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, and it’s great. It’s easy to be cynical about Worms, now entering its third decade with an appetite for platform proliferation. Chop a turn-based party game from Team17 in half, myth has it, and two new iterations will spring from its remains. But the core is still inspired: 30 seconds in which you must steer your pink avatar around a pockmarked landscape with the aim of bazooka-ing, batting, Super Sheep-ing or otherwise obliterating an opponent before their turn comes around.
Worms is typically played with three or four players – and because each spends so much of their time watching the others’ moves, it becomes a slapstick spectator sport ripe for grenade gaffes, jumping misjudgements, and assorted other seconds-left mistakes. There’s scope for high-level play, too, thanks to the nuance offered by trajectory and wind speed, not to mention elusive mastery over the ninja rope. Some – Team17’s current series custodians included – say that Worms Armageddon was a spiritual high point. But we’d recommend the subsequent Worms World Party for sheer customisability (or Worms WMD for something that’s still getting new content updates).
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Whatever it is you’re looking for in a multiplayer game, the MOBA genre, and these pair of juggernauts in particular, probably covers it. You can go in solo to prove your superiority over others, honing your skills in whatever role you prefer to always try to win. You can play more casually with friends, making it your regular multiplayer home, either in the standard 5v5 modes or playing one of several custom games that are always available. Whether you want to be the best in the world – good luck – or just bash about in well designed systems, there’s something there. It can go far beyond that too, where for the hardcore these games have become lifestyles.
There are massive industries around the professional scenes of both, huge tournaments to attend as spectators or players, and millions upon millions of dollars on the line for the very best. Valve, Riot and their communities have built entire ecosystems of player support, team management, spectating and shoutcasting around these games, and if you want to you’ll always find something new to discuss, try, or improve at. Picking between them is all personal preference. League of Legends has more players and better defined roles and rules, while Dota 2 is a Wild West of edge cases, madly powerful abilities and stranger hero concepts.
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Try them both and, based on their player counts alone, there’s a high chance you’ll fall in love with one. The battle royale genre has been knocking about since Brendan Greene, or Playerunknown as he’s best known, released the Battle Royale mod for Arma 2 and 3. He also chipped in with the development of H1Z1: King of the Kill. That makes him the father of this emerging genre, and as you might have guessed, Playerunkown’s Battlegrounds is his baby. It’s the battle royale premise boiled down to the bare essentials: 100 players drop into a giant map with nothing but their underwear, scour the map for guns and gear while duking it out until only one of them is left alive. Oh, and there’s a gigantic electrical field slowly closing in around the map to force players into confrontation. The clincher is that Playerunkown’s Battlegrounds serves the simple thrill of a battle royale scenario without either over-egging the situation with overblown weapons and features, or bogging it down with clunky interfaces and features.
It’s still in Early Access, but unlike its ilk, it doesn’t feel like it is. Like the Arma mod that spawned it, the gunplay feels spot on, but it’s also got dozens of features that make it easier to play: the minimap is brilliantly clear, you can check it and add markers to it while running, pick up items from the ground by hitting tab and dragging and dropping the bits you want over to your character. There’s good reason for Playerunkown’s Battlegrounds popularity on Twitch: it’s everything battle royale fans have been waiting for in a game. The moment someone at Psyonix said “why don’t we play football…
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with rocket-powered cars?” a true phenomenon was born. Yes, it took them a while to get the formula right – the first game featuring rocket cars failed hard – but when Rocket League finally hit it took the multiplayer world by storm. And that’s almost certainly down to how streamlined it’s design is: you push a ball across a pitch with a car. There’s a purity to that; it’s a concept literally everyone can understand. Simplicity doesn’t dictate a lack of need for skill, however, and mastering all the tricks of successfully passing, shooting, and scoring in Rocket League is a learning curve that’s thrilling to undertake.
It leads to a career of a thousand near-misses and ‘almost!’ moments, your body inching forward in your seat as the tension builds.
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Head-shots in shooters are ten-a-penny, but a goal in Rocket League is something to be celebrated. An exceptionally moreish online game (just ask any of its 19 million players), Rocket League’s true home is in split-screen with friends in the same room. Akin to the likes of Towerfall, it will have everyone in the room ooh-ing and aahh-ing as the ball shifts from one end of the pitch to another, punctuated by the odd elbow-to-the-ribs in a cheap attempt to prevent an inevitable goal. Probably never destined to become an eSport, this one, although there’s undeniable appeal to be found in watching proceedings unfold.
KTANE (which sounds like a bad beat-’em-up character or late-’90s house DJ) is a collaborative multiplayer experience in which one participant has a bomb to dismantle but no idea how to do it, while the other has the diffusal manual but no way to see the device itself. What results is a constant stream of panicked verbal directions from the latter to the former, while modular puzzles of varying complexity are completed – wires cut, buttons pressed, weird hieroglyphs deciphered.
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The game’s asymmetrical restrictions are its genius, and often make ‘collaborative’ more like wishful thinking, as clocks tick down, brows bead with sweat, and mouths fill with expletives. But whatever your partner’s nature, it’s a tense and enjoyable ride. (It’s also one of the best VR games thanks to headset compatibility.
) For best results, play with Jack Bauer, ideally on the underside of a moving train. In many ways it was what id Software had been building up to throughout the decade, but the fact the game contained no single-player campaign was still a bit of a shock upon release in 1999. Instead, there were only these titular zones where startlingly competent bots awaited, their Railguns primed and ready to zero in on your skull before you had time to appreciate what were actually very handsome graphics for the time. So you got killed a few times, and then a few more times after that. Then you learned how to spell your name in multi-coloured letters and that made you feel better. Then, as the layouts of each map and the positions of every bounce pad, teleportation door and armour began to etch themselves into your mind, you got braver.
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You went online. And so did everyone else. Quake III Arena was a trailblazer for the modern eSports scene, and birthed some of the platform’s first pro gamer celebrities.
Just look at them play. It’s nuts. Whether you play it at the highest level or with basic competency, its weapons and pacing create a symphony of manic violence that subsequent games have never really toppled. The clever thing about Rainbow Six: Siege is that despite surface-level similarities to FPS darling CS:GO, it makes building a wall or laying out some barbed wire as heroic an act as no-scoping an enemy from two rooftops away. Perhaps more than any other multiplayer FPS, Siege is about planning, communication and execution of a team-based strategy.
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It’s also a lot more fun than that sounds. Rainbow Six made its name by taking a quieter, more considered approach than the bombastic shooters it debuted against in the late nineties, and in doing so it made you feel like a highly-trained, goggle-wearing, silenced MP5-toting specialist.
Siege achieves the same feeling in the modern era, updating your arsenal to include vehicular drones and equipment with a focus on reconnaissance rather than destruction. Although, of course, there is destruction.
Great big chunks of destruction that kick up a fine concrete dust every round. Part of being ‘good’ at Siege is knowing what sort of state of disrepair each map will end up in towards its closing stages, and setting your team up accordingly. The focus on planning and preparation makes for a cat-and-mouse multiplayer game that people enjoy watching – it’s a fast-growing eSport.
It’s about as close to finding yourself on a real battlefield, gibbering to yourself as the choppers and tanks go by, as anyone of sound mind would care to get. The large-scale battles and ultra-realism aren’t the only intimidating thing about Arma 3, either. It’s populated by a diehard community with expertise levels second to no other multiplayer game. They know things you didn’t know you didn’t know. And yet Arma 3 finds itself onto this list, brushing shoulders with the best ways you can spend your time with other people on the internet.
Where pretend guns are involved, at least. Because every battle is such an engrossing spectacle, peppered with super-complicated team chat and clever tactical manouevres (if you’re on a good server), you simply can’t g
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