Why Bother With Multiplayer
Why is it that every game that happens to have guns in it must have a multiplayer mode?
I understand that in this day and age players expect a certain amount of bang for their shooter buck and a multiplayer mode is an excellent way to fill out the feature checklist. But let’s be honest here, are there any console gamers out there that play something that isn’t Call of Duty, Halo, or Battlefield multiplayer?
Recently I was pleasantly surprised by the stellar shooter experience from Ubisoft Montreal, Far Cry 3. I was so enthralled by the single player experience that I plowed through it in a matter of days. Once complete I waited patiently for the game to launch so that I could sink my teeth into some multiplayer. When launch day came I eagerly booted up the game only to find a serious lack of players. Sure it was the week of release and I was playing much earlier in the day when average gamers would still be off in dream land but sitting in a lobby for over an hour waiting to find a match is too long no matter how you slice it. This led me to wonder that if the world of console multiplayer is dominated by the Call of Duties andBattlefields of the world, why do developers even bother? Console shooters can be an excellent experience without multiplayer modes, take 2007′sBioshock for example. It’s a great game for so many reasons and none of which are multiplayer. As a matter of fact the most memorable thing about Bioshock’s multiplayer mode is that it doesn’t exist. While we did see a multiplayer mode in Bioshock 2 that was done by a different studio. We won’t see multiplayer in the upcoming Bioshock Infinite either which tells me that Ken Levine and the developers at Irrational Games feel the same as do, that development resources are better spent on making a strong single player game. A developer can even focus their efforts on a strong co-op component. Borderlands and Borderlands 2 have a more guns than most soldiers see in a life time and neither game has a multiplayer mode. Co-op? Definitely! Traditional multiplayer? Vault hunters need not apply.
Another example of multiplayer that nobody seems to play is Assassin’s Creed. Making its debut in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood I’ve always found the multiplayer in the AC series to be a unique take on the traditional model. Its blend of trickery, misdirection, and straight up stalking is a decent amount of fun. Again it just doesn’t seem to be as popular as the big three. Sure there are some people who play it but I’m impatient and if I have to wait more than a few minutes to find a match I’m gonna’ go do something else.
Now while those with a console seem to only gravitate to Call of Halofield I definitely can’t say the same for shooter fans who live and breathe on the PC. Over the years there have been many vibrant communities around PC multiplayer shooters. Counterstrike has been going strong since 1999, Team Fortress 2 still brings players in on the regular with its plethora of hats and attractive price point of free. There’s been some more recent entries with SOE’s Planetside 2 and Tribes: Ascend from Hi-Rez studios. Not to mention that the PC versions of Battlefield and Call of Duty do just as we’ll as their console counterparts. It just seems that if you like multiplayer shooters the PC is the place to be and not because of the age old mouse and keyboard versus controller debate. It’s because the communities around these shooters are willing to try new experiences whereas console gamers prefer what’s tried trusted and true. In other words, console gamers are like network TV audiences; new things scare them, they want the same idea re-packaged over and over again. PC gamers on the other hand are more like cable TV audiences, they want edgy in-your-face drama, action and don’t mind seeing a few boobs along the way. Most importantly they’re willing to try new things. On network TV you’ll never see shows about outlaw biker gangs, meth cooking teachers, or the zombie apocalypse but cable networks take those chances and are rewarded with viewers. PC shooters also take those chances and try different things and are normally rewarded with players. Now not every game that takes a chance grabs an audience, but as long as developers keep trying they’ll have my respect.
I would really love to take a sizable bite out of Far Cry 3′smultiplayer, there was some unique elements like zip-lines, the decoding meta-game, and Firestorm matches that really piqued my interest. However, I feel that it will all be a wasted effort on Ubisoft’s part since once console gamers finish with Far Cry 3′s amazing single player experience they’ll go right back to dialing 1-800-helicopters in Call of Duty leaving me alone in a lobby emptier than Claptr4p’s birthday party.