Ah, multiplayer, a beautiful synergy of technology and human interaction. A healthy, jovial, life-affirming way of enjoying the company of your fellow man. Sometimes, anyway. At other times, not so much. Not so much at all. We were recently reminded of this by the Kane & Lynch 2 demo, whose multiplayer modes proved with no margin for error what solid gold, conniving swine games can so easily turn us into.
You see some games just seem to want you to be a bastard to your friends. Whether competetive or co-op, whether by mean-spirited mechanics or by simply offering just enough tools and temptation to ruin someone's day, certain multiplayer modes positively live to cause griefing and fights. And frankly, they're hilarious and we love them for it. So here are some of the most bastardly.
Kane & Lynch
A game centred around the sunlit, carefree tale of a manslaughtering and schizophrenic BFF duo was always going to need a brutal competitive multiplayer mode. Kane and Lynch's Fragile Alliance mode gladly obliges, and does so in a a rather clever way.
Like the beginning of The Dark Knight, it's all about committing a bank heist and then murderously whittling down your team in order to get a bigger cut of the money yourself. Alas, no stationary-based magic tricks are available, but it's nontheless a tense mercenary experience where no-one is ever safe, and any plan can go spectacularly tits-up at the drop of the hat. Because however big a bastard you want to be, there's always an even bigger one just waiting around the corner. With a shotgun.
Bomberman has always been a game whose fun factor is directly proportional to the pain of your friends (or the pain of everyone if you’re the sadistic arse who decided that Act Zero was a good idea). Trouble is, as the series has added more and more players to its deathmatch, the wait between death and respawn has become increasingly dull for those who get wiped out first.
Later versions though, have solved this problem, by interfacing a duo of unwary avians with a single piece of well aimed igneous. Once you’re out, you respawn on the outside of the battle map, able to hurl bombs in from its border without any personal risk, killing time and increasing the pain of the guy who wiped you tenfold.
You’ll start an endless cycle of obsessive murderous revenge that will eventually result in the wretched end of you both, but that kind of stuff is what life is all about, right?
As prominent American scientist Dr. Peter Venkman concluded in his 1984 thesis on the amplification effects of multiple divergent forces upon the structural integrity of any given physical environment, a co-operative group should always split up when presented with the opportunity. It can do more damage that way. Crackdown 2’s free-roaming, four-player co-op mode is a perfect worked example of that theory.
Above: Little did Tarquin know, Jeremy and Crispin had skulduggery afoot!
Stick together, explore alone, work together, or ruin everything for each other. Every option is always open. But the game's super-powered mechanics are designed in a way that pretty much guarantees it’ll always be the latter. Friend driving a car? Pick up his car and throw it into the sea! Friend methodically climbing a huge building? Leap up there first and punch him off as soon as he makes it! And the new mag-grenade weapon is an absolute griefing godsend.
Sticking to any object and unleashing a bungee-like electrical tether, it can be chained together multiple times to create an ungodly spider web of springy plasmic chaos. Favourite tactic? Subtly attaching the back of a mate’s car to a wall just as he starts a race. Vroom. Boing. Crump. Swearing.