Why We Love… Single Player Games

Recent news has seen gamers lash out over the launch fiasco surrounding EA’s latest SimCity title. The game requires an always-on internet connection, which meant it broke as soon as it went live as thousands of enthusiastic gamers tried to play at once.

This happened days after Crytek CEO, Cervat Yerli, said, “I think the notion of a single-player experience has to go away.” Instead, he believes there should be more integration with the online world with “online single-player.” So, while keen to plug his upcoming online game, Warface, he’s stupidly kicked his other game –Crysis 3– in the stones. Guess we know why Crysis 2 and 3’s single-player modes can only muster a rental recommendation then.

It shouldn’t surprise you that at NoSleepGamer we still think that single player games have a huge part to play in gaming. Yes, titles like Warface and Bungie’s Destiny look set to do great things with online multiplayer. However, as EA have shown recently, internet technology, server competence, a bewildering capacity to underestimate traffic and an astonishing amount of shortsightedness are constant reminders that developers and publishers simply aren’t ready.

So what is it that makes single player games an experience that we’re so keen to see survive in its purest form? This month alone is reason enough to believe that this is where games truly shine. We have the likes of Tomb RaiderBioshock Infinite and God of War: Ascension landing. Bioshockditched the multiplayer to focus on the campaign. The online side of the other two games may hold interest for a brief period, but are generally seen as a publisher-enforced inclusion, a means of selling DLC.

Separate co-op campaigns or integrated ones as seen in Dead Space 3 can work and be enjoyable experiences. However, we’d always prefer to play the game solo first, rather than hopping into random parts of the story with a stranger. I tried DS3’s co-op demo recently and it was insane. Being paired up with a French lad, who just would not shut up throughout the whole thing did not compare favourably to slowly groping my way through the dark in the Ishimura. There’s just no accounting for player-behaviour or styles in an online title like this. Playing a game on your own at least allows the story to move at its own rate and flow naturally.

Survival horror games are almost extinct now and we have co-op to blame for that. Resident Evil 5and 6 really sucked the fear from the series, leaving us with very clunky third-person shooters to chew through. It’s difficult to take an enemy threat seriously when you know that your partner will be able to revive you when you fuck up. Well, unless you’re playing with one of those selfish c**ts that populate Black Ops 2’s zombie modes.

When developers have co-op in mind from the start, they often leave you in the hands of the AI in the absence of an online partner. So in Resi 5, this meant Sheva firing all her ammo into your shoulder or the Army of Two games forcing you to focus on how fucking awful every aspect of the game was. Actually, I should probably replace the Army of Two reference for the incredibly ‘what-the-fuck-have-you-doneness’ of Gearbox’s Aliens: Colonial Marines.

If you want a game that aims to tell a story that amounts to more than one gun-nut globe-trotting through international glass corridors to kill a head boss, then you may struggle to find an example of one in multiplayer or co-op. Gears of War is fun to play in co-op, but the online chatter can make it difficult to lose yourself in the story or bond with the characters, as you’re more focused towards your co-op partner.

Compare this with something narrative driven like Heavy RainBeyond Good & Evil or Bioshockand it’s clear that single-player gaming is way ahead of anything that can be achieved in multiplayer. Hell, are multiplayer games even trying? As a little disclaimer, most of my experience for gaming has been console based. So, to any MMO or MMORPG players out there, I’d love to hear your thoughts on anything you feel I may have overlooked in that area of the gaming landscape.

Many games are expertly crafted to cater for one player in terms of the physical experience your on-screen avatar has. Can you imagine trying to escape from that helicopter in Nepal in Uncharted 2and having to share it with a second player? Crumbling platforms like that just can’t be scripted for two user-controlled characters with the same sense of immersion and tension. These action-packed moments are some of the finest parts of the Uncharted games and we wouldn’t change that for all the co-op high fives in the world. Games like Gears of War perform well in co-op, as the gameplay is predominantly team-based cover-shooting, an experience that naturally lends itself to multiplayer. The more kinetic and acrobatic antics of Tomb Raider and Uncharted? Not so much.

Playing games like Borderlands online can also throw up problems that you just wouldn’t have on your own. For example, when I pick up a gun I like to spend ages pouring over the stats to weigh up whether or not it’s worth keeping. This would be a massive pain in the arse if I were playing with others, as I’d be holding them up all the time. Saying that, I’d happily get stuck into the game in co-op if the inventory weren’t so small, then I could faff around later on. But sadly, that’s not the way the game was made.

Taking your time when playing a game is a luxury the fast-paced and impatient online world does not allow. Reading hidden diaries in Dishonored, exploring every nook and cranny in Fallout 3, gawping at the view in Uncharted 2’s final stage or scanning the horizon for another radio tower inFar Cry 3 -all things you’d have to run past in multiplayer for fear of getting shot in the face or left behind.

When done right, extras like hidden diaries can really pull you into the story, sometimes better than any cutscene does in the game, Bioshock and the new Tomb Raider being excellent examples of this and how to really let you absorb atmosphere, locations and settings. Single player experiences like this are rich meals to be digested on a journey that can be beautiful, fascinating, thrilling and haunting. In comparison, multiplayer is like fast food restaurants – enjoyable and certainly worth a few visits, but ultimately lacking enough substance to survive on alone.

These are just some of the reasons that single player gaming is here to stay, despite what gobshite developers like to say. Seriously Yerli, stop talking bollocks or we’re sticking you on the ban list with Michael Pachter. As per usual readers, we’d love to hear why you love single player games, or are you the complete opposite and are looking forward to an always-connected future?

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