Late last year I wrote a heartfelt apology to England captain and walking King Edward potato Wayne Rooney, citing – in a roundabout way – that I too knew the pain of getting older and shitter at the things you love doing. For Wayne, it's football: for me, it's Call of Duty. Whereas once I moved with effortless grace over the killing fields of digital battlegrounds, murdering all and sundry with grace and skill, now my brain and my hands work in concert with the love and affection of a divorcing couple enduring one last caravan holiday for the kids. I used to be Mirko Cro Cop in Pride, and now I'm Mirko Cro Cop in the UFC.
In short, I'm finished. When it comes to coordination, I've got more yips than a houseful of chihuahuas. That's the thing with age: even though you're aware it's happening, the fact that you can't externalise yourself means that it sneaks up on you. Grey hairs. Crow's feet. The inability to sit down without sighing. The inability to play Call of Duty without crying. It just happens one day, or more accurately announces itself one day, and bang – you're out. See ya.
Anyway, all this means that while Call of Duty used to be one of the most important releases of the year for me – particularly in the heady period of 2007-11 – now it just passes me by, bar a few weeks at the beginning (if you're lucky) where I can still cut it. I've not really found anything to replace it: Battlefield, maybe, Battleborn, definitely not. Surprisingly, to me at least, the game which I think may actually end up taking my competitive multiplayer time is Uncharted 4, which you may have heard of.
I hadn't played any of the multiplayer in the PS3 versions, mainly because back then I could still play Call of Duty without philosophically throwing control pads/brandy/control pads soaked with brandy into a nearby fireplace after losing yet another one-on-one. But Uncharted 4's multiplayer is perfect for those of us who have had to move on from the world of twitch shooters into something a little slower. It is the Major League Soccer of shooters: much the same as other similar entities, but a lot brighter, filled with loads more nonsense, and not quite as reliant on the twitch skill of youth.
Uncharted 4's multiplayer works, for me at least, because it is both slow and fast. Your character moves quickly, in full 60 frames-o-vision which the children (of all ages) demand, running and swinging and scrambling and grappling from place to place, with that kind of floaty movement that Uncharted always had. Here it works better than in the campaign. It feels quick, and as such, you still feel quick, old man. But the shooting – or, more accurately, the killing – feels slower. Much slower. It takes longer than the short burst of an MP5 to make you dead, and that changes a great deal.
In fact, you don't even technically die, you get 'KOd', in keeping with the general wisecrackin' and shit-eatin' and good-timein' of the series, where death isn't so much the end as the beginning of a good joke. Even then, when you're downed you'll have the chance to be revived by a teammate, meaning that a lot of fatal encounters, aren't. It fits the general aesthetic, feels more like a bunch of people running around having a good time, and takes the pressure off the fact that the shooting itself, while much-improved, still isn't spectacular. But it's good, and with the game's levels encouraging you to be something a little more involved than a gun mounted on a camera, it works. Crucially, its Sunshine and Lollipops setting, garrulous characters and low-key attitude to overly-serious competition relieves it off the dread which CoD and its ilk can foster. Like Drake himself you'll get dinged about a bit, but you'll also probably come up smiling in the end.
Anyway, this is not new news to anyone who has played the last two games' multiplayer, but as a newcomer – and someone who didn't pay it much attention to the last couple of go-arounds – I've been impressed with the quality of the multiplayer, and the way it's grabbed me after thinking that the world of online shooters is for those who can still hear on a full spectrum. Yes, it's got vanity items and unlocks and Uncharted Points and taunts and all that shite, but it's also a game which doesn't seem to encourage being on board from day one. Which, in a world of hyper-caffeinated 11-year olds playing with outrageous dexterity, is probably a good thing.