Why Me-too Multiplayer Won't Stop Trade-ins

Published 5 years ago by Andy Farrant

Plays well with others?

The Tomb Raider reboot's competitive multiplayer modes put the spotlight back on multiplayer offerings added to traditionally single-player games. It's a difficult proposition, and not always a popular one - how do you take a game that focuses on story and character and turn it into something lots of people can play at once?

That's not to say it can't be done well. Assassin's Creed's multiplayer is both similar to the single-player mode and a completely different experience. With its Templar training premise, it even makes sense within the fiction of Assassin's Creed.

Or you can go down the GTA IV route and create a standalone multiplayer mode that has no ties to the single-player game beyond the setting, where players can just have at each other with rocket launchers and police cars. Mass Effect 3's multiplayer mode was a vital part of getting the game's best ending and, whether you agree with that or not, its links with the main campaign gave it a reason for existing for more than just its own sake.

Because that's how these multiplayer offerings can feel - tacked-on and unnecessary, whiffing of desperation to keep a story-driven, single-player game off the pre-owned shelves. Dead Space 2, for example, featured a competitive multiplayer mode that was poorly balanced and never more than mildly diverting, while Bioshock 2's multiplayer was unimaginative and unremarkable. Tellingly, multiplayer modes are absent from the upcoming instalments in both these series.

It's easy to understand why developers want to add a multiplayer mode to their games. Anything that adds longevity to a title can stop people from trading it in, and multiplayer modes are a more straightforward place to offer DLC than more costly and time-consuming single player and campaign additions. But if it offers nothing new, and, crucially, isn't as much fun as the single-player game, who is going to play it?

When fans come to a game for a great story with a beloved character in an immersive world, it takes more than a handful of recycled henchmen tossed into a deathmatch arena to sell a multiplayer suite.

We'll need to play more of Tomb Raider's multiplayer to know which category it falls into, but the fact the game makers have a whole separate team working on it shows that they are at least taking it seriously. And it's not easy coming up with fresh multiplayer concepts for single-player games, as you'll discover in the video above as we pitch some of our own Tomb Raider multiplayer ideas to the game's director.

About the author

Andy Farrant
Andy is co-editor at Outside Xbox, enjoys difficult moral decisions and fights like a cow. You might remember him from such defunct Xbox video channels as Inside Xbox.

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