Before you start: I don’t hate multiplayer gaming, okay?

In fact, on a Friday night, there’s little I enjoy more than kicking back with a beer, a Spartan and a plasma grenade or two.

I was a late adopter of multiplayer gaming (chiefly because I’m a horrible person to play with – I have the reflexes of a plasticine potato), but late to the Xbox Live Party or not, some of us have an itch that only a Team Deathmatch can scratch.

But while some games draw huge numbers of multiplayer fans, others – bloated, buggy or unceremoniously broken – fall out of fan favour with alarming speed.

The problem?

They’re multiplayer modes stapled, crudely, inelegantly – unnecessarily – onto a hitherto single-player title.

Shooting things dead, while a hell of a lot of fun, is not the be-all-and-end-all of a gripping multiplayer experience"

Don’t get me wrong, some multiplayer modes can be fantastic. Cooperative combat, when done right, is immensely enjoyable, and holds down its perfect place in a gamer’s universe.

It’s all about collaboration - tactics, communication, support, teamwork. These games bring socialisation to an otherwise very singular experience.

But they’re not necessarily needed, right?

And shooting things dead, while a hell of a lot of fun, is not the be-all-and-end-all of a gripping multiplayer experience.

There are some titles where multiplayer or co-op modes sit in perfect harmony alongside their solo siblings. They’re disappointingly rare, but titles like Portal 2 illustrate how a carefully crafted cooperative extension can be a valuable experience that blossoms, organically, from the single-player story. 

And, yeah, I enjoyed the multiplayer on Max Payne 3 and The Last of Us, too, even though the solo campaigns chiefly saw you moving around a third-person world experiencing solitary happenings. But sometimes you had a partner, and you shot a lot of stuff – so it works.

Kind of.

Done right, as with Mass Effect 3, it can be a surprising bonus"

Resident Evil, however? Far Cry 3? Ryse: Son of Rome? Dead Space?

Nope.

Isolation is hardwired into the fabric of Dead Space’s DNA. It’s a masterclass in crafting perfect survival horror, where you wander through an abandoned ship, tense and terrified, dreading the next horrifying encounter.

It’s not about high-fiving your nearest bro and obliterating wave upon wave of Necromorphs.

The issue isn’t merely about offering multiplayer modes in single-player games – done right, as with Mass Effect 3, it can be a surprising bonus.

The issue is when the multiplayer feels disparate, clumsy and tacked-on, lacking depth and substance, recycling old environments and offering no new perspective to the game’s wider narrative.

If a game needs to stuff a multiplayer mode next to a single-player campaign to justify the cost, or the development time, or a short solo campaign, then the game needs more than derivative multiplayer to put those issues right.

Massive titles like Bioshock Infinite can hit the top of the charts without an online option"

We don’t all need a shoot-‘em-up multiplayer to justify a purchase. And if massive titles like Bioshock Infinite can hit the top of the charts without an online option, this should be evidence enough that gamers don’t always want them.

(Maybe a lesson was learned after Bioshock 2’s foray into multiplayer?)

Yet even Tomb Raider’s excellent 2013 reboot shipped with a clumsy, paint-by-numbers multiplayer campaign.

I don’t need multiplayer foisted on me, thanks. Keep my single-player games single, and if I feel like being sociable, I’ll jump on Halo. Deal?

 

Vikki Blake is a contributor to BT.com Games. Her kill/death ratio is spectacularly awful.

Twitter: @_vixx

This article is the opinion of Vikki Blake and not necessarily that of BT.