Runner-up: Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
With a much-improved Spec Ops mode, the Survival game type and four map packs promised, this is the series’ most generous offering to date, but the principal addition is Elite. Reviewing recent matches and tweaking classes from the comfort of our desks has only deepened our connection with the most immediately rewarding online shooter around.
Runner-up: Portal 2
With an extra pair of portals allowing for more challenging puzzles, Portal 2’s co-op was always going to be good. What we didn’t expect was for it to be so painless. The ping tool neatly dodges “No, that wall” moments, and the hub level is a neat restructuring of the linear singleplayer. The gestures might seem superfluous, but are essential for making it up to your ally when you fling them into a wall.
Winner: Dark Souls
Dark Souls profoundly understands online play’s defining feature: humanity. Though there’s an in-game mechanic that shares the name (a typically deft touch, blending concept and lore), the focus is always on others. Dark Souls’ multiplayer runs alongside its singleplayer, but not always in parallel: asynchronous messages left for you offer hints or tricks, while bloodstains and ghosts flicker in and out of reality. The key is its tightly controlled feature set: with no voicechat and no friends, this lonely world is kept permanently lonely.
The summoning signs of other players can come in a rash or not at all, and then there’s the terror of invasion. Whenever in human form, the threat of an invading player is the sword of Damocles. At just the wrong moments, the thread snaps. Invaders blend in like chameleons, set traps, lie in wait for ages and kill you in seconds. Covenants take things further: gangs of justice-seeking avengers, mercenary killers, or just dedicated to certain locations.
Fleeting ghosts, warnings burned into the floor, and crimson death are Dark Souls’ online manifestations, but its true magic lies in humanity: those mischief-makers, roleplayers, heroes and villains. It’s not quite a deathmatch, but sometimes the description seems to fit perfectly.