Deathmatch. Capture the Flag. Domination. Team… those things. These words have made up a familiar vocabulary for multiplayer games over the past 15 years or so, and they’ve been standard in nearly every game that’s allowed one player to shoot at another. These days, however, “standard” is seldom enough, and this year it seems like every other big fall release wants to reinvent, deepen or otherwise put its own unique spin on competitive and co-op play.
Some of those spins are more interesting than others, and they’re resulting in a fall lineup that – in spite of being composed largely of sequels – is doing enough big, unusual things with multiplayer to make even the most steadfast solo gamers take interest. And now that another annual 24-hour marathon is safely behind us, it seems like as good a time as any to take a look at the unique stuff that lies ahead.
7. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Due out: Nov. 1 (Nov. 2 EU)
Fundamentally, Uncharted 3’s multiplayer isn’t all that different from Uncharted 2. The leaping, climbing and cover-based shooting are all there, along with fun new additions like stationary minigun emplacements. However, Drake’s latest adventure has a few things that set it apart from its treasure hunters-vs-mercenaries predecessor, starting with customization options that let players tailor Drake, Sully and the rest of the cast to their liking with unlockable gear and a potentially deep system of boosts and special-ability “kickbacks.” More interesting, however, are some of the changes Uncharted 3 brings to the gameplay, like a buddy system that makes players tougher when they work closely with a pre-designated teammate, and a lopsided three-team deathmatch.
It’s true, however, that while all that stuff is new to Uncharted, we’ve seen other games do similar things. So what really gets our juices pumping for Uncharted 3’s multiplayer is that it gives its stages a rudimentary “storyline,” in that some maps have multiple parts. For example, the Airstrip map we first glimpsed in April begins with a high-speed chase between a fleet of flatbed trucks and a taxiing cargo plane, as each team tries to claim the plane for themselves (without getting crushed under the truck wheels) before it takes off. Victory here then gives the winning team an edge in the next stage of the map, a sprawling airfield filled with sniping points.
Couple that with a three-player co-op mode that follows a (simplified) story separate from the single-player adventure, and there’s an excellent chance that Uncharted 3’s multiplayer features might actually outclass its campaign.
6. Dark Souls
Due out: Oct. 4 (Oct. 7 EU)
For: PS3, 360
True, Dark Souls’ approach to multiplayer doesn’t appear to be all that different from 2009’s Demon’s Souls, but there’s a good chance that a lot of you (particularly the ones without PS3s) still haven’t played the grim, balls-tough fantasy adventure yet, in which case it’ll all be new to you.
While Dark Souls is more or less a single-player game, the presence of other players can be felt in the phantoms that occasionally wander through the world and leave messages warning of danger ahead. It goes deeper than that, though; with certain artifacts, it’s possible to temporarily yank other players out of their own games and into yours, where they’ll be forced to assist you and/or become targets for attacks you might rather avoid. And if you’re feeling especially mean, you’ll be able to jump into other players’ games as a glowing red phantom and just grief them directly, killing them and stealing all their accumulated “humanity” (key to not becoming a shriveled undead husk) for yourself.
It’s a less-than-friendly approach that fits in nicely with Dark Souls’ already thorny, “you’re gonna die” ethos, and if it’s anything like Demon’s Souls, it’s going to grind us down, demoralize us and make us love every second.