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Two (hundred) can play at that game

Computer Aficionado James Sheppard gets pwned constantly…..

“Does it have multiplayer?”

It’s probably the most asked question of any computer game, straight after; “How much??!” when exclaimed by some poor grandparent trying to get little Timmy a treat. Maybe you should have just got him an ice cream. But unfortunately, a 99 with a flake is not 99p anymore, either…

Since the first major multiplayer title Empire, a 30-person galaxy conquest space shooting fest ripping off Star Trek in 1973, we have had an absolute smorgasbord of multiplayer treats varying from vs. fighting games like the classic Street Fighter series, to the Guinness world record for most players at once Planetside 2; whose record breaking moment came when the game had 1,158 players shooting each other at once. It’s like being at the biggest house party ever, bombarded by sense drenching music and lights, losing all your friends, and roaming round trying to find the bathroom. Not something to do every day.

With so many multiplayer titles to choose from, you really have to be picky with what you play before you get pwned by a cocky, foul-mouthed, funny looking, spawn camping 11-year from Swindon.

One day I will find you.

For me, nothing quite shows off the full potential of multiplayer like the Battlefield series. In 2002, we were given a game that focused on team work, not just annihilating the opposition, with Battlefield 1942. You could run around with other infantry, never knowing where you got shot from; dogfight with WW2 aircraft, trying to kamikaze ram your opponent; or spend half the game with your tank stuck in an invisible pothole.

OK, in those early days glitches were endemic to such huge games, and the developer DICE have since become infamous for the crazy glitches breaking the gameplay of almost every single one of their Battlefield sequels yet. It’s become a separate game between consumer and developer, to see who can find the game breaking bugs first. I once got stuck falling to infinity below a rounds map, surrounded by white space, the battle a distant memory above me. It was surreal and oddly calming at the same time. At least down here that cheating kid couldn’t find me.

The latest entry to the franchise, Battlefield One, weirdly released with very few game destroying bugs; it still had all the idiosyncrasies of a DICE release including random deaths, floating tanks and janky animations, but all in all was a solid addition to the series. It was actually disappointing that we had to search for these anomalies in the game, and we, the consumers got exactly what we paid for. Where’s the fun in playing a good game? DICE, please.

Set in World War One, the game is a frenetic shooter with a backdrop of the first tanks, paper thin biplanes and trench storming bayonet charges. Teams fight over objectives in a back and forth manner, fighting off the opposition as the team score goes up. The weapons are old fashioned, but functional, be it from bolt action rifles to more exotic prototype submachine guns. On my first hours with the game, I found myself gravitating to shotguns; they were solid and deeply gratifying to get kills with and I always like to keep them handy for close encounters.

The maps, in typical battlefield fashion, were sprawling affairs modelled after specific theatres from the war; from the claustrophobic Argonne forest to the urban fighting of Amiens. The size of the maps is purposefully intimidating to duplicate the confusion of war. Running around this huge expanse takes time and can be frustrating when you get scalped after running towards a flag for what seems like days, only to have to spawn miles away from the action all over again. I never seemed able to get in a plane or tank before a team mate stole it right from under me. I relegated myself to a pedestrian game.

Then I found a horse.

I leapt up to my trusty steed, and proceeded to gallop across the landscape, jumping fences, swinging my sword, and inevitably running head first into walls and coming to a sudden stop. I couldn’t be thrown from my mount, so I simply turned him around and galloped off again. It was exciting running opponents down and skewering others as I whipped past; I even managed to blow a couple to smithereens with a grenade as they were bivouacked in a fox hole. I was definitely having fun, giggling madly, and didn’t even mind when I was finally unhorsed by a tank shell that threw my body hundreds of feet into the air. Even my death was fun.

I was content, but needed a break from the sheer size of the game, and luckily, my friends’ son Harry messaged me to join him on a different game; Overwatch. Still team based, but on a tinier scale when compared to battlefield, the matches were still objective based but with 25 unique playable heroes, no match would play out the same. Every character had a role, be it from healing the team, defending objectives or sniping the opposition into oblivion, and bad teamwork is punished ruthlessly. Harry had recently been built a PC by his dad, and had access to a few selected titles, and wanted to play with the bigger boys of gaming. What could go wrong?

I let Harry select the game mode for the multiplayer madness that would ensue, and we buddied up our heroes and prepared for the onslaught. I stuck with a tried and tested run and gun character, blasting my enemies with rockets, whilst Harry turned his character into a massive Gatling-cannon turret mowing down all who came to view. We were fragging people left, right and centre, defending the objective flawlessly. No enemy could get close as my screen was awash with “enemy killed” messages. I was on fire. It was the best round I had ever played in my life. I was invincible.

I was a god amongst men.

When the round ended, I had 40 odd kills and not a single death to my name. I was a pro gamer, and my opponents were destroyed at my feet.

“Well that was easy.” Said Harry.

“I am the best!!” I replied.

“Shall I put the difficulty up?”

“What?”

“The difficulty; those were easy AI bots we were playing.”

“What?”

“I thought you should start off on easy.”

“We weren’t playing other people online?”

“Of course, not – you’re not that good.”

I really, really, really hate 11-year olds.

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