If the very thought of Leeroy Jenkins has got you reaching for your router’s off switch, check out Sprite Nation’s remedies for your damaged multiplayer soul. Put down that headset, make some friends (I have at least two, thanks – ed.), call said friends, gather round and have a blast with these fun-filled gems!
Virtua Tennis Series (Dreamcast/PS2/X360/PS3)
Available for just a few quid in time for Wimbledon, Sega’s arcade classics are a real crowd-pleaser for most, and stand like a random pineapple atop all other tennis games. They tick all the boxes; they’re simple for 2 or 4 to play, they can be thoroughly enjoyed in short bursts, the controls are quick to pick up and the games naturally generate excitement for those watching on, beer in hand.
Whilst the original is a bit dated thanks to the players’ jerky movement physics, all of the rest play very smoothly indeed. The basic control scheme and simple engine didn’t change much over the years, seeing review scores wane as games moved on to bigger and better things, but arguably it’s this foundation that makes the games so darn great. Within a few seconds you can be slugging it out with your mates on a huge variety of brightly coloured and exotic worldwide courts, the surfaces make a subtle but satisfying tactical difference, and the player models have always been a nice touch too, even if they are a little basic compared to the latest FIFA or PES games. The only drawback is the slight disadvantage to playing at the top of the screen. Play does rotate of course, but it can end up swaying a tense match on occasion, as it’s a tad easier to set your timing from the bottom of the screen.
You can get your hands on these games for a ludicrously low price now, and if you have an old Dreamcast, 360 or PS3 knocking around, expect some deep-running multiplayer rivalries to develop with your friends after you’ve played just a few matches!
Score: 4/5 Tennis balls.
Super Smash Bros. Series (N64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, 3DS)
OK so strictly speaking we’re talking about ‘Melee’ on the GameCube, due to it’s incredibly well balanced gameplay, and the lack of battery related controller issues, but all of these games are likely to see your living room descend into multiplayer chaos in any case.
For starters, they look stunning; clear, bright and lively Nintendo fan service drenched artwork for both characters and stages, all ready to be smashed to oblivion or beaten to a pulp, overlaid with a jaunty remixed score from the Nintendo songs you know and love. Then there’s the sheer level of customisation on offer. It’s as easy as pie to set up a custom tournament, tune the power-ups to your liking, add in CPU fighters of varying abilities and away you go. This is the fighting game series for those who don’t like fighting games, AND for those who do. It strolls across the tightrope between skill and luck and doesn’t put a foot wrong. New players can get some KOs and have a great time with some special moves, and more experienced players will find a deeper control scheme and nuanced abilities in there to give them a proper challenge. Ideal for all comers!
Score: 5/5 Kicks in the groin.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 (PS2, Xbox)
Why all the way back to 2008 for this one, I hear you cry? Well let me explain, or I’ll make you write an apology letter on facebook, OK?! All the old PES games were great, with many finding that perfect mix of realism, detail and actual fun (often forgotten in some other, more serious, not to be named football games); PES3 and 5 come to mind, and the Wii versions (not including 2008, ironically) are also a blast given their crazy control scheme and THAT Champions Road mode, but the main releases of 2008 have a multiplayer trick up their sleeve which makes them a Messi amongst, erm… other kickers of the football.
That whip hand is called Community Mode. The ideal mode for couch co-op, this mode keeps track of match scores vs. all your friends, allows you to set up tournaments, gives you a ridiculous amount of data (think, favourite teams, most effective formations, winning streaks, and most importantly, best starsigns!) and all whilst berating you oddly for your poor form against your buddies! Its appeal may seem to be restricted to hardcore football fans only, but those who look past the muddy graphics will find that this version of PES is surprisingly accessible for newer players, features the awesome old PES engine (which just knew how to produce great matches), and distills football down to frantic, fast-paced fun… and astrology, naturally.
Score: 3/5 Late Champions League final headers.