Whether you love it or you hate it, online gaming is here to stay, and it’s only going to get more and more pervasive as time goes by. This selection of Ones to Watch focusses on those games that have been built from the ground up to focus on online co-operative and competitive multiplayer of the shooty kind.
Blizzard and online multiplayer have gone hand in hand ever since some of their earliest strategy games. They’ve helped to define a generation of competitive multiplayer with the Starcraft games, dominated the MMORPG arena with World of Warcraft, popularised the online card battler, but Overwatch is a first person shooter.
It certainly takes several points of inspiration from the popular Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre, with distinctive and unique heroes that feature an odd mish-mash of different styles. However, it’s still a fairly tactical shooter, requiring you to work closely with your teammates and using each of their specific powers to support eachother in order to win.
Having gone into beta testing on PC in recent months, the console release always had a question mark hanging over it, until Blizzard confirmed a final release date for the game across all three platforms – PS4, Xbox One and PC – of June 21st, 2016.
Another game taking some inspirations from MOBAs is Gearbox Software’s Battleborn. In some ways, it follows in the footsteps of Borderlands, with a co-op story mode, plenty of looting to be had and a rather bland name, but Battleborn changes all of this up by also featuring competitive multiplayer.
With a heavily contrasting cast of 25 playable characters to choose from – 26 if you take part in the PS4’s open beta – and an in-match levelling system, the parallels with MOBAs are obvious here, but Gearbox are cleverly taking some of those inspirations and turning them on their head.
They’re also taking a little more time to refine the game, with the originally planned February release pushed back to May 3rd. On the plus side, you can take part in the aforementioned beta some time early next year.
Coming from its origins as a quirky smartphone friendly tower defence game, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare was quite a leap. Not only was it only for console and PC – and initially an Xbox One timed exclusive – but it was a class-based co-op and online shooter, in the vein of Battlefield. While it had a few flaws, it was a lot of fun!
Garden Warfare 2 adds three new zombies and three new plants to play as, but mixes things up by having the plants go on the offensive in some modes, as opposed to always defending. On top of that, there’s the new Backyard Battlegrounds mode, which acts as a hub area for players to team up and more.
With the game out on February 23rd, expect to hear more about it soon.
The upcoming Doom reboot doesn’t so much look to reinvent the Doom series – as Doom 3 tried to over a decade ago – but take it back to where it belongs. The original game was revolutionary from a technical standpoint, as well as from how visceral and fast paced it was for its time, as you battled with the hordes of Hell that invaded Mars.
Next year’s Doom clearly won’t have the same cultural impact as the original, but can retain much of the same spirit. You’ll be battling demons and hellish beasts once again, but much of id Software’s focus and what they’ve shown publicly and as part of the closed alpha tests has been on the ultra-fast, ultra-smooth multiplayer game.
It’s bound to hark back to the heyday of their earlier multiplayer games, such as the celebrated Quake 3, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing new things as well. You will, for example, be able to find demon runes that transform you into a powerful demon, but then there’s also the exciting SnapMap functionality, which will let you build your own maps and game modes, and then share them online.
The Division has been a long, long time coming. Originally the surprise announcement during Ubisoft’s 2013 E3 press conference, it was meant to be released the following year in 2014. However, it was pushed back to 2015 and then to 2016, as the teams at Ubisoft Reflections, Red Storm Entertainment and Ubisoft Annecy were drafted in to work alongside the original developers at Ubisoft Massive. But we do have a date, and the game is set to release on March 8th, 2016.
Set in New York as society crumbles under the pressure of a pandemic, with basic public services failing one by one, the US Government puts into action a plan to prevent the total collapse of society, tasking the Strategic Homeland Division to put things back together again. What this means is heading out into the city with a team of buddies, in an MMO action RPG third person shooter hybrid.
The most recent announcement for the game featured the multiplayer Dark Zones, which blurs the lines between the co-operative and the competitive. Heading into a Dark Zone, the goal is to grab loot guarded by AI before calling in an extraction. However, you’re not alone, and other teams are there to do the same thing, potentially working alongside you, working against you or deceiving you and stabbing you in the back.
Expect a lot of shootouts sparked by overly paranoid players with itchy trigger fingers…