No, Multiplayer doesn’t save your game.

While the idea of plugging the newest generation of videogame consoles to the Internet seemed like a really good one a decade ago, I also feared that it would let some of the PC gaming horrors into our living rooms, like unfinished games that would need to be patched later, and being constantly lured to buy DLC behind every corner. But the idea of having the chance of playing online multiplayer games was good enough to ignore some of that stuff away.

But the thing I never expected is that popular franchises (especially first person shooters) would get so focused into multiplayer that their single player campaings would begin to get worse after every sequel. Just a couple years ago, I learned how many times I used the “but its multiplayer is better” line to excuse a game for having an uninspired single player experience.

As my first example, Halo Reach was the last game I bought from that iconic franchise. Yes, “its multiplayer component was better than Halo 3’s” and I’m guilty of spending many hours deep in online multiplayer matches, but that’s not the reason I bought this game. The battle on planet Reach was supposed to be the major clash between the UNSC and the Covenant which would set the events of the original Halo trilogy, but the game basically used this plot as a vehicle to sell their last multiplayer upgrade.

Yes, I remember Reach... It was dissapointing.

Yes, I remember Reach… It was dissapointing.

The same thing I felt about Gears of Wars 3; its previous entries delivered great results in both single player and multiplayer, so I set my expectations really high for this one. In the end, while its multiplayer modes received a satisfactory boost, its single player campaign feels watered down and generic; mostly because the team decided to link GoW2 and GoW3 with a series of book adaptations that I didn’t –nor I’ll ever– have the interest of reading (seriously, why would I want to read something that possibly sounds like this?)

Oh, But “its multiplayer component is (once again) better” and I confess having a lot of fun with it, but the overall game forecasted the demise of this promising franchise, and turned off any excitement I would have toward its next sequel: Gears of War: Judgment.

Later that year, Battlefield 3 was released and boy if I learned this lesson straight. See, when I’m uncertain about the quality of a game, I follow the rule of “rent first, buy later”. If the game doesn’t deserve a second playthrough, the rent served its purpose, and I can move on to another game; if I feel like I can’t live without a game after its rent period is over, I make plans to buy this game a little later.

So how did Battlefield 3 fared off during my rent period? Well, you’ve played this thing, right? The game contains a sub-par plot that tries too hard to emulate what Call of Duty did in the past (specially Black Ops); the campaign is so heavily scripted to a point that the game doesn’t even know you’re in it, then there’s that stupid rat fight, and how the end of the game becomes a full-throttle quick-time-event.

“Oh, but its multiplayer is…” Not so fast, buddy!

The problem here is that Battlefield 3’s multiplayer modes are blocked behind the infamous EA Online Pass, so I wouldn’t be able to play these features unless I bought the game. Then my verdict on this title would be based on what the single player campaign has to offer. If this the way Electronic Arts wanted me to judge this game, so be it:

Battlefield 3 is an average, uninspired, and unpolished first person shooter that lacks personality and should had stayed in development a few more months instead of trying to steal Call of Duty’s thunder.”

And don’t even tell me to stop the Call of Duty comparison; they are the ones who were asking for it!

And don’t even tell me to stop the Call of Duty comparison; they are the ones who were asking for it!

As you might imagine, I didn’t want to go back to this game ever again, but what about its multiplayer? The overall consensus seemed to agree that this game delivers: It contains big battles being fought on huge battlefields, different classes to chose from, actual team-based combat, and spectacular vehicular mayhem (and I’m a huge fan of all of those!)

So, I should take everybody’s word on this one and buy Battlefield 3, right? Normally that’s what I’d do in a situation like this, but this is the part I had to draw my line toward this multiplayer madness.

I simply got jaded of this multiplayer obsession, I’m tired of defending any other below-average game just because “it has multiplayer”; if every game now has multiplayer, why should I care about this one?!

And exactly how many multiplayer games do I need to feel complete? With so little time to play during the week, and so many new games out there, how am I supposed to devote myself to all these titles at the same time? And let’s not forget that nowadays multiplayer games lock some stuff away in order to keep you engaged… did already I mention that I don’t have that much time to play during the week?

This is why I stepped down the multiplayer wagon; multiplayer and online interaction no longer has any kind of influence over my game purchases. There are some people saying that single player games tend to be played once and then buried in your game collection, but –even if they do– they have a purpose; no matter if they posses similar gameplay, they provide different experiences to be had and (maybe) discussed with your peers.

No, multiplayer doesn’t save your game. If games keep getting advertised with expressions such as “Real-as-hell single player combat”, “An intense campaign”, or “Epic single player campaign” (all three advertised on the back cover of Battlefield 3, Halo Reach, and Black Ops II respectively) I’ll be expecting all that, and no amount of “multiplayer is better” is going to make change my mind over the quality of the entire game.

Daniel Castro

Daniel Castro

Daniel is an engineer, teacher, and freelance writer and translator. He considers himself blessed to be born during the the times video games were created, and has followed their development as an entertainment and artistic media ever since. He loves talking about video games as much as he enjoys playing them, and he's always ready to introduce gaming culture to a newer audience.

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  • http://culturemass.com/tech-science Nate Humphries

    I’m really glad you wrote about this topic, it’s definitely a much-needed discussion. While I love solid multiplayer (Halo 2 really sucked me into that), I’m much more of a single player kind of guy. I like a well-done story, great visuals, and an immersive gameplay experience. I thought Battlefield 3 did a great job in the visuals and gameplay (as it relates to controls, etc.) areas, but you’re right, the gameplay (as it relates to storyline) was a bit forced.

    I think that’s why I tend to gravitate to games that don’t have multiplayer as an option. Some of my favorites (Half-Life 2, Rage, Skyrim, Fallout:NV) have no option for multiplayer, or it’s just added as a mod. I’ve had a much more enjoyable gaming experience with those than with just about any other game (the Halo series may be an exception).

    • http://www.culturemass.com/ Daniel Castro

      Thank you. This is something I really had to pull off from my chest. Like you said, I’ve had more enjoyable experiences on single player (only) games, and that’s why I’m leaving multiplayer aside; the more multiplayer games you take care off, the less single player stories you get to know.

  • Menethas

    Quite a interresting topic you’re bringing into the light; I’ve also had a few thoughts about this so-called “need for multiplayer” as a redeeming factor for the less than average single-player campaign experience. I would also call myself a SP-player since I more than often judge the game based on the core experience, story, art design and gameplay; sometimes I even put story before gameplay, even if gameplay has much more priority, but I digress. To me it doesn’t matter if the game has a multiplayer, but it should, however, feel like it fits with the game’s overall theme, and not trying to compensate for it’s lackluster single-player campaign, which usually should take priority in order to present the gameplay mechanics.

    Like you said, how many multiplayers do we really need, especially if they all trying to imitate a more popular title in order to a get “a piece of that cake”? Of course, it’s nothing wrong with variety and having lots of options to choose from, but there are just so little time and so many games out there to try out with much more well-written stories, immersion and experience.

    Multiplayer usually functions as a way of to give a specific game more replayability, so the consumer doesn’t feel like he/she wasted a hefty sum of money on a game that only took x hours to complete, with the exception of achivements and collectibles. Sure, single-player games usually ends up being played once and then put away somewhere for a while, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad purchase. For instance, I treat those games like I treat my books; I buy them for a reasonable amount, I “consume” them, aftewards I put them on my shelf, later on I reflect on what I’ve experienced, and maybe I will return if I wanna straighten up some question marks. My point is that, like you said, it has served its purpose, or at least what I expected from it.

  • Mrteapot

    I really never cared for cod storylines, got more joy from the mutliplayer. Only to finish the story five months later to be moderatly suprised it wasnt as poinltess as i expected. Games like skyrim are beautiful i sunk proll6 over 30hrs gameplay on that game. To be honest id be disappointed if they made that game multiplayer. On a contradiction i found mass effect multi player rewarding and fun.

  • Delta

    Reach was not disappointing
    It was better than f**king halo 4

  • Jeff

    Good article with a major, yet undiscussed, topic.

    Of course, it really depends on what kind of gamer you are.

    A lot of people only swear by multiplayer (FPS, MMOs, Racing) because they wanna have fun with others. I do too but sometimes, the community lacks maturity and it get really annoying so you better have a good circle of friends to play with.

    While multiplayer games capitalyze on gameplay and communty related content, single player games rather rely on story telling and immersion and for me it’s what video games are all about.

  • Barancy Peloma

    i haven’t bothered much with online gaming. i tried it a bit with starcraft and warcarft 3 but everyone i played against was so much more experienced than i was that i got wupped everytime. besides, those online games were much more boring than the single player campaign since they were always just bum-rushing exercises as to who could crank out the most soldiers and overwhelm the opponent.
    i don’t have the cash to shell out on tons of games like a lot of spoiled 14 year old kids with rich parents do so i am not going to get a game if it doesn’t have a good single player game in it.
    i am not going to bother going against some 14 year old who has been playing the multi-player for months and knows the location of all the powerups and all the good hiding spots etc.

  • Karlis Logins

    Thank you for this. I think I need to start rethinking my purchasing of games to not just all be multiplayer shooters like I had thought of doing when the Xbox One came out. Next-gen should be the time to experience new stories not play a single shooter for a year until the next one comes out.

    Brilliant read, really.

  • http://www.culturemass.com/ Daniel Castro

    Oh, I can agree to that!
    I don’t consider Halo Reach to be THAT dissapointing, but I can’t help to consider all the possibilities that were left behind, considering that Reach WAS supposed to be the major Covenant Invasion ever… I mean, not even a fight against a Scarab? Come on!