Posted by: Edward Fairclough | October 12, 2010

Is multiplayer the new single player?

We all love multiplayer right? Whether it be an MMO, co-op or local split screen, the ability to play games with your friends and family has always been a popular way to game.

With the arrival of current gen consoles back in 2005/06, online multiplayer has become
even more popular thanks to services such as Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, but as more and more game developers start to focus more heavily on the multiplayer side of gaming, I cant help but notice how this new found love for multiplayer is forcing the single player side of gaming to take a back seat. Is a good old story mode still as popular as it was back in the days of the PS1/2, or is online gaming causing it to fade painfully into the background?

Before the whole multiplayer gaming scene really took off thanks to genres like FPS’s or MMO’s, the main focus on the mind of all game developers was to come up with a popular and creative single player experience. Even today, there are still a handful of games developers which have proved single-player only games are still an ever popular way to game. Games such as Bethesda’s ES: Oblivion and Fallout 3 have won numerous awards, including awards for being the ‘best game of E3’ and even ‘Game of the year’ awards, both with no multiplayer modes in sight.

Say goodbye to lone assassin, Ezio's now a team player.

Although as multiplayer fever continues to grip the gaming nation, games which were originally released as single player only titles are now being designed with added multiplayer modes. A good example of this is the Assassins Creed series. Both AC1 and 2 are known for there immense single player experience, but in order to catch up with the rest of the gaming world the soon to be released AC: Brotherhood has been given, you guessed it, an online multiplayer mode. Now for many gamers this will be an added bonus, but in my typical black and white point of view, Assassins Creed is known for one thing and one thing only; its brilliant single player gameplay. Is there really a need to add a multiplayer mode to the game? As the old saying goes; if its not broke don’t fix it.

Assassins creed: Brotherhood is just one example of single player games gone multiplayer, other recent announcements include titles such as Batman: Arkham City and Dead Space 2, both fantastic single player experiences which are now including multiplayer modes. Will these new multiplayer modes cause the single player mode to become ‘downgraded’? Only time will tell.

One game however, which is looking to merge both single player and multiplayer together, is Bethesda’s upcoming FPS title, Brink. Set for a Spring 2011 release, Brink has a story/campaign mode which is traditionally single player based, but is instead playable online with up to 8 other players, fighting against AI bots. The game will also boast a separate multiplayer mode where players can battle against each other.

Although the campaign mode sounds similar to your standard co-op gameplay, it will be interesting to see if this new approach to single/multiplayer joint gameplay will be welcomed with open arms, and since the title was just announced as the most popular game at the 2010 Eurogamer expo, it looks as if it will be.

Now I’m far from saying that multiplayer games are sh*t, because they simply aren’t. Games such as Call of Duty and Word at Warcraft have proven this, but as a result of the ever growing popularity for multiplayer, the single player experience within games is starting to become a lot shorter than it was, say 10 years ago. For example, the single player campaign in CoD: Modern Warfare 2, which is no doubt the most popular FPS multiplayer gaming title to date, can be completed in around 6 hours average. This factor stopped many critics giving the game a perfect 10 review score.

While looking at a more resent release, the campaign mode in Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days can be completed in under an extremely low 4 hours! It’s no wonder that a month after it’s release, you can pick up a new copy of the game for £15!

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s good to see that developers are still releasing games that are dedicated to the single player experience. One title which im probably looking forward to the most this month, if not all year, is Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas. The title is staying strong to it’s Fallout roots and Obsidian is focusing entirely on creating a truly brilliant single player story.

Although putting New Vegas aside, is there really that many upcoming games which focus on delivering a single player experience alone? Is it fair that gamers are forced to play single player modes that give the impression they have been rushed in order to make more room for a bigger and better multiplayer mode?

So remember, next time your in the market for a new game, just think that a long and well designed single-player-only title can be just as enjoyable, if not more, that a game which includes both multi and single player modes. With that said, I’ll see you all in the Mojave wasteland 🙂

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