The year was 2142. We had lost a lot of good men that day, and my heart had been hardened into accepting that we would lose many more before the battle was over. The enemy was just too persistent, ramming their endless supply of airships into every Gravity Tank and Mech we could get our hands on. Our forces were incapable of holding onto the missile silos for any amount of time, with the exception of one site: Mine. With a carefully hidden sniper, an assault trooper with more patience than most of his trigger-happy kin and a woefully handsome and incredibly talented Engineer(me) we deflected any and all attacks on Missile Silo 3. Holding that site against all odds, in conjunction with the constant efforts of my fellow clan members making trouble for the enemy elsewhere, is the reason we won that Titan Match.
For those of you who have played Battlefield 2142, you know what I’m talking about. For those of you who haven’t because you were playing another multiplayer game, you have your own stories about something that could have ONLY been possible while playing with (and against) real people. Winning an online battle can carry with it a sense of pride and accomplishment that you just can’t get from other games, and defeat can inversely have the same effect.
For me, it started with games like Contra. Eventually, Bomberman and Mario Kart brought my brother and I closer together than ever before. As the next Nintendo console graced us with outstanding titles like Star Fox, Mario Kart 64, Goldeneye and Perfect Dark I found myself enjoying the unpredictability of a human opponent far more than any AI-Controlled one. As I basked in the multiplayer glory that the N64 had given, I stumbled upon yet another title: Turok 2. I had a fondness for the series, and this title boasted (gasp!) a multiplayer component as well as the traditional single-player campaign. This concept had worked so well with Goldeneye, the idea of doing it with the Turok setting was simply titillating. I was stoked, to say the least. That is, until the first time I played it. The multiplayer maps were boring, the graphics took a huge dive and the mechanics were so lopsided it wasn’t funny. Turok 2, it turned out, was NOT built to be a multiplayer game. Turok 2 Multiplayer was like bacon-flavored beer: I loved the idea of it, but in practice it tasted like shit. Multiplayer, for the first time, broke my heart.
Fast-forward to 2012. My Battlefield days are long gone, as is my short but glorious stint with the Call of Duty franchise. The multiplayer business is booming, with MW3 and BF3 leading the charge. Even Mass Effect 3 has a multiplayer aspect to it, and every online RPG would be wise to boast how great and balanced their PVP is. Some of these games were built to be multiplayer, a la Mario Kart 64. Think Left4Dead. Some of these games have both single-player and multiplayer greatness, just like Goldeneye and Starfox, or Halo/CoD. Some of these games, however, are like Turok 2. They leave you scratching your head and wondering why someone would sacrifice the integrity of their great game just to add a multiplayer component into it. Think Uncharted 2. You come expecting a great installment in a well-developed franchise and you get, well, heartbroken. We’re looking at you, Elder Scrolls Online. We’re looking at you like a battered woman looks at her husband. Just respect us, is all we ask. Respect.