Randy Pitchford rocked the boat a little last month when he called out developers for shoehorning multiplayer elements into their games, and the Mass Effect 3 delay has led to plenty of chatter again this month on the appropriateness of adding multiplayer to certain games. With that in mind, we thought we'd cast our eyes back a little to a few games of the last decade that really didn't need multiplayer at all. Some are in here because it just felt tacked-on when lined up against the rest of what was on offer, some are here because they're so broken they might as well have jettisoned the whole thing, one or two are simply shrugs. Whatever, the reason, here's our top ten games that could simply have done without multiplayer...
10. Bioshock 2
Like several others on this list, Bioshock 2 was a game that we never thought really needed multiplayer in the first place. Heck, several of us didn't even think a sequel to Bioshock itself was worth making. But the improved shooting mechanics and dual-wielding actually made the sequel a better FPS. There's nothing actually wrong with the multiplayer aspect of the game. But then you really that all 2K Marin really did was nick a load of ideas from Call of Duty and dress it up in a Big Daddy suit. Which was fine for a couple of weeks...and then everyone just went back to Modern Warfare 2 as if nothing had happened.
9. Brutal Legend
Tim Schafer's paean to all that is metal was roundly criticised for its RTS-lite stylings, with the game's expansive open world, colourful assortment of characters and the designer's imaginative vision saving it from being anything more than just a shrug. As such, designing a multiplayer component around the worst parts of the game seemed strange. Limited, one-dimensional and, worst of all, no real fun to play at all. Instead of making the RTS components playable online, one would have thought it would have been a good idea to prioritise making them better and actually enjoyable to begin with.
8. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Ass Creed Bro's multiplayer component is a strange beast. On paper it sounds great, unlike any other game out there. Sadly, though, it favours being as boring as possible over anything else, which hardly makes for gripping online encounters and results in few people returning after they've played a few rounds just to see what the hell the fuss was all about.
ACB makes this list, though, primarily because the single-player component was so good, so comprehensive were it's improvements over its predecessor, that the multiplayer is rendered totally superfluous. It would have gotten a ten from us even without it.
7. Deus Ex
Deus Ex is an outstanding. One of the finest video games of all time in our humble opinion. Conceived near-perfectly as a singleplayer experience, Warren Spector is quoted in interview as saying the following:
'...[F]undamentally, Deus Ex was conceived and implemented as a single player experience and that's where our time, energy and focus has been and must be. Multiplayer isn't something we want to just tack on -- it's a completely new game. Maybe we'll tackle that entirely different game someday. I hope so. But, tempting as it is to try to do something like that now, it would just be irresponsible, so single player it is.'
Shame, really, that soon after release Deus Ex got patched with a completely pointless multiplayer mode that pretty much no-one played. Again, as with ACB, why bother? There was no need for it.
6. Fighting Games
Before I start with this one, a little disclaimer: I'm only talking about online multiplayer when it comes to fighting games. You see, this time-honoured genre began locally in the arcades of yore. Kids would rock up to the arcades, challenges would be cast, gauntlets thrown, a small crowd would form, and an inevitable mini-tourney would proceed to take place. When MVC3 was doing the expo rounds it was consistently surrounded by a swirling mass of people, whether jostling for ringside seats or looking to get in on the action too. This has transferred to the home space too, controllers are passed around on party nights, the gloating of victors made all the more visceral by their close proximity and the inevitable retaliatory assault of empty beer cans. This might be an old rant, one of a man desperate to cling onto the good old days of fully social gaming when, in the style of Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen in The 40 Year Old Virgin, you could gleefully provide commentary for victorious Fatalities and watch the despair on your opponent's face in person. But, personally, when it comes to the fighting genre, and I've given it a good try, online multiplayer just seems ultimately pointless.
In spite of the singleplayer successfully playing out like Hard Boiled 2 and fully letting you get your John Woo on, Midway's approach to the multiplayer component seemingly involved trying to put off as many players as possible. Strangehold's multiplayer was so utterly broken that it might as well have been non-existent. The lag was crippling, glitches abounded, aiming was impossible, there was never anyone online and the bizarre physics and Vaseline-coated surfaces made everything ten times worse when everyone was airily floating about and slithering around like demented, gun-toting co-eds at a frat house slip'n'slide. On top of that, instead of fixing these issues, Midway just brought out a map pack and decided to charge people 1200 Microsoft Points for the privilege of going through the whole nightmare again across ten new maps.
4. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Metroid Prime was never really an FPS title. It was an action-adventure game that eschewed a number of FPS conventions - particularly in terms of actual shooting mechanics - in favour of a more exploratory style of gameplay. But it was offline-only, was about as sparse as Patrick Stewart's chrome dome in terms of options, and they incorporated exactly the same control scheme as they did in the main game. Lock-on? Really?!
Multiplayer was never really something anyone really asked for, so it came as some surprise when Retro Studios tried shoehorning it into the series' second instalment. No surprise that it sucked, mind.
3. Anything That Uses The PSN
Bit cheap, perhaps, but true for the moment. The ongoing absence of the PSN is causing no end of consternation in many quarters, with rumoured relaunch dates doing little to disquiet the current dissatisfaction felt by PS3 owners across the globe. The service's crash has effectively ruled out online multiplayer for an inordinate number of titles, though we can't help but feel that it has provided an opportunity for old school beer and pizza gaming nights - mates gathered around a TV set to play locally. Or, you know, an Xbox 360 or that PC sitting in the corner.
2. Final Fantasy
Even Square realise that Final Fantasy and multiplayer don't go together. The half-arsed attempts of late have given a wealth of evidence to suggest that not even the developers themselves think an MMO is the way forward for the series. Final Fantasy XIV would have, quite frankly, done more good for the franchise by its absence, with the resources instead spent on making the follow-up to the turgid-yet-shiny FFXIII a game that requires more for the first twenty hours than pressing 'Up' and 'A'.
Released completely unfinished, a cock-up that Square have had to apologise for twice, it has proved a disaster for the series. It's quite hard to believe that for such a long-running series that hit a critical pinnacle with the brilliantly polished FFXII, two instalments later the series' name is synonymous with the words 'broken, incomplete mess'. Please, please concentrate on making the next standard as good as possible!
1. Resident Evil 5
Dead Space 2 has managed to avoid this list for a number of reasons, not in the least because its multiplayer addition doesn't detract from the singleplayer content. This cannot be said of Resident Evil 5, a sorry excuse for a survival horror game, which actively punishes you for trying to play the damn thing on your own. Survival horror works best when it's just you, all alone, preferably in a darkened room with the curtains closed and the lights off, quietly shitting yourself as your character (who should also be a solitary being) creeps around areas that are far too still for anybody's liking. Throwing oneself into the bright sunshine with a mate is never part of the plan!
I wouldn't mind so much if, you know, this was anything other than a Resident Evil game, but with that title comes certain expectations. It's not even like we got a choice, either, Capcom so desperately wanted to make multiplayer an integral part of the game that they forced you to have a sidekick and made her AI so utterly devoid of sense that she made Goldeneye's Natalya look like Lara Croft. When she's not dying all of the time, Sheva will merrily use up all of your ammo...by shooting you in the head.
You'll barely survive and it's a horrible game. Maybe it is survival horror after all.