- Call of Duty: Black Ops II
- Halo 4
- Max Payne 3
- Planetside 2
- Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
- Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
2012 was a big year for multiplayer gaming with titles offering a multitude of different ways to get your multiplayer fix. While both Halo and Call of Duty returned this year with very strong multiplayer experiences that involved nice new improvements to help change up gameplay a tad, both still played it a bit too safe in order to not upset hardcore fans and didn’t do anything to help take multiplayer gaming to the next level.
Our choice for 2012′s Game of the Year, Max Payne 3, was more about the single-player experience than the multiplayer, but that didn’t stop Rockstar from delivering their best multiplayer experience yet by bringing bullet-time gameplay to the masses. Other developers even went as far as dumbing down their highly underrated multiplayer; in the case of Fall of Cybertron, High Moon Studios actually removed many features from the previous game and simplified gameplay to try and bring in more casual fans.
Although Halo 4 and Black Ops II easily won this year when looking at sales numbers and sheer number of gamers online playing, some less popular games were responsible for some of the most original ideas and best moments in multiplayer gaming this year that will hopefully be taken into account by other developers in the future.
Other than Mass Effect 3, one of the most controversial games this year was Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. Many critics and fans panned Slant Six’s competitive take on the Resident Evil series for some tricky controls and for straying too far from what made the original games so great. Surprisingly, after spending some time with ORC, the unique fast paced 4 vs. 4 multiplayer with maps packed full of hundreds of neutral zombies quickly turned out to be amazingly fun to play with friends and the better of the two big RE games released this year.
Speaking of surprising and innovative, one of this year’s smallest and best games was a downloadable indie title that might not have featured competitive multiplayer but did allow for people to play together online in an experience unlike anything before it. If it weren’t for its short length that kept us from playing it hooked for months, Journey would have been our pick for the Best Multiplayer (co-op) Game of the Year and possibly even 2012′s Game of the Year.
Planetside 2 featured the return of one of the biggest (literally) multiplayer experiences ever. With technology finally catching up to the concept, Sony’s free-to-play sequel offered a massive multiplayer online first-person shooter on a scale unlike anything before by allowing for thousands of players to battle in a never-ending three-faction war. But Planetside 2‘s high PC requirements kept it out of most gamers’ hands despite its free price tag.
Instead, Sony’s other multiplayer-focused shooter that won our hearts at E3 2011 emerged as our winner, Starhawk. It managed to live up to the hype and not only deliver the best multiplayer experience of 2012, but one of the best ever. Lightbox Interactive’s spiritual successor to 2007′s Warhawk might have still flown under most gamers’ radars this year, but that didn’t make it any less epic. Evolving the multiplayer model by allowing players to play traditional modes like Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, but with the ability to build bases that drop down from the sky RTS-style like Starcraft, was a phenomenal idea that resulted in moments of strategic chaos unlike anything else in the industry. Hopefully one day we’ll get a sequel to Starhawk with a stronger singleplayer campaign that helps launch it into the realm of other more popular shooters like Halo and Call of Duty. Winner: Starhawk.