When you think about handheld consoles, you rarely think about multiplayer gaming. It’s certainly the last thing that springs to mind when discussing the PlayStation Vita. However, it’s a more than capable system and has delivered a diverse range of multiplayer experiences to cater for even the most demanding of Vita owners. What may surprise many is that the Vita has been able to offer plenty of options for those eager to test their gaming skills against others in far more ways that you would expect from a portable device…
Normally multiplayer gaming is the reserve of PCs and consoles. Couch co-op multiplayer arcade and sports games have delighted gamers for decades. he plethora of first person shooters are prevalent amongst online gamers eager to prove to their peers who is the top dog. And multiplayer battle arena style games like League Of Legends here have captivated the esports community. At times Vita owners have felt left out from all of these but there’s no need to, as there are games out there to satisfy virtually all of these genres and much more besides.
Being a handheld console, it can only be used by one person at a time. That hasn’t stopped multiplayer gaming from being a success and we were fortunate that Sony Interactive Entertainment carried over a few of the PSP’s design elements over into the Vita. One of the most important is its wi-fi capabilities, more specifically the fact that it can connect to a second PS Vita for ad-hoc (or local) network gaming. While only a limited number of games support this, those that do have managed to deliver some fantastic gaming experiences.
While it works superbly as a single player game, the PS Vita port of Housemarque’s PS4 launch title Resogun really comes into its own when played over an ad-hoc connection. While it can be played online, the connection isn’t always the greatest but ad-hoc allows for super-fast co-op gameplay, making this already remarkable shoot-em-up even better.
For something a little different, one of my personal favourites is Table Top Racing. A modern take on the Codemasters classic MicroMachines, it’s one I play regularly against my wife both at home and when we’re traveling away from home. The top down racer has enough variety and tracks to keep anyone coming back for more and it’s array of weapon pickups adds that extra competitive touch that is always a winner in multiplayer racers that made the Mario Kart series such a huge success.
Nothing to do with King Arthur and his Knights, but the round table approach to multiplayer games goes right back to the early arcade games. When arcade games were inherently single player, a simple way to generate extra income for arcade operators was to add a two player option but getting players to swap over at the end of each life. In reality this served two purposes. Not only did it make players more competitive and more likely to play the game more than once (to beat each others scores), but were also less likely to last as long in their individual games. If you have to step away from a joystick or controls between lives, it breaks the flow of your game and in turn your concentration. It’s a psychological trick but the shorter your game lasts, the more money the arcade can earn once again!
When it comes to home games on the Vita, probably the best of these are Zen Pinball 2 and The Pinball Arcade. While there are plenty of other games offering the same type of multiplayer options, for anyone who was a fan of pinball machines in the arcades, this really brings the true arcade experience into the home, especially if you were ever one for challenging friends in the arcades.
Not satisfied with getting together with your friends? Then online gaming with the Vita is for you. While there aren’t as many options as there used to be with servers shutting down, we haven’t been short of choice here either. We’ve had player vs player with the likes of King Of Fighters ’97 for those of you with a penchant for beat-em-ups, and the seminal Killzone Mercenary for solo and team based first person shooters (and arguably the best multiplayer experience the PS Vita can offer). Then we have arena based battles with the online side of things in Sword Art Online. This was the last aspect of the game that I tried but found that it extended the game’s lifespan incredibly.
Enter The PlayStation TV
What had the potential to boost sales of the PS Vita immensely turned out to be one of Sony’s biggest disasters. The PlayStation TV microconsole took the PS Vita and turned it into a small form factor console with HDMI output, an ethernet connection, kept compatability with most software that would run on the PS Vita and added support for up to four controllers. On paper it should have been a global success. Instead, by marketing it as an accessory for the PS4, not bundling it with a necessary controller, and limiting its compatability it was dead in the water soon after launch.
It was a shame because it opened up new avenues for multiplayer gaming on the PS Vita. The PSTV breathed new life into games that supported it properly, enhancing them visually with the superb 720p output. Many games took advantage of the extra controls offered by the DualShock3 or DualShock4 controllers such as Killzone Mercenary and Minecraft making for a more engaging and user friendly gaming experience. But where games really came into their own were those that offered the chance to play against your friends… on a single console.
Couch Multiplayer Is Here
The PSTV brought couch multiplayer gaming to the PS Vita in a way none of us saw coming. While only a small number of games supported it, some developers took advantage of the fact that the PSTV could handle multiple controllers and built this into their games. So instead of Vita games being single player, we could suddenly play against our friends on a single Vita. The fencing based game Nidhogg allowed two players at the same time, others allowed two or three but the pinnacle for the system pushed the PSTV to its limits and deserves special mention… Spelunky. While the game had a single player mode, in it’s multiplayer game mode you could have up to four people playing at the same time on the humble PlayStation TV. If only more people knew about it, maybe the console could have fared better…
I can’t finish off without talking about the original PlayStation. We have over 150 original PlayStation games available to download from the PlayStation Store that can run on the PS Vita and – in turn – on the PSTV. Many classic PSOne games supported more than one player, notably the Tekken series, and this functionality has remained in the versions downloadable from the Store. Players who purchased these to run them on the PlayStation 3 were already aware of that but now we have the PSTV we too can enjoy the same multiplayer gaming from the comfort of our sofas!
This is really just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless multiplayer games out there available for the PS Vita. We’ve covered what we think are some of the highlights but let us know what some of your favourites are in the comments below.