafting a rewarding single player, and while I could understand it if, say, a Call of Duty came without multiplayer, it’s wrong to say that every game needs it. Complaining that a story-led FPS doesn’t come with multiplayer is devaluing a great work in order to appeal to people who don’t appreciate the work that went into the game anyway, like criticising Schindler’s List for not having enough action scenes.

I don’t like to sound like a pretentious twat, which I think is somewhere that this argument comes dangerously close to taking me, but I really think there’s a point here. Starbreeze makes fantastic first-person adventures and has had a great reputation for this since the first Riddick game on the Xbox, and both subsequent releases in this vein, The Darkness and Assault on Dark Athena, have had, respectively, shockingly bad and mediocre multiplayer modes that nobody plays anyway. The people who appreciate the games have no interest in the multiplayer, and the people who would whine about the exclusion have games that they’d rather play in Call of Duty and Halo. Developers should save the money and make an even better story.

To me, this is another example of why games aren’t taken seriously, and it doesn’t help when the gaming media is often guilty of marking games down for not coming with multiplayer, continuing to mix up objective consumer advice and a review, because they’re not the same thing. Games are art, are they? Well then we’d better mark down Hamlet for not having any musical numbers.

Killzone is the New Battlefield

Back before it got bogged down in such nonsense as story and trying to make us care about its characters – or even having characters, for that matter – the Battlefield series was about nothing more than being an absolutely brilliant multiplayer game, into which you’d happily sink dozens of hours.

Killzone 2 is slightly different in that it does have a proper campaign to play through, but in every other respect I think that it’s the heir apparent to what is still the peak of the Battlefield series: Battlefield 2. Hell, it even has the ham-fisted attempts to make us care about the paper-thin characters with crappy AI as we play through the engine tech demo that is its campaign – an approach borrowed from Battlefield: Bad Company for good measure.

Now before I bring down the wrath of the Killzone Defence Force, let me be clear that I mean this in the nicest possible way. Killzone 2’s campaign is passable and a great way to show off the home cinema but not something that I’ll play through more than once, but the multiplayer mode is one of the best that I’ve played in a long time, and certainly the best since Call of Duty 4 stole my life away for a few months over 2007 and 2008. I’ve already played a dozen hours while finding time to play The Lost and Damned and Street Fighter IV, and I don’t feel like I want to slow down yet.

Alas, the controls are still less than ideal. You can’t polish a turd, as they say, but for the multiplayer Guerrilla has mercifully put the turd next to some potpourri. There’s a touch more aim assistance to make firing from the hip less hit and miss – mostly miss – and the slightly clunky cover system has been done away with, and it generally feels less encumbered with the campaign’s affinity for making you feel the weight of your character.

It’s probably a decision based on the fact that human-controlled players are likely to be more wild and reckless, but perhaps it might have been a good idea to let us use these controls throughout the entire game? Just a suggestion…

But what I’ve found to be its most interesting feature is the way that it rotates game types in the same match, meaning that whereas my time in a game like Battlefield 2 would be spent flipping between team deathmatch and conquest-style games without exploring the offerings further, every match of Killzone will randomly flip between deathmatches, conquest, assassination, and other objective-based modes without returning to the menu or lobby. It’s a simple idea that I’ve never seen done before, and it adds a wonderfully unpredictable slant to how the game is going to play. And, of course, you can just choose to play a straight deathmatch, which the game is still very good at doing.

The Battlefield comparison goes further than the superiority of the game’s multiplayer experience, though. This just has a very similar feel, like the realistic imprecision of the guns that makes killing someone with an assault rifle from a distance at best blind luck, if not almost impossible. It’s annoying when faced with AI opponents who aren’t working with the same limitations as you, but against similarly encumbered humans it becomes more of a game of skill, seeing who’s best at carefully aiming and picking their shots before the other guy can, and it’s nearly impossible to win by jamming on the trigger because the recoil is likely to hit everything but your opponent.

Look me up if you’re online – PSN name: NekoFever (stats currently down) – because I’d be more than willing to have a game.

Best of 2008 #6: Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead

Co-operative multiplayer has been an increasingly common feature in shooters, allowing teams of players to experience the main campaign or even whole new ones as a team and bringing in better moments of both teamwork and, more often than not, betrayal than any scripted NPC could possibly do.

Left 4 Dead is one of the few that makes this the whole point of the game, to the point that it’s barely worth playing if you’re a completely solo player. Assuming you have the requisite network connection, though, I can’t recommend it enough. As both a loving pastiche of zombie movie stereotypes, even down to the deliberately cheesy taglines of each ‘movie’, and a game that few can touch in terms of the threat level presented. You may always have your buddy for comfort, but hearing the wails of a nearby Witch never fails to frighten.

Yes, there’s not a lot of raw content here, as all of the campaigns can be burned through in under ten hours, but it’s as close as you’re ever going to get to that hyperbolic statement that it’s different every time actually being true. The mechanics of how you pass through the level’s challenges never change, but you genuinely won’t know what’s coming next thanks to the genuinely evil AI Director.

It’s happened to me where we’ve had a generally easy passage through the level, and we’re on the home straight. The location of our last stand is in sight, but then we hear the telltale sobs of a Witch and spot her, right in the middle of the only safe route through the oblivious zombies around us. We back up and prepare to sneak past one at a time, until we hear the roar of a Tank approaching us from behind. No healing items, limited weapons, and stuck between a big fucking rock and and a hard place with claws.

The game may hate me, but I can’t help but love it. That’s why this year’s biggest surprise hit comfortably makes the list.


These are unusual times. I’ve found a PS3 game to play and we’ve got a proper game that’s being digitally distributed. ‘Proper’ meaning not a touched up classic and not a £5 twin-stick shooter. It’s something new to console gaming and I really like it – Sony’s taken what could easily have been the next Shadowrun and done it right, making what’s probably my favourite PS3 game yet.

The Warhawk concept has been reinvented as a multiplayer-only Battlefield clone which, to be fair, is the game you want to copy if you’re making a multiplayer war game. And like Battlefield, it suffers from fairly average infantry and ground combat mechanics that are entirely forgiveable in light of some superlative aerial combat. While limiting yourself to the dogfight servers means missing out on certain dimensions of the gameplay, it’s the best way to guarantee a good game without the risk of being left behind without even a wheeled vehicle to carry you into the fray.

I inevitably gravitated towards flying the titular aircraft with sticks (I make no secret of my dislike of the ‘waggle’ fad), a setup which gives one stick to traditional flight and the other to the necessary aerobatics that make dodging and weaving between rock formations quick and intuitive. It never fails to be exciting when you have 16 wingmen flying with you towards the inevitable chaos of missiles and flak that await in the middle.

Warhawk isn’t particularly fully-featured and seems to have constant issues with connections and stats which should really be ironed out by now, but Sony has gone about it in the right way by making it £20 (or £40 on disc with a Bluetooth headset). To make the Shadowrun comparison again, that was also light on content but sold at retail for £50, and look how that turned out.

If this is a way to sidestep crippling development costs while still giving us proper next-gen games, I’m all for it. Of course I still want my big budget BioShocks and blockbusting Halos, but we can’t afford to spend £50 on every game that comes along.