There are bad bots, ruining Team Fortress 2 matches and lengthening queues in MMOs like Lost Ark, but I’m here to celebrate the other guy, the one who helped fill the lobbies. entered during quiet times when there weren’t enough humans on your server from Quake’s Reaper Bot, or rounding out your team in a co-op game when you don’t have enough friends to offset the numbers. When robots are bad, they’re annoying, but when they’re good, they can be better than people. Well, some people. You know who I’m talking about.
Which multiplayer shooter had the best bots?
Here are our answers, plus some from our forum (opens in a new tab).
Ted Litchfield, Associate Editor: They were not “good” bots in the sense that they played the game well or made up for a missing teammate, but I absolutely loved the bots in Counter-Strike: Source. They were literally the only entities in the game to use its prepackaged radio calls (“tango down”, “enemy spotted”) and they all had cute little names like “Toby” or “Bert”. My favorite gag would be setting their username to impersonate one of the bots, actually using those callouts in-game to fool their teammates, and then absolutely stomping on their unsuspecting opponents.
Jody Macgregor, Weekend/AU Editor: The robots in the classic Star Wars Battlefront games, created by Pandemic Studios in 2004 and 2005, might not have been geniuses, but they didn’t have to be. You don’t expect a Stormtrooper to have a big purpose or one of those battle droids from the prequels to do anything but say “roger roger” and die immediately (but in a fun way). What they need to do is run around like a savage making the appropriate noises while firing enough laser blasts that it’s sure to span nearby objects in spectacular fashion while you take cover to let your weapon cool.
My roommate and I played both of these games to death, replaying the battle of Hoth for hours, slaying ewoks on the moon of Endor, and playing that hero assault mode of Mos Eisley where everyone spawned as named characters from both current Star Wars eras. Which was absolute chaos. These games were designed for two teams of 16 players and there were only two of us, but add 30 bots and they became glorious mayhem.
Jorge Jimenez, material writer: Titanfall 1 and 2 had awesome bots and sold the idea that you were part of a larger conflict. There were always enough bots to make the maps seem busy and chaotic, but never enough to threaten you. Plus, they were so satisfying to stomp on when you called down your massive Titan. Respawn should do a Titanfall 3. Please do a Titanfall 3, Respawn. Stop ignoring my DMs.
Chris Livingston, Feature Film Producer: I was going to go with Unreal Tournament – not sure if the bots were particularly good or not, but their very presence allowed me and my friend to literally stay up until sunrise playing Facing Worlds after everyone has given up. But I think I’ll go with Counter-Strike.
At some point early in CS (before it was a standalone game, I’m pretty sure) I was playing a terrorist on one of the hostage maps. I killed a CT trying to escort a hostage, and he collapsed to the ground and dropped his gun. I was completely shocked to see the hostage take the CT weapon and shoot me with it. I had no idea hostage robots could actually do that. I think I laughed for five minutes just from surprise and delight. I don’t remember what version it was, or if it was a modded server, or what. But it was brilliant.
Evan Lahti, Global Editor: Unreal Tournament’s robots are Neanderthals by modern standards, but 23 years later I still remember their propensity for hurling slurs and slogans. Bots would chime at intervals throughout a match, appearing as an old DM (with a small portrait of the character) to shout something like “Sorry, did I blow your head off?” after a kill.
Rich Stanton, Editor: I was a huge fan of Evolve, warts and all, and I’m still a little disappointed with how quickly the player count completely cratered after the first few weeks. Sometimes you can just feel like it’s not going to happen for a game and it was clear early on that it was going to be. The only compensation was probably that it had really decent bots and when it was in the doldrums I often ended up either as the monster against a mix of humans and bots or vice versa and the way the bots strategizing made it almost as much fun as with a human team.
In Evolve’s case, it was about how well they mimicked the kind of behavior you’d expect from “real” players in a tactical co-op setting like this, and how useful they were in helping to track the monster and to use all game mechanics while they should be used. But now that I have a “legit” PC answer, I’m going to say Perfect Dark on N64, simply because I was once a teenager with lots of free time who loved this game. It allowed you to change the personalities of the bot , and I spent god knows how much time playing a single-player version of multiplayer, challenging myself or just creating the dumbest combinations I could think of.
And a final shout out to CS:GO bots, now sadly removed from competitive play (although still elsewhere in the game). Not so much the demeanor, but just because I used to smile every time a player on the team dropped and we ended up with Bot Gabe on our team, and I felt like Newell had come to help us take care of business.
Fridis: I remember playing against bots in Unreal Gold in 1998/1999. They had different levels and at the highest difficulty they were quite a challenge when you had a few of them on the map.
Pifanjr: I played Battlefield 2 against bots a lot when I was a teenager. The AI commander was very predictable and limited and I don’t think the bots listened to orders very well whether you were playing as a squad leader or as a commander yourself, but again the real ones players often don’t listen very well either. I don’t think they used the transport helicopters either, but they used all the other vehicles pretty well.
invader: Remember playing Unreal Tournament back then against bots because the dialup in my country was shitsu. You had several difficulty levels for the robots to choose from (like six or seven) but as a child I didn’t like to lose so I never exceeded a certain difficulty (medium I think, but I can’t remember). Sometimes one would be placed above the rest and my team of regulars would take on that tougher bot… alone.
McStabStab: Perfect Dark (which I believe gets a port so technically a PC game, yeah?)
Perfect Dark had robots called simulants that you could choose from to apply different levels and types of difficulty. For example, a “VengeSim” always attacks the opponent who killed them last, and “PeaceSims” who only try to hoard weapons in levels so other players can’t get them. It added a lot of flavor to multiplayer matches.
Sarafan: Definitely Unreal Tournament from 1999. The bots were so good and natural that they were hard to tell apart from real players. This made the game accessible even to players without an internet connection. I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing it alone. It was wonderful to have a multiplayer experience without having to pay for an expensive internet connection.
Robots were probably one of the things that made the first UT so popular. Its main rival, Quake 3 Arena, had very poor AI and that’s why I preferred UT. Even to this day, it’s very hard to find a game with better bots.