Art of the Splitscreen
Only two generations ago consoles were fitted with multiple controller slots. That the system would be furnished with multiplayer games was therefore an unchallenged expectation. And yet here we are, 2016, almost starved for such an experience. When my mates are over we resort usually to the likes of CTR (Crash Team Racing) on the PS3 (downloaded as a PS1 classic) for that fun fix of multiplayer mania. What's surprising is how enjoyable it still is: that Sewer Speedway shortcut still poses a challenge, and drifting the tight corners of Cortex Castle is still a blast. In many ways however, it is something of a last resort. Last time I checked there seemed to be nothing to satiate. But perhaps I'm not looking hard enough.
Well let's see. There's Borderlands: The Handsome Collection on the PS4. But that's a co-op game; this wont do you see as our hearts are ablaze with a passion to smite one another, relentlessly. Then Diablo 3 does the same thing-- team work is fun, but for a quick fix we need something that demands less prerequisites. It doesn't take long to realise the confounding extent to which this simple and beautiful aspect of gaming -- to impart gaming wrath on an adjacent other -- has been trivialised, strewn to the wayside, almost abandoned in the dust as the rest of gaming continued to evolve. In short CTR is still so good because nothing better has come along.
A simple remedy has been a Wii U purchase. There we have found solace with the likes of Mario Kart 8 -- which is visually spectacular -- and Super Smash Bros. Yes there we have found cathartic rest to our afflicted spirits. We have smashed for hours, the lot of us, and frivolous fun it has been. Nintendo seem to be the only publisher who hasn't given up on AAA local multiplayer. The standard excuse by gaming's star devs has been the wish to not compromise on the game's quality. While that concern is substantial, one need look no further than Mario Kart 8 to see that a neat solution is certainly possible. While CTR multiplayer has severe frame rate issues, Mario Kart 8 splitscreen runs almost flawlessly. The real issue here seems to be a growing apathy by the devs, but that's a whole other burger to bite.
I was one of the many who felt resentment when Halo 5 was confirmed to be doing away with local multiplayer. How could they do this to us, I bitterly mused. All those hours upon which moments of laughter, joy, fun and madness were etched and painted, as though time itself was a blank canvas, now reside within us as great, warm memories. And a whole generation of gamers are going to miss out on that. And for what? For visual fidelity? It simply is not worth it. Oh and yes I have heard of Rocket League. A fine game, that. One game however cannot mitigate what seems to be an industry wide plague.
So what do you all think? Has splitsreen multiplayer been ignored too strongly? Are devs justified in their excuses? Should we the gamers be making more of a stir about this issue? Let us know what you think!
4/22/2016 John Nakhoul