Ever since the days of Pong, playing a game against an actual human being instead of the computer has offered its own distinct advantages. From the brutal anger of a last corner Mario Kart loss to the sweet success found from looking at your friend’s screens during a round of Goldeneye, once things went online it literally opened up a world of possibility. While there might be downsides – like playing against a kid with verbal diarrhoea from thousands of miles away – they’re more than balanced out by the chance to join up with a group of friends to take on the world.
2018 has been a fantastic year for multiplayer, and while a few toys may have been thrown out of prams on our way to deciding a winner, we’ve arrived at our picks for the tip of the multiplayer top.
For the initiated, Monster Hunter: World’s success isn’t surprising. Some of us have been enjoying the series’ monster-y multiplayer delights for years, it’s just taken a bit longer for everybody else to catch on. To be fair, the series has earned a reputation for being obtuse, punishing and repetitive, and those were just a few of the things fans liked about it. Monster Hunter: World didn’t, despite all of the previous concerns, do away with everything that made the series what it was, but it did make the whole thing a lot more palatable. Here was finally a game about hunting monsters that the world could get behind, and the world definitely did.
There’s only been two multiplayer games that have actually threatened to destroy my life, with Monster Hunter Tri being the first, and Monster Hunter: World the second. The old “one more go” thing is fine for games that have sixty second rounds and even moderately acceptable for games that last for ten minutes at a time, but when a hunt can stretch on for up to an hour it’s a dangerous game to play that may well find you wondering why they sun’s coming up again.
The sense of camaraderie that you get as four of you search, find, attack, and subsequently run away from some enormous creature is brilliant, and alongside the tough but fair co-op combat it’s a game where the community is more than happy to explain some of the more obscure elements of the game that still remain.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – Runner Up
Sneaking in at the end of the year, everyone knew that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was going to be good, but perhaps nobody realised just how good. A remaster of the Wii U’s entry would have been more than good enough, but Ultimate is so much more than a remaster, featuring every character, every level and every theme song from the series so far, tweaking them and bringing them up to 2018’s standards. It’s a glorious celebration of Nintendo and their supporters, drawing together an unbelievable number of characters from an array of franchises and pitting them against one another in what can be both gloriously manic and artfully controlled combat.
Of course multiplayer is the bedrock of Super Smash Bros., even if the online multiplayer set up is not exactly ideal. There’s few games that can compete with getting a group of friends round and sticking everybody on random character select. It’s serious and hilarious, difficult whilst overwhelmingly welcoming; it’s the perfect party game.
Onrush – Runner Up
In a different world, Onrush would have been an overwhelming success. The simple fact is that it’s probably just too far ahead of its time. Its vehicular team combat brought the kind of quick-draw death and destruction that you’d associate more with something like Overwatch than Driveclub, but not having straight up races to fall back on was probably its downfall. Things weren’t helped by a beta test that didn’t last long enough for Onrush’s hooks to sink into place. However, for those willing to give it the time of day Onrush turned out to be an amazing new blend of multiplayer racing.
As with all the best team games, Onrush thrives on communication and knowing your role within the team. Different vehicle classes and special abilities mean that everyone has a different function to perform, whether it’s holding off the enemy with a huge 4×4, or disrupting the pack as a nippy motocross bike. While there’s definitely some heritage taken from the Burnout series, Onrush twists it into something utterly unique, and there’s been few games this year that have dared to be different to quite the same extent.
It’s currently on PlayStation Plus, so there’s virtually no reason for you and your friends not to get involved in what has easily been one of the best multiplayer experiences of the year.
Honourable mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
- Firewall: Zero Hour
- Laser League