Any long-time VGU.tv readers out there will undoubtedly know that I’m not the biggest fan of competitive multiplayer which may seem strange considering some of my favorite game genres, like fighting games and shooters, have been dominated by the competitive multiplayer scene for many years now. And it’s not like I *never* play competitive multiplayer games, I enjoy a tense match of 64-player Battlefield 3 or a few online bouts of Injustice: Gods Among Us as much as the next guy. But if it comes down to picking between a competitive or cooperative multiplayer option, I will most certainly always choose the latter over the former.
I’ve come to accept over the years that the cooperative multiplayer scene isn’t nearly as robust as its competitive counterpart and I’ve also learned to appreciate the developers who at least make an effort to give cooperative-minded players a way to enjoy their games such as Sony Santa Monica with God of War: Ascension’s Trial of the Gods mode or Ubisoft with Assassin’s Creed III’s Wolf Pack mode. Some developers have even gone so far as to offer games with *only* cooperative options; two such examples being Bioware with Mass Effect 3 and again Ubisoft with Splinter Cell: Conviction.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my preference for cooperative multiplayer is based largely on my desire to “have my cake and eat it too.” I want to enjoy a robust and persistent multiplayer experience but I often don’t have the time nor the desire to devote hours and hours making it over the learning curve hump that is often accompanied by countless losses at the hands of players whose skill vastly outweighs my own. Since the worst opponent I face in a cooperative mode is a stubborn A.I. opponent, the barrier of entry is not nearly as high as it is in most competitive games.
However, I’ll also be the first to admit that there are moments in competitive games that you simply cannot replicate in a cooperative environment. Narrowly escaping your pursuer after a harrowing rooftop chase only to dive off and land right on your target, getting a sweet freebie kill, is something that will never happen in a game of Assassin’s Creed III’s Wolf Pack since the A.I. targets never try to hunt you back. Using clever combos and movement tactics to psych your opponent into a mind game that costs them the match rarely ever happens against A.I. opponents in a fighting game since their attack and defense patterns are based on under-the-hood algorithms (plus trash-talking an A.I. opponent doesn’t feel quite the same as trash-talking your friends after you get a perfect K.O. on them).
As nice as it is being able to hop into a cooperative multiplayer game and perform reasonably well without much time or effort invested, having to sacrifice that rare satisfaction of triumphing over actual human opponents is a tough trade-off to consider. Fortunately, many games these days don’t really force us to make such tough choices. Thanks to the innovations of shared progression in games such as Gears of War: Judgment and Assassin’s Creed III , we can play either competitive and/or cooperative modes and still get that satisfying feel of progression while improving our skills in that game.
So what about you VGU readers? Do you prefer fragging and fighting your buddies and online strangers? Or is holding out against a mob of A.I. baddies more to your liking? Or maybe you’re more like me and you prefer one multiplayer type with a little sprinkling of the other? Sound off for this week’s VGU reader discussion in the comments below and share with us via Twitter, Facebook, and any other social network you can find us on.