Are the days of the single-player game dead?

October 31, 2011, Author: Phil Ubee

Once upon a time, several (console) generations ago, in bedrooms and living rooms all over the world, multiplayer meant you and your mates all sat together with control pad leads tripping you up if you moved too suddenly. At that time, multiplayer modes were generally restricted to sports games, arcade brawlers and the odd side-scrolling beat-em-up.

Skip forward to the current generation, where PC gaming has totally taken off and the ever increasing power of the internet means that regardless of what your console of choice is, you can play multiplayer modes against your friends without having to divvy up the 2am pizza and, if your friends aren’t up for a late night session on your favourite game, there are literally millions of people across the globe who will be.

Now, more and more regularly, we see big titles ship with a fairly short single player campaigns in favour of a wealth of multiplayer modes and if a campaign based title doesn’t have a co-op mode it’s widely criticised. So the question is; Are the days of the Single Player game dead?

Taking a look at the intense hype that surrounds titles like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3, you would be forgiven for thinking the answer to that question is yes. The vast majority of video footage, adverts and discussion surrounding both pre Christmas blockbusters has been about the maps, the weapons and the game modes for you to beat your friends at, but if you take the time to look a little deeper at some of the best games this generation has had to offer and I am sure you will agree the answer is a resounding no!

All about the maps?

This week has seen the release of Batman: Arkham City, a much anticipated and hugely praised title that is single-player only (as was its thoroughly enjoyable predecessor) along with L.A. Noire; one of the biggest and most talked about games of this or any other year. Before them, the likes of Bioshock, Silent Hill, Resident Evil and the more recent Assassins Creed series all have their foundations firmly set in the single-player story despite attempts to tag multiplayer modes onto subsequent releases. With the likes of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim still to come, I will happily wager that when it comes to GOTY discussions in a month or two the solo experience will be very much a key factor in the debate.

This is not to say that multiplayer doesn’t have a very important place in modern day gaming though. With sporting titles like FIFA, Madden or PES, the multiplayer is an integral part of the experience and shooters like CoD and Battlefield will live or die by the strength of the multiplayer options and the depth of the maps available. However, in my opinion, this has, is and will always be secondary to the experience a game can give you on your own.

Work it out for yourself.

I absolutely love to take my friends on (and beat them) at FIFA and have extremely fond memories of late night sofa and online sessions going back over a decade with PES but I can immerse myself in the single-player career mode for months. Likewise, I am a huge CoD fan and will no doubt spend many a night between now and Christmas in some sort of deathmatch getting killed far more often than I can count, but it will be the campaign that really draws me in for the long sessions.

Likewise, I love co-op games and have had some really good experiences with games like Gears of War, Hunted: The Demons Forge and Left 4 Dead, but you simply cannot beat the feeling of beating a game yourself without your mate rescuing you every time you get shot. That or the random guy you teamed up with online telling you how to get past the boss as he’s done it once or seen the YouTube Video.

Finally, in my opinion, it’s those long afternoons or late nights where it’s just you and the game, played on a big HD TV with the surround sound on that makes gaming what it is. Where you totally lose yourself into the character, the world and the story. When you become that deadbeat Eastern European looking to build a new life or that soldier trying to prevent World War III. That’s what games are all about.