Gamers are often associated with the stigma of being pale, anti-social creatures dwelling alone in Mountain Dew lairs on Cheeto-stained furniture. But while we may love ruining our arteries and our sleep schedules, we love it even more with company - and many of us are actually quite tan.
Gaming like most things is only improved when shared in by others. I grew up kicking friends' butts in Burnout and Super Smash Bros., and clearing dungeons with them in Diablo and Champions of Norrath. So in this modern age of gaming I'm left to wonder, where has all the multiplayer gone?
I purchased my shining idol of a Playstation 3 in early 2009 and got down to brass tacks with GTA IV and Burnout Paradise. But while both provided easily accessible and admittedly fun online multiplayer, I couldn't help but miss the in-person gloat factor that makes victory all the sweeter.
Of course, the Playstation library these days isn't quite built for multiplayer - what with titles like Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid filling the shelves. But in my opinion there are some gleaming opportunities that have been missed.
On PS2 Free Radical Design brilliantly implemented co-op multiplayer in their TimeSplitters series (particularly Future Perfect). No matter the level a second player could always jump in as someone from the period to assist the protagonist. This option never hurt the experience by being a necessity or an annoyance, and it was well-explained unlike the "Two Chuck Greenes" phenomenon in Dead Rising 2.
Many games will provide a host of main characters but neglect the opportunity to make more than one of them playable. Last year I became a Battlefield: Bad Company 2 addict and had fun dinking around through the campaign when I wasn't smashing through walls online. But the whole experience would've been much more enjoyable with a buddy playing as Sweetwater or Hags.
Sure multiplayer requires more work on the part of the developer, but it's not like it hurts story cohesion at all. Gears of War allows a second player to jump in as Dom, and I had a blast defeating the locust horde with my Xbox friend. Why couldn't my Playstation friend and I take turns leashing the butt-cheeks off mini-bosses in Bulletstorm? Or at least split a screen to play Anarchy online with others.
I've heard before that developers exclude local multiplayer in order to sell more units, or so that players don't have to share a screen (which I promise we haven't minded since Goldeneye 64). But either way I think that's crap. We're already getting stiffed on multiplayer by the likes of EA forcing us to spend extra cash on new copies of games instead of saving a few meager bucks by buying pre-owned.
Gearbox struck gold by making Borderlands multiplayer both locally and online. I've probably invested more hours in that game than any other RPG to date, and although I've beaten every possible aspect of the game released, I would still go out and buy it again if I ever lost my copy. My friends and I spent entire nights sniping and soldiering psychos and Crimson Lance soldiers online and on the same couch, and can't wait for Borderworlds to get an official announcement.
Likewise Saints Row 2 became my new favorite sandbox game, blowing GTA out of the water when I discovered its ridiculous hilarity had story multiplayer instead of just online, and that we could even play as our own characters, not a copy of one protagonist.
I'm not saying that every game needs multiplayer. Infamous probably wouldn't be much fun for the friend that gets stuck pushing Zeke's fat, winded arse around Empire, or drowning themselves as John Marston's horse. But who's to say Uncharted wouldn't be more fun with someone controlling Sully (or Elena or Chloe), or Killzone improved with some playing as Rico or Natko or Narville. Hell, even L.A. Noire might've been improved with the partner on your couch being your partner on the case.
It's hard to think of many games that *wouldn't* be more fun with a friend by your side, so why don't more developers make that a reality? Maybe there aren't enough gamers crying out for it. Or maybe - but hopefully not - developers and their publishers are more concerned with the promised profit of consistency than with the fun and satisfaction of breaking the mold. Time will tell if a change will be made, but until then we're left refreshing the community levels in LBP2.