End of an offline era (possibly)

Last weekend I have mostly been playing…. online. It was a free ‘Gold’ weekend for Silvers (although you would never have known if you didn’t know about it already – no advertising of the fact whatsoever as far as I can tell) so I thought I’d break with tradition and actually try some stuff out. Yes, believe it or not I’ve somehow managed to avoid ever playing a game online until now. And bearing in mind that I was a complete online n00b, I wasn’t expecting much of either myself or the experience in general. What I found was… curious.

First impressions were much as I expected. My current game of the moment was Red Faction: Guerilla so it made sense to start there. The ‘quick game’ options  did as promised and quickly propelled me into a multiplayer “anarchy” match where the aim was to kill everyone who wasn’t you. This would’ve worked out fine were it not for the fact that everyone else seemed to be much better at it than I was, although I did prove quite adept at killing myself initially (sadly no points for that). Slowly getting the hang of it and trying some of the other modes, I was left half-intrigued and half disheartened – because the matchmaking process didn’t differentiate between player skill levels practically every match I entered had one or two players who were roughly 20 times better than everyone else and quickly mopped the floor with us. This sort of left no room to actually learn the game properly, which was a bit of a shame.

Borderlands was next, a game which I really enjoyed playing through single-player recently (much to my surprise, I might add). Rather than pile in with the ‘big boys’ I decided to start a second run from the beginning with a level 1 character and quickly got into a four-player co-op session (steady!) with a bunch of people who didn’t have headsets. Rather surprisingly, this worked pretty well – it was clear what was going on, everyone nicely shared the pick-ups, ran to the rescue when required, and co-operated well in taking down the bads (although I did get left behind a couple of times while rifling through cupboards and such, my fault for not paying attention). Furthermore, I actually did pretty well and felt useful to the team rather than a feeling like a spare-part spanner like I did when playing the team-based Red Faction games. Surprised again by Borderlands, that’s twice now.

Burnout Paradise was one time when I really ought to have read the manual. Getting online seemed simple enough, but I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I tried to start a ‘race’ several times but just ended up in bog-standard Freeburn mode every time, so in the end I stuck with that and just leathered it around the city trying to take out the other players. Seeing as they appeared to be doing the exact same thing to me this seemed like a fair thing to do. And it was fun, for a while, although I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing 95% of the online bits and pieces. Which, checking the FAQ today, I was. I’m left wondering if anyone actually plays any of those modes any more or whether I was just unlucky (or doing it wrong).

Crackdown was one that I was super-keen to try, but alas… nobody would accept my play request, despite me trying loads of times. Eventually the parallels with my teenage dating attempts grew too strong and I gave up and tried mastur… something else.

Last up was the demo of Left 4 Dead 2. Like Borderlands, this actually seemed to work quite well once I actually managed to make it into a game (I’m guessing the demo’s sort of on borrowed time given that the full game’s been out for ages). Teaming up with three other randoms we roamed about shooting the zombies and helping each other out and it was kind of okay. Unfortunately nobody else seemed to want to go anywhere, just hang around the central area where the ammo was and shoot shit as it arrived. As such, I didn’t feel like I got a true feel for the game, but having joined the match in the middle it didn’t seem proper to start complaining that they weren’t playing it right. 😀

I guess playing with randoms has its disadvantages then (my friends list were all either offline or playing games that I don’t have), but considering everything that I’d heard about Live the guys (and girls) that I played with were all very well behaved, despite mostly being American. Although one guy did start singing at one point. I even dug the headset out, although I didn’t actually pluck up the courage to talk to anybody. 🙂

All in all, then… an interesting experiment. I didn’t expect to come back to it, but I dabbled pretty much all weekend and would’ve been back on it again last night if they hadn’t turned it off by then. I’m almost tempted to stump up for a year of Gold just to see if I actually use it enough to justify the cost. In the meantime, it might be a good idea to use some of those 48-hour codes I’ve been accumulating and try to organise some proper games with people that I actually know. And then…. we’ll see.

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About Blerk
A pain in the arse of the video gaming industry.

10 Responses to End of an offline era (possibly)

  1. Blerk says:

    There, that didn’t take long, did it? Expect another six month hiatus now. 😀

  2. blogger says:

    At least I dont have to register to comment 😉

  3. Whizzo says:

    Come to think of it I did wonder how you got some MP achievements on RFG, it’s a pity you didn’t get to play some Crackdown it really is rather excellent in co-op.

    Or rather it’s called co-op, half the time you’re more likely to be trying to blow up the person you’re playing with. 🙂

  4. Retroid says:

    What’s a homing missile between friends?

  5. mal says:

    You should really try the EG game nights for going online. I’m not sure if the Burnout night is still running, but that was good fun the one or two times I joined in. You basically join as part of the EG team and someone who can operate the arcane menu system in BP (i.e. not me) sets up a challenge – you then get there and try to complete the objective reasonably quickly. Though I think that was us trying to get the biggest team completing the challenges most quickly. I guess they might all have been taken now.

  6. redcrayon says:

    I’m still not convinced about online gaming compared to co-op in the same room, but you’ve convinced me to give it a go. Headsets may have to wait though!

  7. mal says:

    Oh, real life multiplayer is always preferable, but it’s not practical to meet up every week for an hour or two in real life if people don’t live nearby, and it’s never practical to do same if there are upwards of ten people involved. It’s a LAN party every week without the inherent smelliness and greasy hair (or if there is, it’s your own business).

    All that said, I have never taken my account online. I enjoy playing with people on the latest games, but I generally don’t personally own the latest games when they’re new.

  8. Blerk says:

    That’s actually one of my biggest problems too – I don’t tend to buy games on release and generally get to them months later than everyone else, by which point most of EGers have moved on to the next big thing. I’m definitely going to try this again with less random people, though – I’ll keep an eye on the forums for stuff going on.

  9. Rhythm says:

    Good post. Gaming with mates online or off is a great laugh, but sadly time commitments ended up killing the pastime for me. I generally get a couple of hours to game around the same time each night but being called away from a single player session is completely different to being pulled away from a multiplayer game.

    It doesn’t even matter that I almost never actually get called away, it’s the anxiety that I may get pulled away therefore impacting the gaming of others at any point kills much of the enjoyment of the game itself.

    On that basis, score attacks and challenges are a better sort of gaming for me. Being able to put my own contributions in during my own timescales fits far better into my schedules.

  10. redcrayon says:

    It’s interesting the way people divide up their gaming time. I tend to play in 20 minute sessions on the handhelds, so I tend to buy stuff where the levels are reasonably short or you can save anywhere. At home I rarely play games for more than 2 3-hour sessions a week, usually on the weekends. That’s another reason why I’ve never really got into online gaming- I’d be a shit guild/clan/campaign participant!

    Blerk- I tend to buy stuff about 3 months after release too, after buying too many games on release and then realising that I’ll never get around to playing them before they halve in price.

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