I’m not really an online multiplayer guy, or at least I never was until recently. After spending time with Helldivers last year and abso-freaking-lutely loving it I was opened to the possibility that something else out there might be worth some time, too. I’ve been dipping into a few things here and there, and decided to jot down a few thoughts…
First up is the belle of the ball and my current favorite of the PS4’s online multiplayer games, Overwatch. Although Richard reviewed it here at Gamecritics and I largely agree with his estimation, I think there’s a lot to be said for its streamlined simplicity and easy accessibility. It may not be immediately apparent, but compared to the other games mentioned later in this article, it stands out as a shining example of how much thought and effort went into making the experience welcoming and easily understood. Overwatch displays elegant restraint and gets a lot done without resorting to tons of menus, bonus items, unlocking gear, confusing stats, or other clutter. I’m currently playing at least once a day and haven’t gotten tired of it yet. The rest of my family plays as well, so it’s also a great social activity in our house.
Although I’m definitely ready for a new character or a few more maps, Overwatch is still sweet, sweet game time and I do recommend it even to those people who aren’t generally fans of online shooters.
[Edit: new character Ana was announced the day after this was written. Yay!]
Next up is Paragon, from Epic Games. This one is a pretty standard MOBA in nature, although it takes a behind-the-back perspective and gives it a bit more of an action-game feel. I’ve never gotten into MOBAs for a number of reasons, and although I do like some things about this game, I don’t think this is the one for me, or at least, it’s not the one yet.
To be fair, it’s clear that Paragon is still in early access so I’m fine with cutting it some slack, but my biggest problem with it is that the designers seem to have copied stuff from other MOBAs without really asking themselves if it was the right thing to do for their game. The UI is cluttered, the buffs and items feel like hypercruft, farming in the jungle is weird and feels like it doesn’t belong – and on top of it, Paragon makes almost no effort to explain itself to someone like me who’s not already a MOBA fan.
In my view, Epic would be better off taking a few cues from the way Blizzard handled Overwatch by focusing more on their characters, making it accessible and getting rid of everything that doesn’t serve the gameplay. After all, people who play League are already playing League, and people who don’t play League are probably not in the market for something that’s just like it, only worse. To me, the sensible thing would be to take a bigger step away from the norm and try to grab a different audience. Paragon is probably too far along into the dev process to really start cutting the fat and reworking itself unless the developers are willing to scrap a lot of what they already have, but in its current state I can’t see it getting much more of my attention.
Getting back to first-person shooting, Hawken arrived in the store as a free download and this is one that I was curious about for a while. I’m a fan of robots and while not the biggest online shooter guy, robots will get pretty far with me. Unfortunately, the robot design in Hawken is absolute garbage — they look like walking junkpiles and very little is cool about them. Beyond that, the framerate on PS4 was horrific. Stable enough during the tutorial, but when I went online to play with others it was a slideshow that almost made me nauseous. Putting aside the potential illness, I got absolutely demolished seconds after stepping on the battlefield by people who clearly were not beginners. That isn’t the kind of environment I want to jump into, so it got deleted after about 15 minutes.
Finally, just a quick shout-out to a multiplayer online game that’s been around for a while, but apparently everybody either forgot about it or didn’t realize it was ever out in the first place – Airmech Arena. It’s a lot like Herzog Zwei from back in the day (for those of you old enough to know that reference) but you basically take a robot that transforms into an airplane and fly around in top-down style moving units back and forth, blasting enemies and trying to take over territory. I have no idea how many people are still playing it these days, but I had a blast with it when it first came out. (Bots are an option if the servers are empty!) If you haven’t checked it out, it’s worth a look and apparently there’s a VR spinoff coming at some point in the future.
Oh yeah, Umbrella Corps came out, too. I guess? I heard it was a mess… Can’t say that I tried it, and probably won’t. But hey, it’s a thing.