Thursday, February 3, 2011

Multiplayer Complexity and Staleness (Also, An Assassin's Creed Brotherhood Rant)

Bioshock Multiplayer had the opportunity to be amazing, but it was trite and boring
Recently, I’ve been playing a lot of Street Fighter 4 and Dead Rising 2, especially their multiplayer. This is mainly because before this I had a FPS stint, and now I’ve decided that I’m really sick of when “multiplayer” means, “those same 4-5 gametypes that have been around since Doom”. I honestly am getting quite tired of Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and King of the Hill, and I’m starting to reach out to games that don’t have those. Street Fighter may be a fighting game, but it’s deviation from the usual. Dead Rising 2’s multiplayer I was hesitant on at first, but it’s uniqueness has drawn me in.

Dead Rising 2’s multiplayer comes in the form of a fictional Pay-Per-View-esqe program called “Terror is Reality” in which contestants fight in a variety of games that range from awesomely gorey to downright ridiculous. There is no Deathmatch or Capture the Flag here. Many of the gametypes involve, unsurprisingly, killing zombies, but the various twists on it keep me interested. One gametype, Slicycles (did I mention this game is quite punny?) involves driving your motorcycle pimped-out with chainsaws through zombie hordes, and it requires proper risk-reward factoring, as you must determine which path will bring you the most kills. My favorite game type is Stand-Up Zomedy, in which you must deck out zombies with a combination of silly hats, tutus, and impaled stick ponies to get max combos, while also ruining the other player’s silly outfits by combo-breaking with your own items.

However, these game modes are also generally minigames, and once you figure them out, it becomes more or less a match of speed. I’ve come to realize while playing DR2 that the reason that the usuals stay in multiplayer is that there is inherent complexity that comes with those game types. Dead Rising, while original, is too simple for it’s own good. One win and you’ve probably figured out the secrets of the game type. I need some sort of new multiplayer gametype that is enough of a deviation that it feels original, but not enough to lose complexity.

Enter Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood.

The core of AC: Brohood’s multiplayer is Wanted (Free-For-All). However, the team at Ubisoft has crafted these modes into something that probably has topped my top list of Multiplayer Games. For the uninitiated, in Wanted, every player has two factors of the match to deal with. They get a target player, and that player is the only person they are allowed to kill. That’s it. At the same time, they are being chased by anywhere from 1 to 4 people, and they must hide in the level’s NPCs (who are copies of the game’s players). Also, kills are not measured by themselves, instead they bring in point values, with each vanilla kill netting 100 points plus stealth bonuses, variety bonuses, and the like. Thus, the focus of gameplay is not the parkour that the series is famous for, or some sort of gung ho maneuver. Instead, the key is stealth. By being stealthy, the people you are chasing won’t know you are coming (plus, sweet sweet stealth bonuses), and people chasing you won’t pick you out of a crowd so easily. Running should only be used when your pursuer has gotten too close to you.

This guy has faked out his target with an NPC, and is about to own
With these factors, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood creates a tense cat-and-mouse stealth game, and entices me with the prospect of learning whole new tactics for a whole new game. Those tactics that are useful in every FPS are pointless in Brotherhood. Camping is pointless, as you aren’t pursuing your target while your pursuers get closer. Sniping with the gun nets minimal points, and the gun in general is pretty much only good to clear out morons running in plain sight on the roof. You need to develop new tactics, like the Morph Crowd, or proper use of a Decoy, or, my personal favorite, picking out a person from a crowd of NPCs through slight giveaways. It requires stealth, it requires skill, it requires new tactics, it requires focus, it requires intellect, and if more games had such requirements, I’d have much less of a social life.

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