Like with our action and adventure categories, we went with breaking down multiplayer into two distinct categories this year. Competitive and cooperative multiplayer both offer such a vast difference from each other that lumping them into one overall multiplayer category wasn't going to serve these games fairly.
Some of these games offer a fun competitive experience on top of a single-player package, while others were just designed with letting players unleash their angry upon others. Here are our nominees for best competitive multiplayer of 2013.
You will not lose in Divekick! because your opponent is better than you at dialing in big damage combos or successfully completing complex hand motions. You will not lose in Divekick!because you haven't learned a library list of character specific moves, or how to exploit the details of a highly variable combat system. If you lose in Divekick!, it's only because you didn't make the right decisions at the right time. It levels the playing field between people who love, hate, or are just plain intimidated by the genre like few other games have. If you've ever enjoyed flying kicks in any form, Divekick! is the game for you.
Read the full Divekick review.
Pokemon X and Y
Indeed, the comfortably familiar drips off everything in X and Y, which will likely come as a welcome surprise to those fans worried the game might change too much. While battles look more dynamic than ever, thanks to a gorgeous new graphical style that fully animates your battling beasts, the turn-based, rock-paper-scissors style combat is back with a vengeance. Pokemon still learn new moves as they level up, are still limited to four moves, still come in a variety of types with strengths and weaknesses, and still evolve into new, more powerful forms. There is a fresh Fairy-type Pokemon, designed to give Dragons something to be afraid of, but that's about it.
Read the full Pokemon X and Y review.
While the campaign is forgettable, multiplayer is anything but. Yes, moments of frustration are bound to occur in any competitive game like this and Battlefield 4 is no exception. When you're in the midst of an evenly-matched 64-person battle with a tight-knit squad, however, it's bliss.
Read the full Battlefield 4 review.
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm
Multiplayer has remained essentially unchanged outside of balance tweaks and the introduction of a few new units, and it's still great if you're into competitive real time strategy games. Players who haven't hopped online since Wings of Liberty may be surprised to see how much the general skill level has risen, and can expect quite a few frustrating games if they jump into ranked, especially since this season just began and the matchmaking system is still sorting people where they belong. Don't be surprised if you run into highly skilled players in the lower tiers of play during these first few weeks.
Read the full StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm review.
Killzone: Shadow Fall
The action in Shadow Fall’s multiplayer keeps you on your toes, especially in one mode called Paranoia in the Park, where only scouts can play. You get one life, one gun for sniping, and no radar -- it’s kill or be killed. I spent a lot of time in the kill cams in this one. Play is fast, but not so fast that it’s hard to keep up. Being able to use the pulse echo to see all of your enemies within a short range is really nice, though they can see you just as well.
Read the full Killzone: Shadow Fall review.
Dota 2 is what most people would call a "Multiplayer Online Battle Arena," or MOBA for short, but some may call it a DotA-like or an "action RTS (ARTS)" or who knows what else. The bottom line is you control one Hero unit in a team of five against another team of five Heroes on a single map. The goal is to destroy the enemy team's "Ancient," a towering structure at the center of their base. In order to do so, players need to work as a team, level up, destroy a series of towers that defend the enemy "lanes," and push their way into the enemy base.
Read the full Dota 2 review.
Grand Theft Auto Online
Despite all of those issues, I can't help but fall in love with the vast majority of GTA Online. I mentioned in my original article that I had created tons of stories on my own outside of the confines of the game. Since that initial impressions period, I've created many, many more great memories -- a testament to the sheer amount of variety on offer. For instance, I created a makeshift mountain biker gang with a few fellow online players, and committed crimes in the hills for hours on end. I had many more intense shootouts in the game's deathmatch modes, as well as a few great races that came down to the wire.
Read the full Grand Theft Auto Online review.
Matches themselves flow very nicely, and I've had way too many amazing picture-perfect moments to possibly recollect them all. Some of my highlights include split-second dodging and punishing players with my killer attacks, getting chased by a giant truck with blades on the front and surviving while four other players were ripped apart, and fighting a boss character in the middle of an eight player brawl.
Read the full Anarchy Reigns review.
Having said that, the game's Arena mode will be your ongoing source of enjoyment after you've done everything there is to do in the roughly five hour campaign. There are eight diverse modes of play (plus community playlists), which range from the wacky Capture the Horse (Capture the Flag, with a cute rideable horse), to Muckle (basically Super Smash Bros.), to Ball Game (basketball).
Read the full BattleBlock Theater review.
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Multiplayer offers more of the same, "hide-and-seek" competitive gameplay as has been found in prior editions. Sporting six game modes (all featured previously in the series' last installment) which twist conventional multiplayer games like Capture the Flag and King of the Hill with stealth elements unique to Creed, and eight maps on which to play them. While there's nothing revolutionary to be found in the selection, multiplayer remains a tense, thrilling experience whether on the hunt or in hiding.
Read the full Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag review.
Congratulations to all the nominees! We'll be announcing the official winner on Monday, December 24.
Here's all the other nominee categories we've revealed so far:
In the mean time we want you to tell us which game this year had the best competitive multiplayer.
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