If you’re disappointed that many of the “multiplayer” games you’ve picked up lately are either multiplayer because of lame mini-game content or require online-play, read on as we help a fellow HTG reader find the couch-based multiplayer content he craves.
Dear How-To Geek,
Maybe I’m getting old and impatient, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find games that are “multiplayer”, in the sense that I am used to applying the word, is difficult. I’ve recently purchased or rented video games that were clearly labeled and marketed as multiplayer games (even on well known review sites!) but in reality the multiplayer component was either 1) really stupid mini-games that are technically multiplayer but have little to nothing to do with main game content or 2) have a legitimate multiplayer mode but you have to play against opponents over the internet or that have totally separate game consoles hooked up to your home network.
Where are all the multiplayer games in the style I played growing up? Everyone on one screen like Gauntlet? Split-screen like Golden Eye? Is this kind of sharing-the-same-couch play dead these days?
Missing Old-School Multiplayin’
Man, can we ever relate, Multiplayin’. When we got back into console gaming after a few years ago, we were just as frustrated as you are now. The fundamental problem is that terms which had pretty clear meanings in previous generations of consoles are now fairly muddy. Multiplayer on early generation consoles like the Super Nintendo Entertainment System clearly meant that there were modes of play for players sitting at the same television, using the same console, to play together side-by-side. As consoles have evolved, though, multiplayer has come to mean all manner of things including the precious description as well as encompassing small mini games that are separate from the main game content, online gaming, networked gaming, local multiplayer competitive, and local multiplayer cooperative.
As a result, the tag on the box or the small meta-data tag on a game review website that indicates “Plays 1-4” is almost entirely useless as it can potentially encompass so much (or actually provide so little).
Despite how helpful they are for general game reviews and rankings, websites like IGN and GameSpot don’t do much to help us here. Let’s look at the reviews for a popular game, Borderlands 2, on both web sites.
Note: In fairness, the box labels and the description on the back of the Borderlands 2 box is actually pretty helpful (which is pretty unusual for most boxes). Since most of us do our game browsing and shopping online these days, however, it helps be be informed without having to rely on good art and labeling.
On IGN, there is a ton of information about the game, including the official IGN rating, community rating, a wiki, walkthroughs, and more. What isn’t readily apparent anywhere on the main page or sub-pages is precisely what kind of multiplayer content you’re getting. The main summary (which isn’t even visible without scrolling down past all the other content) states “Combining invention and evolution, Borderlands 2 features mixed online/split-screen co-op, all-new characters, skills, environments, enemies […]” which tells us a little bit about the game, but not a whole lot. And under the “specifications” section where you would expect to find some concrete information, there’s only “Supported Functions: Online”, which is so vague as to be useless. Even digging into the Borderlands 2 wiki didn’t offer much help.
On Gamespot, there is similar information (official scores, community scores, and other meta-data like publisher, release date, etc.), but again there is precious little information about the game itself. In fact, there isn’t a single mention anywhere on the main page or the related sub-pages, like the Game Details section, that gives any indication at all that the game even has multiplayer content of any sort.
Both websites are really great resources for general game information, but they’re clearly lacking in every way when it comes to highlighting exactly what kind of multiplayer content games have. Given that one of the huge selling points of the Borderlands series is the great multiplayer mode, it seems pretty strange that there is no note of it at all.
So where can you go to get the real scoop and easily find multiplayer games that meet your needs? Co-Optimus.
Co-Optimus has game reviews, a blog, announcements, and all the kind of stuff you’d expect from a game web site, but it has something so much more: an enormous and detailed database of multiplayer games. Let’s take a look at what information we can glean just from looking at the landing page for Borderlands 2:
Without even so much as an extra click, we already know the whole score. It supports local co-op with two players (aka “couch co-op”), it has online play with up to 4 players cooperatively, LAN/System-Link play with four players cooperatively, and the ability to mix modes with Local + Online play to fill up your game (two local players + up to 2 more online players). Furthermore, we know that it’s not just limited to deathmatches or other isolated play, because under Co-Op extras it indicated that the game campaign can be played cooperatively and the setup is splitscreen (as opposed to one main shared screen).
If understanding exactly what you’re getting out of the multiplayer experience is critical to your purchase, the Co-Optimus database is a goldmine. Scroll down a little further and you’ll even find screenshots and video showing you how the multiplayer interface looks:
As great as everything is so far, the real beauty of the Co-Optimus database is how easy it is to search out new multiplayer games with just the features you’re looking for. Let’s say you purchase Borderlands 2 and you love it so much you would like other First Person Shooters with a similar shared campaign and cooperative mode to play. Plug all those values in as search filters, sort by rating, and enjoy a detailed list of games you should check out:
If the well laid out columns and icons don’t give you enough information you can click on any game entry to check it out in detail (as we previously checked out Borderlands 2).
Hands down, Co-Optimus is the best resource for searching and discovering multiplayer game content out there, as it covers all the consoles (including downloadable games like those found on Xbox Live Arcade), computer games, and even mobile game platforms like Android and iOS.
Armed with a tool like that, we’re confident you’ll find exactly the kind of multiplayer experience you’re looking for!