Mad Mack: Dear Developers – Stop Shoving Multiplayer Down Our Throats
So, the other weekend I was offered a press pass to the Eurogamer Expo again, because I am a genuine games journalist (and not just a semi-literate man-child with a sympathetic friend who runs a website, and is happy to let me vomit out the odd article in the vain hope of someday earning some money for my efforts).
Of course, I was incredibly keen to get to the Expo and get stuck into the vast catalogue of upcoming new games. There was the promise of a veritable cornucopia of exciting, soon-to-be released experiences, just waiting for me to get my sweaty hands all over them. I knew I wouldn’t get chance to play everything I wanted, but this was roughly what I had my sights set on:
Aliens: Colonial Marines
COD: Black Ops 2
Company of Heroes 2
Far Cry 3
Gears of War: Judgement
Quite the list of upcoming games, eh? Perhaps it might have been a bit FPS heavy, but what can I say? I like FPS games and have played most of the earlier installments of the upcoming sequels, and those that are new or newish IPs looked pretty great. There was a fairly healthy dose of strategy too, but I have always been a massive fan of strategy games, and have written about my massive throbbing erection for X-Com and similar games in the past.
Now let’s fast-forward a few hours. What gems did I discover in my time at the Expo? What games failed to inspire and what games shat themselves and spent most of the Expo in the corner crying? Well, let’s put it this way. What games were worth me devoting the best part of my Saturday to? Here is the list:
Company of Heroes
Yep. That’s about it. Literally nothing else stood out for me at the whole Expo. I swear that by the end of the day I could not have been less enthused with the Eurogamer Expo if I had found out it shagged my sister. That is not to say that there were no good games at the Expo, but in terms of the games on show being worth my time, the game floor was practically a barren wasteland.
So what happened? What about all the amazing A-list titles on show?
Well, let me tell you.
Crysis 2, Halo: Reach, COD:MW 2/3, Far Cry, Aliens vs. Predator, Gears of War. What do these games have in common? They are games I am a big fan of, and they are games that had successors (prequels or sequels or related IP) on show at the Expo. The problem is, the developers elected to show us absolutely nothing of the campaign gameplay I am actually looking forward to, and instead opted to allow us a fairly generic multiplayer scrap for a few minutes – in one of their fairly generic multiplayer maps.
Now, I am going to go out on a limb here and make a general statement: if you are a fan of FPS multiplayer and a console player, then you will be either a Battlefield player, or a COD player. Statistically this is probably accurate. I am sure that Halo still commands a decent share of the multiplayer market, but that is about it. How many of you out there have played the multiplayer offerings from games outside of your preferred franchise and said ‘yeah this is entertaining, but it’s pretty weak – let’s get back to BF3/COD/Halo’. I know I have. I tried the multiplayer in Crysis 2, Gears 3, MW3 and BO, BioShock 2 and a host of other games, and every single time I’ve thought ‘yeah this is great, but BF3 still pisses all over it’, and then gone back to having my shit kicked in by teenagers with far more time to practice than I have.
However, what I can say, for every one of the games I listed just now (and plenty of others besides), I have loved them for their single-player experience. Crysis and Crysis 2 were fantastically fun near-future shooters, the COD games are a great thrill ride (like a good Jason Statham movie – never going to win an Oscar, but perfect if you want some over the top ultraviolence); Gears of War, for all its terrible plot, is great fun to play, especially co-op with a mate or two; and Bioshock is, well, come on, it’s Bioshock (though I will accept that the sequel did not really live up to the first). In other words, these are fantastic action games that have all but defined this console generation: not for their multiplayer, but for their single player experiences.
So, here you have a handful of eagerly-anticipated games, with pedigrees that would be the envy of Crufts, and how do the dev teams decide to showcase them to us? Fucking multiplayer. Fuck Crysis 3, Gears of War, Black Ops 2 and Halo deathmatch, fuck Aliens vs. Marines. Where is my nanosuited warrior stealth-killing half a platoon and then ripping a machine gun from its mounting and gunning down the other half? Where is my desperate battle against waves of Locust as I struggle to reach a new, deadly weapon? Where is my WMD destroying a famous city/landmark (my bet is on the Golden Gate bridge for a glorious set piece) in COD? What about that single-player bit you showcased at E3 for Halo 4? Can’t I play that? Or how about a frantic defence from hordes of Xenomorphs as they burst from vents and drop from the ceiling? Let me get my smart gun and deployable auto-turrets and PLAY THE FUCKING GAME!
Seriously, can someone tell me why developers feel that the best way to showcase their games is to let us play some fairly standard multiplayer deathmatch? At least deathmatch is the core fucking gameplay for Dust 514. If you play Dust, then you are in it for the deathmatch. If you play any one of the big budget upcoming releases, then surely you want them for the single player experience. No?
Am I completely off-base here? Is there really a crowd of people out there who cannot wait for the next game in their beloved franchise just for the multiplayer? Maybe for COD, as it is one of the main contenders in the multiplayer arena. But the rest? Gears? Aliens? Is there seriously one human being alive who is more excited about Aliens vs. Marines team deathmatch than they are about using the M41A Phase Plasma Pulse Rifle, blasting alien hordes with the UA571-C Remote Sentry Weapon System, watching Colonial Marines let rip with nukes, knives and sharp sticks, or finding out what the fuck ‘sonic, electronic ball breakers’ are? Really? Is there one person? Because I would love to meet you, just so I can tell my grandchildren that one day, I met the biggest cunt in the history of creation.
Anyway, in summary most of the Expo for me was a disappointment, not because of the quality or number of games on offer, but because of the paucity of game demos that actually showed off the merits of the game, instead of just offering generic multiplayer.
Of course, these were not the only games I got my hands on. Tomb Raider was a brutal disappointment for many reasons, most of which my esteemed colleague has already gone into. Similarly, Dishonored did a good job of reinforcing my faith in games, but again that Judas bastard Jacques has beaten me to the punch on that.
So, out of all I played, what really did it for me? Well, this year’s Mad Mack Eurogamer Expo Game of the Show award goes to Company of Heroes 2. To be honest, this game got on the short list simply by offering my a decent single player demo to sink my teeth into, but don’t let the lack of competition detract from how incredible this game looks. Focus this time has shifted to the Western Front and the horrendous, grinding war between the Nazis and the Soviets as they wrestled for control of the frozen Russian heartland. Using the small squad management mechanic that will be familiar to anyone who has played the THQ Warhammer games (or Company of Heroes 1), this game plunges you into a brutal struggle in the heart of the frigid, Russian winter. The depth of strategy is unparalleled, while the realism and attention to detail will be enough to give you PTSD. Truly this is a game to watch for 2013.
Honourable Mention: Prison Architect – a small indie-developed game where you get the chance to design and run your own prison. I imagine the rape, gang violence and required isolation for paedophiles will be implied, rather than explicit, but nonetheless this could be a brilliant game that will let us all get a little bit ‘Stanford-Prison-ey’ on some virtual avatars.
I also got my hands on various games that I was (rightly) not thrilled to play. In brief, the worst offenders were:
Dead or Alive 5
I got to use a ninja to beat the piss out of a bikini-clad girl/woman (face of a girl, body and swinging tits of a porn star) wearing bunny ears. This is the kind of shit that should be reserved for the darker, less savoury reaches of the internet – not mainstream gaming. I felt dirty just being a part of it, and you should too. This is yet another title setting the respectability of gaming back.
Third-person shooters. I am becoming more and more convinced that this is a genre reserved for generic and dull sci-fi games that feature inhospitable environments, dark caves and identikit monster aliens.
Back in the day, on the PC, this game had a difficulty setting of ‘Harder than fisting a velociraptor’. So much of the experience was encapsulated in that one small phrase, and it was glorious. Now, Carmageddon has moved onto mobile platforms and appears thoroughly tired. I should have just left this one in my teenage years – where it belonged.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted
I’m a fan of the Burnout series made by Criterion Games, so I gave this a go. I got to drive around a mostly deserted city and…that’s about it. I am not sure how the dev team thought that this would showcase the merits of the game, but it somehow made racing through a city seem really boring. In fact, the only bright spot was the opportunity to drive my car through many billboards sporting the face of Boris Johnson.
So there it is. This year, I had the supreme pleasure of being disappointed. Brilliant.
Fuck it: I’m off to play DayZ until my copy of XCom lands.
Dave has a Twitter: @Mad_Mack_fmv.
It’s brilliant. You should follow him.