Two years later, this generation is still looking for its Modern Warfare. Studios working in all genres are searching for the formula that will define multiplayer gaming for the next five years. The killstreak is dead, and with good reason: it catered to the slayers first and the cannon fodder a distant second, its toys the preserve of the few rather than the many. That won’t do in an era where the battle is for player retention, not just their attention.
Titanfall and Destiny would suggest that cooldowns are the new killstreaks. Titans and Supers become available to everyone on the battlefield eventually, but the best players get them faster. Yet this month’s Hype crop yields sufficient experimentation with that format to suggest that it is a long way from becoming the new industry standard.
Blizzard has designed its first competitive shooter, Overwatch (p40), around Ultimates, its character-specific supers. Unlike its peers, these are not governed by a cooldown but a meter, which you fill by dealing and taking damage, and healing allies. It is largely a reward for success, and might hew too close to the killstreak if your progress didn’t persist beyond death.
The word ‘Ultimate’ is a nod to the MOBA, an influence to be expected from Blizzard, not Naughty Dog. Yet our first look at the multiplayer of Uncharted 4:
A Thief’s End (p48) yields a debt to Dota 2. In-game actions – kills, assists, revives – award money to be spent on upgrades, magical items or to call in NPC backup.
Things are further complicated by Street Fighter V (p50), which replaces its predecessor’s tricky-to-perform Ultra Combo with the V-Trigger, a simple two-button move that powers you up for a while and is governed by a meter that fills as you take, not deal, damage. This generation may not have its Modern Warfare just yet, but if it continues to encourage such thoughtful, varied experimentation from developers seeking to claim the generation as their own, we’re all for it.