5. Assassin’s Creed Revelations
Due out: Nov. 15
For: PS3, 360, PC
The stealth-centric, hunt-or-be-hunted-in-a-crowd gameplay of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood hasn’t really been widely imitated yet, so the fact that Revelations expands on it with new modes and gameplay features is almost enough to get it on this list by itself. However, the game isn’t content to just update what was already there, and to that end it adds a ton of community features (including a “challenge” system intended to spur competition between players) and unlockable character-customization options designed to keep players interested.
But then, this isn’t an article about the games that are just adding the most stuff to multiplayer, and there are two things – aside from its already-established uniqueness – that make Revelations particularly interesting. The first is that its multiplayer mode has a complete storyline that progresses as players level up, and which shows players what the Assassin’s Creed universe looks like from the “evil” Templar perspective (and which is meant partly to draw in players who normally couldn’t give a shit about playing with others).
The second is that it takes two of the most basic, standard modes imaginable – deathmatch and capture-the-flag – and adds its own stealth-based touches that make them feel completely fresh. Deathmatch becomes less about guesswork and more about keeping a sharp eye out, as it removes the radar and doesn’t repeat character models in its crowds. Meanwhile, CTF – or, as the game calls it, Artifact Assault – splits the map in half, with players becoming vulnerable the second they set foot in enemy territory. True, putting a new spin on venerable old gameplay isn’t the most original thing in the world, but if you needed another reason to consider Revelations “unique” aside from its already distinctive gameplay, it’s a pretty good one.
4. BattleBlock Theater
Due out: TBA Sometime this year
As you’ve doubtless gathered by now, the latter half of this year isn’t exactly short on multiplayer, but a few games go the extra step of making it key to their gameplay, rather than the focus of separate (read: secondary) game modes. Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One and Rayman Origins come to mind, but aside from adding party-game competitive elements, a few interesting ways to work together and ample opportunities for griefing your friends, they don’t do anything that feels radically different from what we’ve seen before. BattleBlock Theater, meanwhile, takes cooperation and griefing to extremes, and in the process creates something with unrivaled potential for old-school multiplayer chaos.
Created by The Behemoth (the minds behind four-player phenom Castle Crashers), BattleBlock Theater looks fairly simplistic, with minimalist 2D characters hopping around in big, enclosed arenas made of blocks). Gameplay-wise, however, it’s a bit more complex, giving players the option of working together to finish cooperative puzzle levels, or of teaming up to smash opponents in violent little minigames.
Friendly or competitive, cooperation between players on the same team is required, and you’ll have a number of ways to help one another out – by pulling each other to safety from yawning pits, for example, or coordinating jumps off of each other in midair to reach high places. And perhaps more interestingly, there are plenty of ways for players to torment each other; getting physically hurled into spikes, drowning pools or the paths of oncoming enemies seems to happen a lot, and given that death is fairly easy to bounce back from, it’s less irritating than it sounds. Factor in customizable characters, a wide array of oddball weapons and The Behemoth’s distinctively adorable character designs, and this has the potential to be a lot of fun.
3. Driver: San Francisco
Due out: Sept. 6 (Sept. 2 EU)
For: PS3, 360, PC, Wii
Driver: San Francisco is already kind of a weird game, given that it centers on a detective in a coma who can “Shift” his consciousness between cars during high-speed chases, commandeering one disposable vehicle after another in an attempt to stop whatever goons he’s after. But what’s got us especially intrigued is that D:SF carries the Shift function over to multiplayer, giving players a new way to get back in the game when they’re left choking on a competitor’s dust. Why waste time trying to recover from a crash or get turned back around when you can just mind-jack the nearest fresh vehicle as it speeds in the right direction?
The game isn’t content to fall back on that gimmick, either, and complements it with new, crash-happy game modes that include vehicular tag, a cops-vs-robber Takedown mode in which only the cops can Shift (but they’re stuck in relatively crummy police cruisers), and a chaotic version or capture-the-flag with cars, in which everyone but the flag-bearer can Shift.
It’s fast, hectic and inventive, and what we’ve played so far looks to be a big enough departure to set this apart from the Burnouts and Need for Speeds of the world.