Playing games together can be done in a multitude of ways, but one thing that all multiplayer experiences share in common is their ability to bring us together and share unique moments. Whether we're working as a team towards a shared goal, battling each other to the bitter end, or just chilling out and catching up while we play an old favourite on auto-pilot - games offer us sweet escape and a chance to come together with friends all over the world. In this latest entry in our GOTY series, we celebrate our favourite multiplayer experiences of 2019.
5. Gears 5 by The Coalition - For years now Gears of War has been up there with some of the best multiplayer experiences out there, and this year was no exception; the face-paced action shooter was back with new game modes that helped to make this year's instalment one of the best we've played.
Escape is a new super-aggressive co-op mode challenging a three-player squad to battle through a relentless Swarm encounter and escape from the hive, where a lack of ammo meant you were forced into using new tactics on every run. Versus brings with it the usual close-quarters action that fans have known and loved for years, this time with a twist as gone are the days of picking up weapons from the floor as now players will have to unlock more powerful guns by claiming kill points. Horde - as always - brings with it the challenge of endless waves of ever-stronger enemies, although new team synergies add to the co-op experience.
4. Borderlands 3 by Gearbox Software - Seven years on and we were finally greeted with another Borderlands game, and fans couldn't be happier as changes to the multiplayer took the cooperative looter shooter to an all-new level.
The story could once again be played from start to finish with a group of friends, and while in the past one concern was that players could hoard loot for themselves and leave teammates without higher tier weaponry, now loot drops are made client-side, meaning each individual player in a party gets their own gear. Circle of Slaughter offers players an opportunity to go up against waves of increasingly powerful enemies as they battle for dominance, the challenging game mode made end game a little more exciting with a handful of maps to battle through. Also available are the Proving Grounds, unique dungeons with powerful bosses, giving players a chance to battle through encounters with a group of mates and earn some big rewards.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare by Infinity Ward - Call of Duty has always been one of the champions of the multiplayer domain, keeping things fresh with battle royale in last year's Black Ops 4 after years of various updates and innovations, however, this year Activision and Infinity Ward reinvented the beloved Modern Warfare franchise, not with a fourth game but an entirely new title that pulled the conflict into 2019, including the all-important multiplayer.
Co-op fans have plenty to enjoy with Spec Ops and Survival mode, but in terms of traditional multiplayer, there were all the old favourites along with some new additions, with the 2v2 Gunfight mode impressing players. With excellent sound design, regular content updates, and tons of content packed in there, it's one of the standout Call of Duty experiences of recent years, with plenty more seasons to come in 2020 as well. We can't wait to dive back in.
Apex Legends by Respawn Entertainment - If there's one studio that reliably makes great multiplayer, it's Respawn. We already knew this after the excellent Titanfall games and due to the fact that the studio is made up of Call of Duty alumni. This is a studio that knows shooters, and you can feel that in every aspect of Apex Legends, which proves that it's not impossible to launch a game that can compete with the might of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite.
Apex Legends is able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with both of those games because it's built on absolutely rock-solid foundations. Titanfall players already know about the franchise-defining traversal options, and while Apex doesn't have wall-running or titans dropping from the sky, it does have top quality gunplay, with an excellent selection of distinctive weapons and a bucketload of accessories to add further customisation. Then there's the titular legends, a group of characters each with their own sense of style and a few unique tricks that they can deploy in battle. This mix of ingredients, coupled with excellent map design (we've liked both so far) and some smart design choices, means that Apex Legends is our favourite multiplayer shooter of the year.
Tetris 99 by Arika - And for this year's finest multiplayer offering, as voted on by the entire GRUK team, we've got none other than Switch-exclusive block-buster Tetris 99. This unique twist on the Tetris formula borrowed a few ideas from the likes of PUBG and Fortnite and put 99 players together in a competitive arena where they would send blocks at each other at lightning speed in an attempt to be the last one standing. It shouldn't have worked but it absolutely does, and in a stroke, it was proven that the Battle Royale approach to design doesn't have to be limited to shooters and overtly violent games.
Tetris 99 wowed us at launch, however, it was kept alive by regular and ongoing support over the course of the year, including the addition of offline modes that followed later and gave players a reason to go back for more. There are also ongoing tournaments where players can compete for prizes and bragging rights, further adding fuel to the competitive scene.
Tetris 99 has proven to be unexpectedly popular among gamers, but then again, when you look back at the pedigree of the game, at the untold hours that many of us have poured into sorting tetriminos since they first started dropping on the original Game Boy, that success shouldn't be all that surprising.
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