2015 saw a number of high-profile games release as multiplayer-only experiences, prompting arguments about what need to be included in a AAA release. However, times were different only a few years ago. At the height of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3’s popularity, when Call of Duty was even more popular than it is now, developers decided that most games needed a multiplayer mode.
Predominantly single player experiences had an online component shoehorned in to compete with the multiplayer juggernaut franchises. However, as we have learned, there are some games that totally didn’t need multiplayer. That’s not to say the multiplayer is bad…well, not in every case… but it simply wasn’t necessary. Here are ten games for which that is true.
Batman: Arkham Origins
Batman: Arkham Origins is an underrated game. Developed by WB Montreal rather than Rocksteady, it acted as a stop gap between the second game in the series and 2015’s Arkham Knight. It may not have much original content but it is certainly a great Batman vs Joker story.
Arkham Origins’ multiplayer has two game modes, Invisible Predator Online and Hunter, Hunted. Both feature gangs of Joker or Bane thugs fighting each other or completing objectives whilst Batman and Robin try to stop them.
There are only two, simple game modes that only feature six playable characters. You can customize your thugs in cosmetic ways, and the leveling up system unlocks weapons just as in any other online shooter. The multiplayer is shallow and boring, no wonder Rocksteady chose not to include it in Arkham Knight.
Dead Space 2
Dead Space 2 is one of those games that makes you say “wait, that has multiplayer – why?” The original Dead Space is one of the finest single-player survival horror games of the last ten years and relies heavily on tension. The game doesn’t boast such a fantastic campaign but it features many of the same themes and motifs that made the first game so great. Visceral Games would never have been able to replicate the tension and atmosphere of the single player in a multiplayer mode.
The multiplayer itself is very simple. It consists of team-based matches, broken down into two rounds each. The human team is tasked with completing a number of objectives whilst avoiding the enemy team. That’s all there is to it. As is the case with a number of titles on this list, multiplayer seems to have been shoehorned in so that the publisher could tick a box on the sales forecasts – something that happened a lot at the time.
The Assassin’s Creed Series
This may be a contentious choice but an argument against the inclusion of multiplayer in the Assassin’s Creed series can certainly be made. Assassin’s Creed’s multiplayer, first introduced in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, is popular, enjoyable, and quite unique. However, does its inclusion improve the franchise?
Assassin’s Creed 2 is widely regarded as the best in the series, yet it does not have a multiplayer component. Ubisoft decided not to include multiplayer in Syndicate so that they could focus on ensuring the single player worked – a decision that seems to have paid off. None of the six games that feature multiplayer are considered among the finest in the series, aside from maybe Black Flag. So can you say the mode adds much to the overall quality of the game? It may offer something extra to play after you finish the main story but the history of the series suggests that a better single player experience comes when multiplayer is absent.
The inclusion of multiplayer in the reboot of Tomb Raider might be one of the strangest choices on this list. It featured standard modes such as Team Deathmatch and Free for All that were just clones of well-known modes with the Tomb Raider gameplay stuck on top. Hide behind this wall, shoot that guy, and repeat – it was nothing gamers hadn’t seen before.
Furthermore, none of the survival elements or character moments that made the single player so good were carried over to the multiplayer, giving players little reason to invest their time.
God of War: Ascension
The multiplayer mode was more of a curiosity than an essential addition to God of War: Ascension. Whilst it gives fans of the series a chance to continue mastering the excellent combat after the main game has finished, the multiplayer isn’t deep enough to keep anyone’s attention.
In the numerous modes, players align with one of four Gods, each gifting them different abilities. They then fight one another on multi-level arenas attempting to meet the victory requirements of each mode.
Some of the strengths of Ascension’s single player mode were carried over to the multiplayer but it simply isn’t deep enough to be essential to the series. Considering Ascension is deemed to be the weakest of the God of War games, maybe the focus should have been kept on the campaign rather than the introduction of a multiplayer.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
It is not Metal Gear Online that feels unnecessary in The Phantom Pain as the strengths of the main game are carried over quite well. It is actually the online component that comes with the construction of Forward Operating Bases that can feel like an annoying distraction.
Once players complete the episode that allows them to construct Forward Operating Bases, thus allowing them to earn more resources, other real-world players can infiltrate their base to steal supplies. So, you could be exploring Afghanistan when you receive a message that your FOB is being attacked and you need to protect it.
The issue is that these randomly occurring events interrupt The Phantom Pain’s biggest strength – the freedom the player is given to complete objectives how they want. Of course, they can be ignored, but only if the player accepts the inevitable negative effects. It is a frustrating part of an otherwise masterful game.
Far Cry 3
Every core Far Cry game has had multiplayer, all in different forms and of varying quality. However, it is probably Far Cry 3’s that had the least thought go into it.
Whereas Far Cry 4 managed to add some of the single player mode’s sense that the world is unpredictable and dangerous through its game modes and maps, Far Cry 3 stuck to the same format as most first-person shooters. Its focus was on matches on compact maps where objectives were familiar and similar to other first-person shooters that have the basics of an online shooter nailed down.
Far Cry 3’s strengths are the characters, the beautiful world, and the sense of unpredictability. Those things don’t carry over to multiplayer well. It’s functional and fun for a limited amount of time but there isn’t enough content to keep you playing.
Dragon Age Inquisition
Dragon Age Inquisition is another title for which it is difficult to believe that it actually features a multiplayer mode. Admittedly, it isn’t a classic player vs player kind of multiplayer, rather it is a 4 player co-op experience; but does a huge, award-winning, 100 hour RPG really need multiplayer of any kind?
In the multiplayer, each player assumes the role of one of a group of four Inquisition irregulars dispatched to eliminate one of five groups of enemies that have taken control of an area. It works very much like any other wave-based co-op game as players must work together to defeat enemies and complete objectives.
It is understandable that Bioware may have wanted to offer players something different in such a huge game but Dragon Age Inquisition is not a game that needs its play time lengthening. It would be a surprise if it returned for the next Dragon Age game.
Spec Ops: The Line
Spec Ops: The Line’s campaign is a unique third-person shooter. What looks like a standard third-person Call of Duty clone, is actually a deep and emotional story about the mental impact of war. The multiplayer isn’t so special.
Shipped out to Darkside Studios, the multiplayer is exactly what it seems – a basic, poor quality version of every other third-person military shooter.
It isn’t a good sign when the game’s Lead Designer Cory Davis says that it “should not exist… there’s no doubt that it’s an overall failure.” He did admit it was the publisher that decided that Spec Ops needed multiplayer to check all the financial boxes. He also said that the multiplayer “sheds a negative light on all of the meaningful things we did in the single-player experience.”
Bioshock 2 has the same problems as a lot of other story-driven games – it is unable to bring the impressive atmosphere of the single player over to the multiplayer.
Bioshock 2’s multiplayer is actually quite good and was popular when the game was released in early 2010. The multiplayer was titled ‘Fall of Rapture’ and featured its own story, taking place approximately one year before the events of the first Bioshock game.
Each side has its own narrator and as players level up they unlock more content, including a story that progresses with your rank. It is a novel way of getting players interested in a multiplayer mode but the atmosphere and narrative do not match the main game, in terms of quality. Players also complained that Bioshock 2’s multiplayer was difficult to get into due to the advantages that came with being a higher rank.