We are taught as children to “Be careful what you wish for”. This lesson is taught to us through children’s films, usually Disney, and is a good life lesson. All of us can name countless examples of change we wished for that turned sour on us, usually worse than the standard we used to have. When Scott Pilgrim Vs the World: The Game came out for XBLA/PSN, as gamers we couldn’t help but cry out about the missing online multiplayer. It’s a common theme if you look at any site’s reviews, including our own. It took an extra three years for the online multiplayer to complete the full journey to release.
Unfortunately, the game really suffers when played online. A game like Gears of War or Call of Duty uses peer-to-peer hosting, which means that servers exist but the games are hosted by means of connection. This can create a host advantage, most noticeable when a chainsaw battle occurs in Gears of War. The host has advantage because of the priority the game awards that player. That award compensates for the lag that shouldn’t exist for the host but other players would experience because they are connecting to another player’s connection. The lag might be tiny but it is present. If a player’s connection is not strong or is weak to specific individuals, that player will experience bigger lag or may be dropped entirely. Those of you experiencing frequent Xbox Live Party drops might suffer from this.
Multiplayer experiences are usually developed by a group separate from the team responsible for the single player campaign or even a co-op campaign. A lot of Co-Op titles will take the single player campaign code as the logical starting point to create a multiplayer experience. The result is a fake multiplayer mode. Take Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. The map can be fully explored by all players but players cannot hurt each other. They can interact by bouncing off another’s head. The game runs a network of connecting to other players and what they are doing on screen. What it doesn’t account for is the enemies. Castlevania can easily become desynced because the enemies are placed on a level and the game will remove that enemy from everyone’s game. An exception is an enemy who moves like the fire wheel Buer. His movement pattern is to wildly roll across the floor he is placed on. This means you shouldn’t be surprised if you see your friend get damaged by thin air. Everyone is running his own experience.
The problem here is Scott Pilgrim isn’t running a lot of AI at a time and if you play the game you’ll notice the AI patterns are weak. Most enemies shuffle around on screen and occasionally attack and, unless you keep the enemy on screen for too long, usually they attack alone. The bosses are a different story and have more aggressive patterns but these are also usually the only AI on screen. During the fight with the Vegan Super Saiyan, the boss spawns enemies but their main purpose is to serve as roadblocks between you and the boss.
Is Scott Pilgrim enough better for having online multiplayer that it offsets having the game’s reputation tarnished by it?