30 years ago, the only ways to show off your video game prowess were to set high scores on the video game arcades, and utterly decimate any and all challengers in head to head local multiplayer. These days, it’s safe to say that the overwhelming majority of multiplayer gaming takes place online.
Of course, there’s also the other side of the multiplayer coin: co-op. Whether you’re teaming up to fend off zombie hordes or simply adding a player 2 to your platforming adventure, playing together on the same team offers some of the most joyous moments that video games possibly can. So is it heads or tails that wins this year?
The Halo franchise started in the days of local multiplayer and LAN parties, but soon spread its wings online multiplayer and the defining console multiplayer experience that was Xbox Live. Through the last generation, it might have felt like this shooter series was losing its relevance, but the launch of Halo Infinite has proven otherwise. Halo Infinite multiplayer is sublime.
It’s faster than classic Halo, that’s for certain, but it no longer feels like 343 Industries are chasing after the latest trends. Halo Infinite recaptures the essence of Halo multiplayer, albeit with a few new gadgets and tricks that add to that experience rather than seeking to redefine it.
Sure, there’s still problems with what’s been bungled around that core multiplayer experience, a smattering of technical and server issues still to resolve, and how 343 and Microsoft are trying to make money off its new free-to-play form, but it’s also a game that I’ve been drawn to play day in, day out since its 15th November release and practically essential for Xbox and PC shooter fans to play.
– Stefan L
It Takes Two – Runner Up
Building on their inventive split-screen crime caper A Way Out, Hazelight heads in a much more fun and playful direction with It Takes Two, and it’s all the more brilliant for it. It helps that the story is thoroughly enjoyable as well, with the ever-so-cheesy Dr. Hakim forcing the quite unlikable and selfish Cody and May to soften and remember why they fell in love in the first place.
Where some games have to rely on co-op to make a turgid solo campaign fun, It Takes Two needs no such tricks to elevate it. For one thing, you have to play this game in co-op – there’s no solo play option – and whether you do so locally or online, you get a split-screen view into the game world. Hazelight have cooked up so many game ideas and thrown them into the pot, but there’s always something that means you have to play co-operatively, whether that’s with each player having opposite poles of a magnet, or complimentary firearms when battling swarms of wasps. A thoroughly enjoyable adventure for two.
– Stefan L
Knockout City – Runner Up
Knockout City is a riotous take on dodgeball. Being dodgeball, even if you’ve perfectly timed your throw at an opposing player, they can grab the ball out of the air and launch it right back into your unsuspecting face. The result is fast, desperate exchanges where players exchange balls like they’re playing ping pong, or moments where you’ve suddenly fought off what felt like everyone in the world just by grabbing their balls (as it were) and returning to sender. Even the last remaining player on a team can take out all of the opposition in a few seconds when playing Knockout City and they’ll feel like a god. They will until someone on the other team curls up into a ball and has their team member throw them for a mortar-like explosion. Dodgeball’s a weird game. Good though.
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
What was your multiplayer gam of the year? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to stick with us through the rest of this month as we tick our categories off one by one.
Speaking of which, here’s all the GOTY 2021 awards we’ve handed out so far: