Since at least the fourth series installment, arguably the best of the franchise, Call of Duty
has been one of the more popular titles to incorporate a consistent multiplayer component. Along with Halo
, another major outlet for competitive online gaming, the series has more or less dominated the market, out-ranked in lifetime sales by only select franchises. One could say, without fault, that Call of Duty
is the single most-played FPS online. And in the next several years, as we welcome in a new generation of consoles and an inevitable wave of sequels ó already kick-started by the recent announcement of Call of Duty: Ghosts
ó I think we can safely expect this to remain a constant in the gaming industry for some time.
And rightly so. Thereís a strict separation between a title that caters to the competitive, online-only gamer and a title that adheres to what single-player, story-driven consumers want. Call of Duty
is undoubtedly the former, though itís a game that has over time mastered the ability to market itself as both. I would argue that, while the campaign has always played a significant role in the franchise, Call of Duty
is multiplayer first. Which makes sense. The franchise isnít exactly the primary source for solo gaming, nor is it banking on that kind of audience. To speak in generalities for a moment, I might even say that the gamers who, year after year, throw their money at Activision for yet another series installment arenít the gamers who anticipate a new product from Sucker Punch or Irrational on a limited basis. The gamers who play regularly in a competitive multiplayer atmosphere, be it through Call of Duty
or something similar, are playing for just that: a competitive multiplayer experience.
But now, in a sort of attempt to quench the ongoing thirst for a multiplayer component, it seems as though developers are becoming more and more susceptible to implementing this Ďcoreí feature into games that simply donít need it. Right now I could rattle off at least a dozen that have been victim of a tacked-on, half-hearted multiplayer element, though my very recent playthrough of the new Tomb Raider
is likely to blame for the bulk of this post. For many, I assume, the 10 or so hours spent immersed within Laraís terrifying world was an enjoyable time. Though, like many, I hadnít even touched the gameís multiplayer, nor can I admit to having any intentions of doing so. For the sake of this very post, however, I found it reasonable to put myself through a single match (regretfully, of course) ó and, as I imagined, I have only bad things to say.
It really is unfortunate, and actually makes you wonder what kind of a game it couldíve been, or what exciting new things could have been done, had Square Enix not demanded that a portion of the developerís focus be on a meaningless facet of the overall product. What if Square hadnít unnecessarily paid for an additional developer (Eidos Montreal) to step in and waste away all that time, or thousands of dollars in resources? And in the end, what was it all for? I mean, technically speaking, the push for an added multiplayer function stems largely from wanting to cut out a percentage of trade-ins ó and I wouldnít argue that it works on rare occasion. But in an instance like this, with Tomb Raiderís
multiplayer so badly broken, so awfully generic, I find it hard to believe that a consumer who regularly trades in games ever thought twice about doing it again. If I may be so bold, Iíve no problem with saying that the effort put into making Tomb Raiderís
multiplayer was no more than a wasted effort.
But the recent, and mostly spectacular, reboot of gamingís most beloved female icon is not alone in this trend, as stated above. Earlier this year, God of War: Ascension
failed miserably in its attempt at multiplayer; Dead Space 2
felt the need to be all-inclusive as well, only to have competitive multiplayer dropped for the sequel; and even the MP in BioShock 2
, a surprise to most gamers, had trouble catching on with the community.
Though, Iíd be wrong to claim that certain titles havenít found success in this new age of ďall-in-oneĒ gaming. For instance, Naughty Dog ó a studio cherished by PlayStation fans everywhere ó is known for their consecutively well-made games which, in all honesty, are hardly deficient without multiplayer. Yet, in a valiant effort to keep consumers busy even after completing the gameís stunning, character-based and story-driven solo experience, the team behind Uncharted 2
established basic, competitive and co-op game modes separate from the main story. This was an unmistakable hit with fans, but two years later Uncharted 3
was produced and featured a similar component, this time very much refined and improved from the seriesí last venture into the multiplayer sphere. Even now, as we near two years later, the game continues to hold its own online and even contends as one of the generationís best third-person shooters.
All of this almost immediately brings up the topic of Naughty Dogís latest, and ostensibly best, PlayStation exclusive, The Last of Us
. Not only did it come as a huge surprise to hear that the game would include some sort of vaguely detailed multiplayer, but it was terrifying to know that Naughty Dog would once more cut into their precious development time for a game that, again, really doesnít need it. Hereís something that is wholly about the story ó the plight of the characters ó and itís begging gamers to immerse themselves in this deep fiction, but now thereís some dispensable function slapped on by the publisher that completely undersells the title for what itís worth. Itís tacky. It incites a fear, and it makes you wonder all sorts of rational and irrational things ó like, perhaps the single-player was cut short and the multiplayer is just a kind of grimy, tactless ďcompensationĒ for the gamerís loss. Believe it or not, I donít want that. And neither should you as a consumer.
In the end, of course, weíll just have to wait and see. I trust Naughty Dog implicitly, and from the perspective of critics whoíve already seen the game, this multiplayer seems to be right on track with that of Unchartedís
Hereís hoping that it is, and hereís hoping that other companies are busy taking notes. That means you, Square Enix. read