Offline vs Online

In light of the recent Burnout Paradise news, I thought it was time to take a look at offline vs online gaming.   The view of some games makers out there is that online multiplayer is the be all and end all. Don’t get me wrong, online play is a great feature to have, I just don’t want it to be at the detriment of the local multiplayer.

The two biggest recent examples of games following this trend are GTA4 and Burnout Paradise. Fantastic games and fantastic multiplayer modes, it’s just a shame I can’t play them with my friends at my house. Crash mode in Burnout was a staple party game in my house hold. My housemates don’t really follow gaming but they play what I put in front of them if it’s any good. So to have one of them enthusiastically come to me after seeing a Paradise advert only to have his smile ripped away was saddening. “Sorry Ben….we can’t play multiplayer on our one PS3!” I didn’t have the heart to tell him there was no Crash Party Mode anymore, until the Party Mode update, of course.

2 player San Andreas was also a favourite that has now been taken away from us. Now I know (insert name of criterion) says that if I want that experience back those games are still there. They aren’t though. The Xbox we used to play Burnout 3 on is dead and my PS3 won’t play PS2 games! More than that though why can’t I have the new Paradise experience at home with the people I want to play with? Don’t force me to not see my friends just so we can play GTA together!

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There are plenty of us gaming online, but not all my friends are going to be owning a “next gen” system any time soon. Does that mean they should be left out of the experience?  And what about the local online play? Anyone who played Goldeneye religiously can probably put up with playing an FPS in split screens. So why cant I take my friends online to show them what a 16 player death match is like in COD4. It may even convince them to get their own machine to play without being confined to a tiny corner.

Local multiplayer obviously isn’t a forgotten concept; the entire Wii experience is built around it. Sometimes I wonder though if PS360 games makers put it in as an after thought to their online experience. The entire reason I didn’t buy Motostorm was because there was no way I could play it with anyone I knew (good to see this issue has been addressed with MS2). The ‘core are the ones championing the online experience but selling to the ‘core will only get you so far.

My main problem with online gaming with friends is the way it changes how you play. Playing online with friends is all about the game, playing offline with friends is more about hanging out. Some of my fondest conversations have come while playing a game of PES. Something just becomes lost when you try to talk over a headset.

Online multiplayer has its advantages and sometimes is logistically your best option (I know plenty of people using WoW to keep in contact with friends all over the country), but in my opinion it should only be a substitute for the all-on-one-couch experience. It almost turns into another argument of “casual” vs “hardcore” with the casual fighting for offline play and the ‘core waving the banner of online. The fight for multiplayer wages but I want both camps to be perfectly happy. There are many games out there straddling the line, Buzz TV features some of the best offline fun with your friends out there but is also offering some of the benefits of the online experience.

I’m not insinuating that the industry views offline as out dated or dead, far from it. I just hate it when online is my only option.  For me sitting on my own in my room with a headset will never be as fun as having a load of mates round and getting the beers in.  What about you?

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