After the Super Bowl ended, or, should I say, the Mediocre Bowl, most of the party had vacated the house and the remaining few of us were congregated around the silent television drinking beers and talking; there was five of us with one television, one Xbox 360, and four controllers. The problem: Finding a game with local four player support.
Our selection of games was not sparse. We had a handful of options that should have local multiplayer support of some kind. The games I think should support local multiplayer that we had on hand were: Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, Forza Horizon, Bulletstorm (which is pretty terrible, but would be fun with friends), and Mass Effect 3. Aside from sports games and the fact that Call of Duty was missing from the house, we were all fairly remiss as to why finding a game for us to play was becoming so difficult. The idea that everyone wants to play with randoms online, whether it be racing, sports, shooters, or role playing games, is something that has permeated the video game world over the last ten years. I think that all games, where it makes sense, should come with some sort of cooperative option or local multiplayer of some kind.
After sifting through the stack we came upon Soul Caliber 3 and the loser had to relinquish their controller while the winner played on. At least fighting games have not rid themselves of local multiplayer, yet. Sports games and shooters generally have local multiplayer and this makes sense, but a racing game with no local multiplayer is one of the most ridiculous things that I have encountered in my many years of gaming.
When I purchased Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit in 2010 I was excited to play the reboot of a classic Need For Speed title. I spent hours upon hours running from the cops while racing my little brother on the original Hot Pursuit on the PlayStation 2. We even had the multi-tap that let you plug four controllers into your PS2 so that you could get down on Champions of Norrath with some friends. When I tried to race my friend whom was over in the new Hot Pursuit I was dumbfounded that Critereon Games did not put local multiplayer into the game. This specific Need For Speed would have been great with local multiplayer options, especially if it allowed up to four players. Two people racing and two people chasing as police? Sounds fun to me. Or, one person racing and being chased by four police? Insanity. Granted, you can do things like that online, but I would rather yell at my friends in my living room versus yelling at some kid over Xbox Live.
I truly think that a racing game without local multiplayer is pure laziness from the developers, or a serious oversight from the publishers. I understand that the world is pushing to always be online all the time, but I like my options when I game. When I play racing games, whether it be Forza 1-4, Forza Horizon, any Need For Speed titles, all the way back to Gran Turismo on PS1 and PS2, I never once went online to race. The few times I did race online was when I was racing my one friend that has NFS:HP and we just raced each other. One of the few good things during all of the PS4 and Xbox One launch nonsense was the support of up to 8 controllers. That gives me some hope, even though developers have yet to utilize that capability, it is a step in the right direction.
Right now, if my friends and I want to game in the same house, we all have to lug our consoles or PC's over to someones house. Dealing with transporting a console is easy enough if the place I am going to game has multiple TV's on hand, but not many people have extra TV's laying around in hopes that friends come over to game. I have loaded up my 42” Panasonic plasma into my Honda Prelude, prayed to the TV gods that it won't fall over, and driven to a friends house. That was not something that I ever did again, partly due to the fact that if that TV broke I wouldn't be able to afford another and partly because it was plain annoying. Local multiplayer as a standard would put a stop to all that nonsense.
Taking my PC over to a friends house is not convenient either and it won't be until I spend the money and build a Mini ITX rig, but I don't have $1500 laying around to build a worthwhile portable PC. Now, it is much easier to transport my 23” Dell monitor, but moving my tower is not easy. Moving the tower requires you to unplug things inside, unplug all the cables outside, pack up mice, keyboard, speakers, headset, and any other peripherals that you have. Even with one of my PC's being in the fairly portable Cooler Master HAF XB, which has handles and is a big cube, the chance of something breaking inside increases as the road gets bumpier.
I have transported all of my gaming equipment too and from friends houses, I hate doing it for the most part, but the result is always a great day of gaming and hanging out.
Quite recently I was reading an article about the slew of Steam Machines that are starting to pop up and a title from one of the many articles containing teasing information caught my attention immediately, “Steam Machine Supports 16 Players Locally.” I just stood up and walked away from my computer while holding my head as my brain throbbed at the immediate rush of possibilities that 16 player local could allow. The insanity of being able to play FIFA with 15 of my friends while using two, three, or four TV's is something that I instantly began fantasizing about. I am sure that many of the Steam Machines will not support four TV's, but most medium level GPU's (Graphics Processing Unit) can support up to two monitors or TV's.
I could set up Battlefield with two teams of 8 in the same room and trash talking could commence or tactics could be discussed in private headquarters for each team; then the gaming could happen. It would be amazing. I also dreamed of playing a racing game with 15 of my friends while sitting on the couch, the ground, and random chairs. It would be racing bliss and pure chaos on the track.
Not all recent games lack decent multiplayer options. Two that come to mind immediately: Borderlands 2 and Diablo 3. Even though Borderlands only supports two players locally, this was such a huge surprise when I got my hands on the first one and I used the option often. Just the fact that Gearbox did not leave gamers with only the online option for multiplayer gave me some hope. Blizzard recently released Diablo 3 for the consoles and included local four player hack and slash action. This is one of the only good things that Blizzard has done for the gaming community since announcing they were practically remaking Diablo 3 in the form of the expansion Reaper of Souls, which, is almost too late for any commendation. Regardless, I considered purchasing it for the console just to have that multiplayer option for nights when people are over. There are many options out there for multiplayer games that offer a local option, but I think that too many games do not offer it.
All of this support for people to play locally with a fairly good sized group of friends gives me hope that developers and publishers of video games see this and start to adjust accordingly. Until then, I will be lugging my PC and consoles to and from friends houses on game days, all the while wishing I was just bringing my lucky game pad. Cheers.