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You may have noticed a trend in the kinds of games major developers have been announcing over the past few months: Evolve, Fable: Legends, Bioware’s new game Shadow Realms. Yes it would appear some variant on asynchronous 4v1 co-op multiplayer is becoming quite a popular choice, but why? Why now is there this sudden burst of interest in the format?
It’s not hard to figure out why Turtle Rock, the studio behind Evolve, decided to go with this setup. They had success with it in their last game, the incredibly popular Left 4 Dead. It had a similar mode concerning humans versus zombies that was a hit with those who played it. Seeing them experiment with and expand upon this configuration comes across as natural.
Evolve’s take on 4v1 creates a type of multiplayer where the balance of power is always in flux. The creature starts off weak, most likely not able to survive a full on battle with the four hunters. But as it eats and grows stronger it becomes a much more intimidating foe, putting the hunters squarely on the back foot. This is a really smart way to structure things as it gives both sides the chance to have the upper hand in the battle. As long as the creature can survive long enough that is.
With other developers though, the choice is a little more surprising. Especially in the case of Shadow Realms. Bioware are a studio known for their deep and sprawling single-player narratives, you would certainly be forgiven for greeting their new new project’s announcement with a raised eyebrow. In Shadow Realms the lone player interacts with the four opposing players in a less direct way, similar to Fable: Legends. They can unleash various creatures and traps to slow down and hopefully stop the adventuring players before they reach their objective.
This less hands on approach creates an interesting dynamic and is especially important considering Bioware’s history with creating RPGs. Its offering an option for players who prefer the more strategic style of play some of those games have had. But what made them go in this new direction? Well, if I had to guess, it was Mass Effect 3.
When it was announced that Mass Effect 3 would have a co-op horde style multiplayer mode in addition to it’s single-player, people were justly bewildered. The series had never had multiplayer before, to most it seemed like they were jumping on a bandwagon. However, the mode was an unexpected hit, a much more satisfying experience than the afterthought many assumed it to be. I have to presume that when considering what they would work on next this mode’s success played a large role in their decision process. If Bioware manage to seamlessly weave their usual quality storytelling into this co-op format it could be a big hit for them and breathe new life into the studio.
4v1′s newfound proliferation also reflects an overall trend in the gaming industry. Online multiplayer of course existed before the PS3 and Xbox 360 came along, especially on PC, but this last console generation saw people blindsided by a sharp rise in the popularity of multiplayer across the board. There was all sorts of factors in this, people’s internet connections improving, the phenomenon level popularity of the Call of Duty multiplayer as well as the widespread adoption of the horde mode setup that Gears of War 2 introduced. Coming into this new generation developers and hardware manufacturers are consciously tailoring what they do to these new developments. Its why we’ve seen not just a a surge of interest in 4v1 co-op, but also the kind of ‘ambient’ multiplayer that games like Watch_Dogs and Dark Souls offers.
Will this new trend last? Well, it will depend on the success of the first wave of games attempting it. There’s a lot of hype right now around Evolve specifically and a lot of positive coverage about it coming out of industry events. If this game hits like people are expecting it to you can bet that we’ll see a lot more developers to take a shot at it. Hell, I bet there’s plenty of games going into development right now to capitalize on this trend.
What do you think about 4v1 co-op? Are you excited about any of these games like Evolve or Fable: Legends? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.