In an interesting turn of events, 2013 doesn’t appear to have been a year dominated by straight-ahead shooters. As you’ll see from our list below, maybe we all grew a little tired of shooting people in the head, or maybe there was just a better variety of multiplayer games in general.
As we run down each position, our writers will have their say on each title, telling you exactly why they think each game is so good. Of course, we’d love to hear your thoughts and picks for this category too, so please leave comments at the end of the article. In reverse order then, let’s get it on!
5: Call of Duty: Ghosts (Infinity Ward, Multi)
Calvin Robinson: Call of Duty: Ghosts is arguably the most solid multiplayer experience you’ll play this year. A game with all the bells and whistles you’ve come to expect from Call of Duty, with the added benefit of a flat progression system that makes it so much more accessible than previous versions. Experienced COD players may notice the level design has taken a on new approach, with maps now spanning larger regions than ever before. The player count has also been upped on next-gen versions of the game, making for an even more action-packed time.
Mike Stubbs: No matter what people say, all of the modern Call of Duty games have been of an amazing quality, and Ghosts is no different. The multiplayer of Ghosts, which let’s be honest is the mode people care about the most, is so polished and well-designed that it’s difficult to find any flaws with it. The gameplay is a tight and as instinctive as ever and the map design (although not quite on the same level as previous entries) is still better than many of the other games available.
The small changes that have been implemented in Ghosts have made the game feel substantially different from previous entries, yet it’s retained the same general gameplay that I have been playing on and off for the last 5 years. People may love to hate on Call of Duty, but for me it’s one of the finest and most well-rounded multiplayer experiences available.
4: Diablo 3 (Blizzard, Multi)
Mick Fraser: While multiplayer in Diablo isn’t exactly new to the series (every game so far has featured co-op), none since the PSOne’s Diablo port has offered the opportunity for drop-in, drop-out couch co-op. Being able to team up with up to three others to take the fight to the denizens of Hell is one thing, but being able to share the adventure with friends in the comfort of your own living room is brilliant. It’s also refreshing to have such an exciting and compelling multiplayer on consoles that doesn’t involve guns and tanks. One of the best ports of recent years is also not only an excellent Action-RPG, but also a solid and addictive multiplayer experience.
3: Injustice: Gods Among Us (NetherRealm, Multi)
Martin Baker: As a lover of comic books, there was never any doubt that I would find a way to play Injustice: Gods Among Us, instantly pick the Green Lantern and smash the living snot out of every single other character in the DC Universe. While the single player aspect of the game was impressive, it was the multiplayer the really allowed things to come into their own.
The community surrounding Injustice: Gods Among Us are a lot like any other fighting game in that absolutely everyone seems to be better than you at the start, but whether it’s because of the quality of the game, or the fact that I was playing as a selection of super heroes, Injustice was the first game where I actually wanted to get better. I wanted to make sure that Batman put his hands around the throat of Superman and squeezed tighter than he ever has done before.
You get the odd player who makes the matches less than fun, but for the most part you’re almost guaranteed an interesting opponent. The slew of game modes on offer make the multiplayer portion of Injustice more than something to just dip into every now and again. It’s a huge part of the game, and it’s well polished too. And Green Lantern is still the best superhero in the DC universe, no question.
2: Pokemon X/Y (Nintendo, 3DS)
Ben Skipper: The multiplayer aspect of the Pokémon series has never been as simple as the good old link cable days. However, in X & Y it’s come as close to simplicity as is possible in an online world. Keeping things simple, battles and trades are easy to set up. Wonder Trades are also an exquisite idea and has been faithfully supported by the community. I even received a Charmander through it only days after release. Not bad at all.
James Bowden: A couple of weeks after Pokemon X and Y were released I attended a Pokémon tournament. Not to play, I’m not that good, but to watch and try to learn from those battling. I’m not sure I learnt much but I’ll tell you one thing: these guys are serious.
You think you’ve heard jargon? Wait until you hear a group of Pokémon players chat about how they worked to capture the Pokémon with a perfect nature, bred it to sort out the IVs, and then put in the time to sculpt its EVs so that it would perform well as a ‘sweeper’. The depth these people read into the game is phenomenal and way beyond anything that occurs in most other multiplayer games, and that’s largely down to the restrictive, yet malleable nature of the team structure.
In one tournament some chap might dominate with a specific six, but that will lead to everyone working out a counter. Or should they equate to counter the counter? Heck, how about aping the winning team? Pokémon’s competitive scene is entirely driven by its community and their interaction. At its heart it’s just flashy rock, paper, scissors, but it’s really also a bit poker, a smidgen maths, a touch chess. Competitive Pokémon play is actually quite sophisticated.
Sean Smith: Real time online battles with Adam Cook? Where do I sign up? Pokémon, that’s where. Throw into the mix the genius lottery that allows you to trade monsters with people around the world, the online interface Game Freak created is a happy, smily, warm cuddle and the perfect antidote to getting sworn at by American teenagers.
1: Grand Theft Auto Online (Rockstar, Multi)
Mike Stubbs: GTA Online is fun, plain and simple. That’s what makes it so brilliant, it’s just good old fashioned fun, especially when playing with friends. Having a city laden with fast cars, helicopters, planes, jets, and heavy weapons to explore with friends offers so many possibilities. You might choose to cruise around and look for fights with other players; you might hold up a convenience store; you might take some trucks to the top of a mountain and jump off or you might just have a simple game of tennis.
The possibilities of the open world aren’t the only great aspect of GTA Online: the jobs, which range from shootouts to races, offer a lot of variation, entertainment and replay value. The majority of the jobs are well designed and never fail to entertain, no matter how much I suck at parachute races.
The possibilities of GTA Online are outstanding, almost anything is possible, at least once a week I see a video of someone doing something crazy in the game and I’m sure this will continue long into next year. But what makes the game even better is being able to explore these possibilities with a massive group of friends.
Robin Parker: In a way, if you look at the individual parts of GTA Online, it is a fairly run if the mill offering. The team deathmatches are average at best, the robberies are a fun extension of the main game, and the races are actually pretty poor. These individual events aren’t great, but when you roll it all up into the GTA V package, add in some sky-diving and an open-world hub where chaos reigns, and this is as close to a GTA MMO as we are ever likely to get.
The beauty of the mode is that you can really do as little or as much as you like. Through the Rockstar Social Club, gamers can team up with friends, making online match-making easy. From there you can all jump straight into missions, or simply roam Los Santos causing trouble. One way to sum up the carnage that takes place in the open world hub is that within seconds of my first visit to GTA Online, another player attacked me Kamikaze-style with a helicopter, and we both died in the blaze. You don’t get that in the lobby of every multiplayer game, yet in GTA Online it is as commonplace as robbing a jewelry store and following it up with a round of golf.
Ben Skipper: Rockstar’s grand vision for Grand Theft Auto multiplayer certainly had its share of problems. Actually, that’s putting it lightly, it was a complete mess upon launch. When everything was sorted out, however, GTA Online proved to be a great addition to the single player campaign, even acting as the perfect post-game following the story’s conclusion. Packed with enjoyable missions (‘Top Fun’ can be played for hours) there’s loads to do even when you aren’t running around with a friend causing mayhem of your own. Perhaps best of all though, there’s more to come.