For the past few years, multiplayer has grown stale. We’re all just a bit fed up with the same old games of online shooters, where rounds endlessly repeat without much variation. But with next gen consoles, there’s a glimmer of hope for better, more engaging multiplayer. Different players have different roles, and they’re possibly even playing on radically different devices. This is the future of multiplayer. This is asymmetry.
What is asymmetry?
To put it simply, asymmetric multiplayer is where different players have a different gameplay experience. For example: one player is trying to get to the objective and is playing in first-person, whilst their opponent has a top down view of the map on their iPad, and can lay down traps from above to hinder their enemy. Players can then swap round for the next match.
Why should I care?
This type of gameplay is hugely exciting, gripping and always rather intense – and that’s exactly why so many companies are investing heavily in it. The increased processing ability of new consoles – along with the increasing popularity of “second screen” apps – has made asymmetric multiplayer a practical reality, and we’re going to see a lot more of it in the near future. Here are a few recent and forthcoming games that are taking multiplayer to the next level.
Rayman Legends was originally going to be a Wii U exclusive, and when you look at the co-op gameplay it becomes obvious why. As mentioned in our original preview, the co-op is wonderful: one player is doing the traditional platforming, whilst whoever is using the gamepad is interacting with the world, cutting ropes, moving platforms and dispatching of enemies in an effort to help the main player. It’s co-op at its finest: true teamwork, where communication is key. Hilarity inevitably ensues, and when you get even a little bored, you just have to swap over the pad and the game becomes completely fresh.
Yet another Ubisoft game – they’re proving to be masters of this type of gaming. One of the multiplayer modes in upcoming title Watch_Dogs is a multi-platform/multi-device asymmetric experience. What those buzzwords actually mean is that one person’s on their console, whilst the other is using the Watch_Dogs app on their phone or tablet. The console player has to complete a challenge – a time trial race, for example. The app user is trying to hinder them: redirecting a helicopter’s spotlight to get the police on their tail, hacking traffic lights or barriers to redirect the course, and making best use of their near omniscient view of the map. The fact that technology has now reached the point where you can interact with a console using your phone is, frankly, incredible…and it also means that you can jump into a Watch_Dogs match no matter where you are. Whether it will work or not remains to be seen, but we’re certainly excited for it.
4 vs 1. That would make for a really unbalanced game, right? Well, not if the lone player is a GIANT MONSTER-DINOSAUR-THING. That’s the premise of Evolve, the upcoming game from the makers of Left 4 Dead. 4 players are different classes of soldiers, supporting each other and playing off their individual strengths. The remaining player is a very powerful beast that can evolve over the course of the game: growing larger, gaining new powers and becoming an all-out death machine. It’s similar to some of Left 4 Dead’s multiplayer modes, and early previews report that the game is well balanced, which is certainly encouraging. If you’ve got 4 friends with a next gen console, Evolve looks set to be the multiplayer game of choice for this fall.
If you’re looking for the future of multiplayer, these are the games to keep your eyes on. We’re quickly moving into radically different online modes, and games like Watch_Dogs and Evolve are the trail blazers for this bright new future. Got any other ideas for asymmetric multiplayer? Let us know in the comments.