In the first part of this article, I covered Overwatch, Paragon, Hawken and Airmech Arena. You can find my brief impressions here. For this piece, I’ll be looking at three more PS4 multiplayer titles, but I don’t think I’ve hit all of them yet. Got an online multiplayer game for PS4 that you want me to try out? Drop me a line and let me know!
First up is Battleborn from Gearbox Studios. Before the current wave of multi games came out, I remember thinking that it seemed like either Overwatch or Battleborn were the only real contenders, and I thought Gearbox had a pretty good chance coming off the love people threw their way for Borderlands. After playing the final product, yeah… I don’t think that anymore. Basically the game is a mess… it seems like the devs didn’t have a clear idea about what they were trying to make, and whatever that target was, they don’t have the technical chops to make it happen.
Essentially it’s a simplified MOBA with a strong emphasis on cool characters, and that’s a good idea. I also like the mechanic of quickly choosing between two perks on the fly every time a character gains a level, and many of the designs are pretty interesting even though I’m not necessarily a fan of the Gearbox cartoonish/chatty ‘tude style. Unfortunately, a lot of the characters are locked at the start, and I got my level 2 ass handed to me by people who were level 100 and above. I think there may need to be some work done on matchmaking here.
The other part of the game is a singleplayer campaign which wants to tell the story of the Battleborn heroes. I’m up for story and I like the idea of singleplayer content in a title like this, but it’s a smoking garbage pile that needs a total rework from top to bottom. A Twitter friend described the campaign as being stitched together with rejected scraps from Borderlands, and that’s exactly how it seems. The way-too-long levels have tons of enemies and bullet-sponge bosses, and this sort of structure is an incredibly poor fit for a team-based characters who are designed to function in a MOBA space.
The final nail in Battleborn’s coffin is that when playing online with others, the game took a total nosedive in framerate. I was trying to escort some creeps in the multi mode with a couple of teammates, and when the enemy showed up to wreck house, the cartoony visuals turned into a spazzy slideshow and I couldn’t tell what the hell was going on. I definitely think there’s potential for a MOBA-style game on consoles, but Battleborn in its current state is not it, and I’m not sure that Gearbox is the right studio to make that happen.
Next is Kill Strain — an interesting experience. It’s another simplified MOBA, but even more pared-back than most of the others I’ve tried.
It actually has a pretty cool premise — each game is divided into three teams: yellow mercenaries, blue mercenaries, and infected mutants. It’s everybody against everybody, and with only two resources to manage, it’s quick to pick up and simple to understand. One of the coolest twists in the game is that mutants can kill enemy mercenaries and convert them into mutants, so mercs who are not working together will soon find themselves forcibly conscripted for the mutant side. This role-switch is quite neat when it happens, and gives Kill Strain something that I haven’t seen in other current multi titles. Balancing the tension between trying to work faster than the other mercs while also defending from the mutants is great, but beyond this neat idea, I adore how straightforward it is. Individual characters only have three powers, leveling up is automatic, there are no overcomplicated items or gear to equip in the middle of a battle – it’s just about playing the game.
Literally every person I talk to about Kill Strain says that they hate it, but I’m on the other side of the fence — although it definitely needs more maps, more modes, and the art style could use some work, I appreciate the design and the clarity of thought that went into the structure. In the time I’ve been spending over the last few weeks with multiplayer games, I find that the best ones are about performance and not about managing stats and gear. Kill Strain does a great job of that, and with a little more work and a more content, I feel like this one could find a pretty comfortable place on the PS4.
The last multiplayer game on the menu tonight is one that I actually haven’t played — Evolve from Turtle Rock. Although I gave it a quick pre-release spin at PAX a few years ago, I’ve never tried the full version for a number reasons. The biggest? Probably that it launched with a totally insane DLC scheme that made it seem like players were paying $60 for a bare-bones framework with all of the real content being held back for more dollars. Clearly I was not the only person who stayed away, because the game deflated quickly and the devs are now switching gears and converting it into being Free-To-Play, first on PC and then followed by PS4 and Xbox One.
The basic concept is a cool one, featuring asymmetrical gameplay with a team of hunters on one side and a single player as a monster on the other. It seems like there’s a lot of potential there, and if the game finds new life by being free, I’d be more than willing to give it a shot. It’s way too early to tell what the final fate of Evolve will be, but I’ll be checking it out once it hits PS4 in its next incarnation. Keep an eye out for it.