Asymmetry. It’s in your drugs, it’s in your art and now it has invaded your multiplayer. Although, to be fair to the poor little thing who can’t get a break in architecture, it invades because it works. In the multiplayer case, it works because it adds a new dimension to gameplay. It can be as subtle as approaching the same “use bullets on head” puzzle from a different level angle, or as bold as having two sides operating different tools to the same outcome. Although I tend to approach it with heavy suspicion because it is often combined with head-stomping PvP and is prone to imbalance. So I snuck up to White Noise 2, curious yet concerned, to study it as a preview.
White Noise 2 is a particularly spooky asymmetrical multiplayer by Milkstone Studios. The survivors are up-to-four unlucky individuals tasked to find eight tapes. Their biggest foe? A creeping spirit who’s very survival involves shunning the light, preventing the capture of precious tapes and squeezing throats until you hear a satisfying crack and all humans are dead.
“So this is Dead by Daylight, Damned or Last Year? Survivors do objectives while being stalked by a player enemy? This idea is so old I think Caligula used to play it with a hatchet and four servants.” Hush snarky voice, still your tongue, it’s okay. It isn’t to say there isn’t an interesting twist White Noise 2 isn’t playing around with. There are two on display here.
The first is light. Rather than being armed with assault rifles, shotguns and revolvers, you have torches. “So, this is the time four people got their throats crushed in record time?” Sshh, not necessarily so. As the creature prowling the level hates the light like slasher films hate independent thought from their cast. If light falls on the monster for so long, you must retreat to a random spot a short distance away. Although their torches only have so much battery…
…The second part is abilities. The survivors get a collection of abilities with cooldowns to hopefully prevent becoming a grungy red paste. A compass to tell them the nearest tape, a torch with so much battery life, making noise to mark them to other friends (and the monster) if they get lost and a glowstick that functions like a droppable light source.
This isn’t to say the malicious spirit lurking the halls doesn’t have its own tricks. A compass to lure you to where the investigators roughly are. Summonable idols at particular spots to let you know if an investigator walks through, marking them out like neon chickens. Invisibility, where you can not be seen nor harmed but does shed off if you get too close to your prey. False spots that act like tapes according to the survivor’s compass but will not help them get out. Disabling all torches for so long as long as your hands aren’t seized around someone’s throat. Sprinting to close the distance.
It must sound like the survivors are doomed from the moment they walk inside. Fated to be delicious lambs to the slaughter. Not so. As long as the survivors stick together, the most a creature can grasp is a bite or two. Even with the torches disabled, the torches are re-enabled as you begin to feast. Although if the survivor is on their own? Ooohh, that’s when the easy feast appears. As survivors can’t free themselves, they need someone to shine a light on your hideous husk to drive you off.
This leads to something of an imbalance currently. There is no real way of separating the team. So any competent ones (especially with voice chat) will simply cackle as they drive you off with illumination. It’s for this players seem to be currently favoring the hospital level, as the winding corridors offer more choking points (literally and metaphorically) and more ways to mess with investigators. The prairie’s open fields just make it too easy to turn-and-kill the monster currently.
Another interesting part is traits. Your selectable torch and character have their own traits that, in theory, are significant enough to affect gameplay. The reality is they don’t seem potent enough in their effect to be noticeable. As well as this, with only four individuals to pick from when you’re not playing misanthropy personified there’s no tactics of selection. Perhaps in the same way, while sanity is apparently a factor it doesn’t feel potent enough to be noticeable or to play into the separation required to eviscerate your victims.
White Noise 2 seems to have a solid base, but it seems to beg for tweaks and, well, more content. Two levels, four characters and two monsters isn’t too grand. It is worth it for a pittance, but I’ve always been of the disposition that I’d rather pay a bit for a great replayable game than for two okay titles. Then again, “more content” is always a weird complaint for an Early Access title. It’s like shaking your stick at a beta title screaming “THERE’S TOO MANY BUGS!”
I guess the big over-riding question of the preview is: Did you have a good time? Overall, I did actually. I typically hate PvP because it shuns cooperation in favor of singular heroes, leaving me in the dust. Plus, does tend to lead to trash talking. So I veer towards co-op, as it ends up in everyone’s best interest to work together. Plus, everyone tends to be more pleasant to each other.
Oddly, White Noise 2 more sits in the co-op camp. Everyone was working together, even chuckling about failures. The monster even started taunting in a friendly way, wanting to give people hugs. Which then made me wonder: Was the imbalance favoring survivors a bug or a feature? Is it less a tension-filled multiplayer, and more the adult equivalent of an after-school special on the magic of friendship? That misanthropy will only end with a collection of friendship-empowered people standing over you, shining their light across your body while giggling. Christ, White Noise 2 is like high school all over again…