Viciously carving through hordes of Diablo 3’s villainous foes in local multiplayer with close friends on PS3 recently has done much to cement my own long held belief that playing together locally outclasses it’s inherently more distant online counterpart. Emotional bellowing through headsets can’t compete with the piercing glare slung across a room that silently utters a hundred profanities when you cheaply dispatch a real life companion. Online systems in titles like Call Of Duty or Battlefield do their best capture the magic of local multiplayer but, I feel they fall short of matching their competitor in terms of sociability and sheer fun. It’s a preference of mine that I never gave much consideration, until it came to pre-ordering a PS4 which I was insistent must come with two Dualshock 4’s.
With the most dedicated of the gaming community struggling to contain their anticipation for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 I began to wonder, am I just a gamer who’s mistakenly nostalgic for the split screen shenanigans of generations gone by? Or, is there still a significant number of people who still prefer old faithful local multiplayer versus the online modes popularised by First Person Shooters. When I survey the landscape of next generation games those that pique my interest all have local options, whether its quirky charming platformer Knack co-op or intense first person shooter Call of Duty: Ghosts competitive. For myself playing in the same room as a friend both defines and accentuates the greatest parts of Multiplayer.
That’s not to say online multiplayer doesn’t have a place in modern video gaming – if anything current trends heavily indicate it’s the future. For developers it makes sense, some local play like split screen is a significant drain on system resources as they struggle to process two viewpoints simultaneously. In order to maintain an acceptable consistent frame rate developers are forced to drop graphical quality. Excluding the option and focusing on online play means no dealing with constraints caused by spending horsepower on multiple perspectives, resulting in additional freedom to create all-important improved visuals. Since PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360’s release split-screen modes have faced severe dwindling popularity, whether that’s an illusion conjured by developers not supporting the option or a real trend caused by new generation gamers who’re comfortable strategising over headsets rather than face-to-face is open for debate.
With the advent of next generation it’s become astoundingly clear that online infrastructure is integral to the progression of the industry, better online stores, services and importantly deeper online gaming integration. During the flurry of attention that has been afforded to online multiplayer it seems many have become increasingly neglectful of it’s local brethren. Sure it’s useless for large crowds and split screen cuts up the screens beyond tiny; move past first person shooter and racing games though and, I feel it clearly has the edge. Playing Diablo 3, Ratchet Clank All 4 One and Injustice Gods: Among Us - a wide variety of examples, feel much more rewarding when you’re all packed into one room huddled around the warm glow of the television. Even four player FPS magic reminiscent of fuzzy Goldeneye feelings can be re-captured with games like Call Of Duty.
Ultimately much of the argument is down to personal preference, they’re some situations where one way of playing trumps the other with relative ease. Playing large scale first person shooters is a no brainer, the genre is built for the benefits of online play, the ability to compete against much larger numbers than local, quick match making and playing with friends even when you’re geographically far apart. Even so, split screen might only support a smaller player base but, carries an intimacy that I think feels much superior. What do you think? Let us know in the poll below, on twitter @Gamerree or @DanJcol.